Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Episode 9
Horror Night

As seemed pretty evident from last week’s batch of films, David ended up getting the least number of votes, and was sent home.
Personally, I always found a certain lack in David’s films. They weren’t awful like most of Hilary’s efforts, but they didn’t quite have that “Ooomph” that the work of the more talented and creative contestants display.

Now, a quick word before I run down this week’s shorts.
I found this batch sadly underwhelming, and this is quite possibly because it was Horror Night, and anyone who knows me or has read the reviews here at the Iguana, know I’m a certified horror geek.
As such, I was looking forward to tonight, but at the end of it all, there just wasn’t a single conceit that was particularly inventive. The shorts towards the top of my list are there on the strength of a particular scene or because of the film’s execution, and not because there was anything new in them.
I hope you all understand…

MY FAVORITE: Sam Friedlander’s “Anklebiters”
It’s got a simple premise: a new vicious species attacks a boy in the dead of night.
The strength of “Anklebiters” lies in the attack sequence, which is shot and edited well, ratcheting up the tension and suspense as any good creature feature should. And the child actor was effective as well.
I’m just not sure about the opening voice-over, which is borderline hokey-jokey, when I feel it should have been more Twilight Zoney. And the short’s punchline (or “tag,” as guest judge Eli Roth calls it) did lack some, er, bite.
But we still love ‘ya, Sam! (And try and smile a little more, dude; that should get you some more votes…)

Shira-Lee Shalit’s “Open House”
A young, expecting couple view an apparently haunted house.
This one is near the top of this week’s list because that scene in the nursery with the pregnant woman and the ghost was disturbing and very effective. But as Garry Marshall pointed out, there really wasn’t any conflict. The short is pretty much, set-up, killer scene, then bam, the couple is safe by their car.
But, as Eli Roth said, that tag was nice…

Mateen Kemet’s “Profile”
Okay, this one had balls. Mateen takes an everyday horror (the fear an individual of colour has of the police) and presents us with some of the most graphic scenes to emerge from On The Lot thus far.
I get what Mateen was saying, and like I said, I commend him for his cojones, but the fact that it was all a personal dread of the main character (though part of “Profile”’s point) just smacks of those horror movies that don’t quite pull off the whole “Oh, it was all just a dream” thing.
And the final pull-away till we see the entire planet doesn’t quite drive the idea—that this is horror happening everywhere—home in a particularly effective manner.

Andrew Hunt’s “Midnight Snack”
Even monsters get the midnight munchies…
Honestly, I’m surprised Andrew ended up in the lower half of this week’s list, but this one just didn’t do it for me.
Yeah, there were some creepy shots, particularly of the female ghost, but they were plainly influenced by Asian horror, complete with contortions and ghost revealed in ordinary, innocuous location (this time, it’s a coat rack).
And ultimately, it wasn’t particularly horrifying.

Kenny Luby’s “The Malibu Myth”
A couple set out to see whether there is any truth to “The Malibu Myth,” of people who disappear along a stretch of road; people who were purportedly irradiated, turning them into flesh-eaters.
This one just reeked too much of those current Hollywood horror films that are ransacking the feel and atmosphere of extreme 70’s horror classics like Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, and not taking any significant steps beyond that.
Having said that, this is, though, Kenny’s best effort to date, and is a good step towards some clarity and a traditional narrative. (Like the saying goes, you need to know the rules first, before you can break them, and I’d like to know that Kenny can first tell a story well, before he gets all whacked out and experimental cinema on me.)

MY LEAST FAVORITE: Jason Epperson’s “Eternal Waters”
A mother grieving for her drowned son is about to face a real-life horror, and a supernatural truth.
Though the shot of the kid in the water-filled coffin was effective, this one is ultimately predictable and not particularly scary. (At least, it wasn’t an Un-Favorite.)

So there you have it. My reactions to Horror Night.
And though Jason’s effort was my least favorite this week, I think he’s got a voting following.
Meanwhile, Kenny might have been in trouble if he’d stayed in his usual mode, but he delivered what is one of the current understandings of cinematic horror in this day and age, so he should be safe.
Which could mean Mateen may be done for, if the viewing audience finds his provocative and in-your-face definition of horror a little too much for their sensibilities. On the other hand, he could have a voting following too, in which case, everything’s all up in the air, and the next director to leave The Lot is anyone’s guess.

As I mentioned above, this week’s guest judge was Eli Roth, whose Cabin Fever I really, really, really love, a film which definitely proclaimed there was a new voice in cinematic horror that demanded to be listened to.
And though my love for Hostel is not as all-encompassing and complete as the one I feel for Cabin Fever, it is still nonetheless a smart, sly, savage, and well-directed piece of gorno and I’m so looking forward to seeing Hostel II, hoping that Roth can somehow pull it all off without the film being an exercise in misogyny (and with three female protagonists being tortured in some perverse commercial enterprise, that seems to be a very real possibility).

Next week: shorts based on the key phrase: When Two Worlds Collide.

(Contestant image courtesy of; Eli Roth image on the set of Hostel II, courtesy of

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