SCREAM: East Bay Express' Horror Film Festival 2014

SCREAM: East Bay Express’ Horror Film Festival
Screening: The New Parish, Oakland, CA
October 16, 2014, 8:00 p.m.

The Event

Quirici’s Summary

The SCREAM Horror Film Festival is in its second year. Good news: it'll be back for more. Other news: it's not for the mild of spirit.

The New Parish, if you haven't been (check it out), was the wide-open, liquor-soaked complex space that housed SCREAM. Aside from the films themselves, the event bore some buxom burlesque performances, gothy-dark decorations for purchase, unique live music, and more bars than you can count after you've visited all of them.

Excellently conducted by a high-energy host, the whole night palpably evoked the Freudian duality of human nature—torn between sex and death—that all good horror shows deliver. Cinema drenched in gore and lust, real-life jiggling flesh, locally sourced tunes, and a little bit of improv filled out the evening with plenty to see and do.

The films were, of course, the event’s main draw. Here’s how they measured up:

The Flicks

Shelby Keizer’s Reviews

Speed Fucking
Directed by Francois Vieux
Rating: 2 out of 5

In a horror film, making a deal with the devil never turns out well.

An average, innocent, unsuspecting man encounters a potion dealer in a back alley, who offers him a lust tonic. Driven mad by his machinations for how he could put it to use, he can't resist buying it; as soon as he takes it into his hands, all hell literally breaks loose.

Drunk on the potion, he enters a bar, hoping he can seduce the blond bombshell behind the counter or the sultry brunette on the dance floor. Hypnotized by the abundance of female flesh, he accidentally drops the vial onto the counter, and it smashes.

Fumes waft through the darkness and a grotesque orgy commences—the females grow fangs which penetrate the necks of every male. One woman, in a fit of anger, dislodges a toilet which she uses to incapacitate her prey. Two girls kiss each other, and one bites off a chunk of the other's face; then someone uproots a piece of the bar, and a plank of wood with nails attached comes careening into someone's head.

It's uncertain whether our main character recovers from the effects of the potion or even makes it out of the bar alive. Perhaps he's subject to the eternal damnation of endless lust and the need to consume human flesh. Regardless, he certainly lived a few interesting moments.

Bloodbath
Directed by Adam O'Brien
Rating: 3 out of 5

Typically, music is a pure spiritual form. But in this short, it's combined with the macabre.

After turning on the radio, a man slowly undresses, and, in a state of rapture, climbs into a claw-foot bathtub. Humming the motif of the symphony with his eyes closed, he turns on the faucet; drops of blood slowly trickle onto his head, cascading into a full shower. Eventually, the blood covers every surface of his body, and forms into puddles at his feet; he steps out of the bathtub and dries himself off, blissfully unaware.

The scene changes, and we realize where the blood is coming from: a young brunette held hostage and muffled, with IVs stemming from both arms. A few feet away, another woman is stuck behind bars.

T is for
Directed by Santiago Tapia
Rating: 2 out of 5

A man sprawls on a sofa, knees widely spaced, talking to some people about how he absolutely loves their house. It's spacious, has nice furniture—the list goes on and on, and he recounts it in a jovial manner.

Then the camera spins 180 degrees. We realize that the people who we thought were the homeowners conducting an open house are tied on two chairs—bound, gagged, and terrified.

“In your fridge, you have both mayonnaise, and miracle whip, so I have to ask—what's up?”

He continues to joke with them while intermittently taking stabs at them with a knife, laughing all the time. He tells the man that his wife is awfully foolish for offering all their money; but even so, he won't release them. The brutality escalates until someone else enters and slaughters him in cold blood.

In the kitchen, a preteen with straw-colored locks is tied on the counter top; the murderer pretends to cut her in half, but releases her on a whim. Sassy and stern, she decides to enact revenge by hypnotizing him into a trance in which he pulls off his head and jumps into the outdoor pool. With both criminals dead and the homeowners still tied up, the child reigns supreme over the place. Power, perhaps, isn't related to strength.

Ricochet in Reverse
Directed by Jamie DeWolf
Rating: 5 out of 5

This film, interestingly, didn't strictly fit the genre of horror film. It was a recounting of the Columbine tragedy, told in spoken word between two narrators, over the backdrop of eerie and enchanting violin music.

Some memorable quotes:

“Here I am on a frozen spring day watching two teenagers burning their names into newsprint. They'll never be anything else.”

“Back in the day I carried a box cutter in my belt like a security blanket.”

“The religious become atheists as prayers to god fall back to earth.”

“Living is the best form of revenge.”

I Am Ana
Directed by Patrick Loy
Rating: 2 out of 5

Maybe a study of schizophrenia, maybe a study of the screenwriter's narcissistic personality, this short involves a lot of screaming, a lot of staring, and a lot of water.

The film switches between two scenes. In one, a woman is reading a fashion magazine on a plush, leather sofa. Her legs crossed decadently, she focuses intensely on what she's reading.

In the other, a blonde opens a kitchen cabinet, within which we glimpse dozens of water bottles, arranged in rows and columns, lined up perfectly. Who or what subsists on merely water, we wonder? The blonde grabs one bottle and starts to drink it. And then, several moments later, she screams—her mouth opens so widely that it seems there's a black hole within it.

Then the woman reading the fashion magazine echoes her scream. We can only wonder what they're shrieking about. 

Justin Quirici’s Reviews

Call Girl
Directed by Jill Sixx Gevargizan
Rating: 5 out of 5

A giggly, portly, gnomelike old man with a poppy British accent and wispy white hair speaks into his webcam, answered by the familiar ping of an instant message program. He's invited a call girl into his modern, upper-class home, and whoever he's camming with is about to get a show.

