Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paranoia Horror Film Festival Report - March 2009

On a cloudy Saturday I headed to Long Beach for the first ever Paranoia Horror Film Festival! As I reached the harbor, the massive Queen Mary loomed up in front of me, glinting in the sun that had started to break through the clouds.

After walking up the gigantic ship and having a little trouble finding the location of the film fest on the ship, I signed in, got my press pass and began exploring the festival. That day, the films were being shown in the cavernous Grand Salon. The screening room was cavernous, its tall ceiling held up by big columns with a massive movie screen set up on one wall.

First, I saw a block of short films. For the second time I got to see Richard Gale’s fantastic short Criticized, about a filmmaker that takes revenge on a film critic for giving his horror movie a bad review. The second time watching this was just as fun as the first, when I saw it at SiliCon, especially getting to see a new audiences’ reaction to the ocular horror scene involving a paperclip! The short was extremely well-written and directed. It even won best short at Paranoia! I definitely look forward to what Gale does next.

With few exceptions, all of the shorts were enjoyable but a few really stood out. I finally got to finally see Peter Podgursky’s Cheerbleeders and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped. After Criticized, this was my second favorite short. It tells the tale of two goth friends, Penny and Devon, who are outcasts in their jock and cheerleader infested high school. Penny brings a family heirloom to school for a presentation. It is an old, Greek urn depicting the Cult of Dionysus, but its black, goopy contents gets dumped on Devon’s head by one of the jocks. Suddenly, all of the popular girls are head-over-heels for Devon and he quickly becomes the most popular guy in school. Penny realizes that Devon’s newfound popularity has to do with the Cult of Dionysus…can she break the spell before Devon uses his cheerleaders to get revenge on the entire school? This short has amazing production values! Not only that, but the direction is crisp and professional, as is pretty much everything else in the film. The actors, especially Laurel Vail as Penny and Wyatt Fenner as Devon, were absolutely spectacular. I really hope to see them more in the future. I loved the characters and the dialogue was hilarious! The special FX were also pretty amazing, even featuring a decapitated head getting kicked through a field goal! Definitely track this film down and watch it!

Schattenkind, a film by Jesse Eisenhardt, was an excellent ghost story about three friends on a cross-country road trip who stop at a seemingly abandoned shack to spend the night…and discover they aren’t alone. Schattenkind features characters who were developed just enough, a great storyline, plenty of creepy moments and some nice special FX.

Reflections, directed by Barry L. Caldwell, is a more subtle short and deals with a woman who can see the future in the reflections of mirrors. She loathes her “gift,” even though she could help people if she chose to. It has a wonderfully shocking ending that is built up by the tension-filled scenes preceding it. The only thing I didn’t like in the short was the repetitive piano music used throughout. With the exception of that, this was a great film and what the god-awful Mirrors should have strived to be.

Anyone There?, a film by Holger Frick, is your basic psycho-stalking-a-gorgeous-girl story, but luckily shakes things up a bit when the victim decides to strike back at the psycho.

After the short film block, I needed to give my butt a rest so I headed off to explore the ship. It was fun and a little bit creepy exploring all the dark corridors of the Queen Mary! FYI – you can pretty much go anywhere on the Queen Mary for free! If you are ever near Long Beach you should definitely stop and explore the ship! As I wandered, I eventually found Paranoia’s small exhibitor hall, which featured Ken Foree, Tony Todd and Sybil Danning signing autographs as well as a few vendors. There weren’t too many people wandering around, but I think that was due to the fact that the exhibitor hall was so hard to find. Better and larger signage definitely would have helped.

After wandering the ship and grabbing a veggie sandwich at the onboard deli, I headed back to the Grand Salon to check out iMurders. iMurders, directed by Robbie Bryan, has been making the festival rounds but this was my first time seeing it. Many of the cast and crew were in attendance as well, including the director, composer Harry Manfredini and actors Tony Todd and Brooke Lewis . I have to say though, this movie was very disappointing. Though it featured the familiar faces of Tony Todd, William Forsythe and others, it was pretty much a confusing, convoluted mess. There were some good parts and good performances, but nothing could save the slow pace, glaring plot holes and overall boring storyline of the film.

Next, I got to see The Beacon, about a couple who recently lost their young son. They move to the Beacon Apartments where the wife is haunted by a little boy about the same age as her lost son. Is this apparition due to her feelings of guilt over her lost son and all in her head or is there something more sinister in the Beacon Apartments? This was a taut thriller with a really great ending! It reminded me a bit of a mix of 70′s cult film The Sentinel, Roman Polanski’s The Tenant as well as some J-Horror like Dark Water thrown in for good measure. It won the top prize at Paranoia with good reason!

Though I was only able to attend the film festival one day, there were many other fantastic horror films that were screened, including Midnight Movie, Dark Reel, Horror Business, Death in Charge, Viscera and many, many more, plus celebrity guests like Tiffany Shepis, Shannon Lark, Rena Riffel, Lance Henriksen and more!

Paranoia Horror Film Festival was a blast and its setting on the Queen Mary made it all that much more exciting! The only things I might suggest for future years would be better signage so that attendees can find their way around easier and maybe a list of locations on the ship where the film festival will take place on the Paranoia website so people know exactly where they are going. Other than that, Paranoia was a success and I look forward to attending it for many years to come!

Visit Paranoia Fest’s Official Site!

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