The Knoxville Horror Film Fest wrapped up its eighth year with a fascinating and diverse lineup, happily anchored by the invigorating re-examination of the Phantasm franchise. Some of the movies were overly dependent on politics or allegory to make their points, but overall, the Fest was well-programmed and a lot of fun.
Don Coscarelli’s surreal classic from 1979 has never looked or sounded better. After years of watching dingy prints, seeing Reggie and the boys clean and color-corrected is a bit of a shock, but Phantasm was never all about shadow scares. There’s fear in the daylight too, and this remastered version brings that out like never before. It’s also nice to hear the musical score brought up in the overall sound mix. The crazy prog-rock influences are more prominent, only adding to the overall bananapants weirdness of the film.
A delightfully clever way to end this franchise, RaVager employs the ever-popular unreliable storyteller technique to weave a fast-paced tale of time loops, alternate realities, and gigantic Silver Spheres. Tying up loose ends from all four previous Phantasm films, RaVager has just the right amount of fan pandering to make it enjoyable. It’s a shame the CGI is weak, but Phantasm movies were never about perfection. They’re about hot bizarro horror, and in that vein, this is the perfect ending.
This monster movie about, of all things, a were-frog, has the best creature in years, lots of gore, and nary a lick of CGI in sight. Bad Blood is commendable for that, if nothing else. KHFF folks were only the second audience to see Bad Blood, and the cut we saw still needs some work. A tighter edit would be preferable, as would the toning down of the father character, who is an over the top asshole. That monster, though, is really great stuff. And even though the film is flawed, it ended up being my favorite film of the whole weekend.
If you like overlong extended allegories, you are going to love The Master Cleanse. The story revolves around a juice cleanse, only for your emotions. You eliminate all the bad juju from your body in the form of a tiny little monster. It’s a cute critter, made up of all your fears, grudges, and negative thoughts. There’s not much horror to it, especially since the things that should be terrifying are little CGI poop puppets with big eyes. Moral of the story: Deal with your shit before your shit deals with you. This movie feels like an Afterschool Special about anger and scat fetishes.
A French documentary about a mysterious film, supposedly directed by George Méliès, that causes violence and rage among the audience that views it. It disappears for a while, then reappears during times of great civil upheaval. It’s Cigarette Burns in real life, and goes to some interesting places. One of the best films of the Festival.
An Australian mess of a film dealing clumsily with abortion, pregnancy, Down’s Syndrome, and activism. The movie can’t make up its mind about how it feels about any of these subjects, ending up being moderately offensive on practically every level. Dee Wallace plays a woman who had an abortion, but the fetus lived and was raised by an anti-abortion extremist. The fetus grows up to seek revenge on the mother and her family, including an adult child with Down’s Syndrome. This is an abusive relationship of a movie, telling you it loves you while beating you in the back of the head. About 20 minutes before the end, my wife got up and left, saying, “I’m done with this.” It was not the worst idea she’s ever had.
The legendary meeting between the Big Bads from Ringu and Ju-On, respectively, sounds like a joke. There are parts where it is quite funny. If you can let go and embrace the silliness of it, this is actually an effective movie. It blends the two separate mythologies in a creative way, becoming a great piece of spooky fun. Fans of both franchises should have a good time. Shudder subscribers should be able to check out this jewel sometime in December.