His date is a statuesque brunette in a classy dress. He leads his guest to the couch in view of the camera, and excuses himself momentarily. As she suspects that she might be on camera, things go downhill as quickly as possible in this very short, one-shot film.

Call Girl doesn't waste a second. It wakes up the eyes and ears with excellent set design, scripting, cinematography, and acting, it bombards the viewer with awkwardness, humor, curiosity, shame, fear, disgust, shock, pity, and schadenfreude, it does so in a few minutes, and it leaves nothing to be asked for. The climax is not recommended for the weak-hearted.

Game
Directed by Josh MacDonald
Rating: 4 out of 5

A classic trope with a twist, Game splits sides with its cartoonish portrayal of a sorry handful of hunter-turned-hunted hillbillies who got much more than they bargained for when they took a young woman prisoner.

Set in the lonely forests of Nowhere, USA, a classic horror-flick hot chick gallops towards freedom, stifled by what remains of the bondage she hasn't quite escaped. Stubble, flannel, trucker caps, work boots and logging tools pursue her, accompanied by their deliciously evil bearers. At the last moment before her demise, they learn her terrible secret, and the game is on.

When Game is over, you can't reconcile the shivers in your spine with the smile on your face. Best juxtaposition of fearful and funny in the festival.

Snuff
Directed by Michael Carnahan
Rating: 3 out of 5

There are no twists or surprises in Snuff (for a change). Well, maybe one twist. It's more of a crank, really. Aside from that, Snuff is the straightforward day-in-the-life short story of your run-of-the-mill, mommy-obsessed, serial-killing-on-video-collecting madman.

A victim in a bunny mask. Medical curtains. Rusty, blood-clotted surgical tools. Wide-eyed disconnection from reality. Popcorn. Despite all of these, probably the most telling example of this maniac's mental condition is the CRT TV set through which he displays his past killings to his unfortunate new friend in the year 2014.

Snuff is a good chuckle and grotesque to be sure, but the torture-porn Saw-esque motif just doesn't bring in the horror as much as it brings in the cringing and the disgust. As a humor/horror film, it's good but not great—unless you get your kicks on suffering for its own sake, insanity for its own sake, and/or irreverent humor mixed with darkness. 

Mass
Directed by Matthew Ragsdale
Rating: 2 out of 5

Ironically a little preachy, Mass conducts a triumph of the feminine over the masculine and of earthen spirituality over the traditional variant with not much else to speak for it except for a pretty solid gore-gasm at the apex of its self-righteousness.

The plot runs pretty thin here—men with guns come from out of nowhere to stop a few sage-burning witchy women from doing, um, something. In the end, the thugs get their comeuppance.

Grainy, dim, and dull in appearance and not supremely memorable, Mass tries to rally the audience around feelings of retribution that may be lost on those who are not moved by righteous violence that is used to correct other righteous violence or those who might cringe at the unsophisticated display of the good guys literally emitting white light upon their triumph.

Mass has got a few good, unsettling visuals, and the wrap-up is sure to please anyone who can both see past the thin tropes and likes to see fundies get punished, but it's otherwise a little flat.

Franky and the Ant
Directed by Billy Hayes
Rating: 5 out of 5

For the second time in the Scream festival, a horror film without any horror. Franky and the Ant plays more like aGoodfellas than it does like a Friday the 13th. Though out of place in the SCREAM festival, its storytelling excellence makes it worth a look.

Franky and the Ant has three onscreen characters, and you're going to feel bad for all of them. As the plot descends exponentially towards a crumbling and deeply human finality, you can expect to be disabused of your expectation to pin what goes down on your typical horror-film bad-guy.

Masterful character development like that in Franky and the Ant is not common, especially not in a short. Talent abounds in this piece. Plus, it's good for a laugh.

Deep Red Dandelions
Directed by Brandan Butler
Rating: 5 out of 5

Clearly the festival's outstanding masterpiece, Deep Red Dandelions is the true (!!!) story of the killing and eating of a young girl by a twisted man (Albert Fish, an infamous serial killer) in a time when trains were a primary means of conveyance and stoves used actual fire.

The sick but eloquent killer cannibal narrator in Deep Red Dandelions poetically recants his own enjoyment of—and struggle with—his nightmarish addiction to the painful sacrifice and consumption of children in a dreamlike albeit somewhat plodding procession of scenes so vivid that you can almost smell the creaky wooden floorboards and the backwoods foliage.

Deep Red Dandelions will suck you into a world that you may not want to be a part of—one where even the most twisted acts that a human can commit are still undeniably committed by a human. You'll get the creeps that onlySilence of the Lambs could deliver, but more so because oh god, this actually happened.

Torturous
Directed by Angus Swantee
Rating: 4 out of 5

Probably the funniest film of the festival, Torturous is not painful to watch. All of the gore and death are implied, and the bumbling, sitcom-like torturer is a great classic buffoon who plays excellently across from the career-counseling straight-man tied to the hot seat.

Torturous is more comedy than terror. The plot contrasts the torturer's personality and dreams against his current position (it is implied that torturing is how he pays the bills), and this tension is skillfully manipulated by the torturee, whose work experience has just come in handy more than he'd ever dreamed it would. But will it get him off the hook?

Shelby Keizer
Nomadic Press
Keizer is a writer, thinker, and aspiring Renaissance woman with a special affinity for the past and for the future. She is wedded to the invisible.

Justin Quirici
Nomadic Press
Quirici is a writer and a wanderer. Having studied consciousness and communication, he merges perspectives where possible and offers his own unconventional views where needed.