Debbie Cerda's blog
When I reflect on the big box office successes of the 1970s, I think most about the disaster film genre dominated by producer and "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen. Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure are the most well known films where characters must overcome natural calamities to escape and survive in the wake of destruction. Most of these movies relied on various subplots based on relationships between the survivors.
This year's Fantastic Fest featured Aftershock, a fictional disaster movie that pays homage to and amplifies Allen's legacy while adding an overwhelming dose of horror. Based on actual events surrounding an earthquake that struck Chile in 2010, the film stars actor/writer/producer Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds, Hostel). The movie was shot in many of the same Chilean locations impacted by the 8.0 earthquake.
The storyline came about after a conversation between Roth and Aftershock writer/director Nicolas Lopez, during which Lopez described not just the devastation of the earthquake, but also the aftermath of the disaster including chaos and secondary effects such as a destructive tsunami.
Roth and Lopez were in attendance for the premiere of Aftershock, including the red carpet pictured above. See more photos from the event after the jump.
Want to check out what has documentary filmmakers abuzz about craft beer in Texas? Slackerwood has a pair of tickets to the Texas Craft Brewers Festival on Saturday, October 6, at Fiesta Gardens. These tickets are for two general admission packages worth a total of $50 at the door, and include festival wristband for admission from 2 - 6 pm, six 4 oz sampling tokens, and a commemorative plastic tasting glass.
Twenty-eight Texas breweries will feature over 115 craft beers, many not available in Austin and exclusive to the festival. In addition to craft beer, live music, and great local food, the festival features the Eastside Beer Sessions. The Texas Craft Beer Explosion panel will feature several Texas brewery representatives, but most notably Christine Celis of Celis Brewery (pictured above). Celis is one of several local brewery representatives featured in the upcoming documentary Brewed in Austin: The Zymurgence of Craft Beer in Central Texas. She made the news after reclaiming her father Pierre Celis' intellectual property to all Celis recipes and labels, and hopes to begin brewing the historical Celis beers soon.
During my recent interview with Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson, we spoke about the American Film Genre Archive (AFGA) and some of the found films that volunteers that support this nonprofit have saved. One of those titles is the zany 1987 martial-arts film Miami Connection, directed by ninth-degree black belt/philosopher/author/inspirational speaker Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, seen above demonstrating his skills before the movie screened during Fantastic Fest. The story's plot revolves around the members of the synth-rock band Dragon Sound, adult orphans and martial artists who fight criminals -- especially hated ninjas -- in the streets and back alleys of Orlando, Florida.
The special screening at Fantastic Fest 2012 included demonstrations by Grandmaster Kim as well as a reunion of the band Dragon Sound. Attendees at the afterparty pumped their fists and chanted with the band, many of them wearing sleeveless Dragon Sound t-shirts. See more photos after the jump.
The Norwegians may have landed at Fantastic Fest with world premieres of the television series Hellfjord and the documentary The Exorcist in the 21st Century, as well as the North American premiere of Øystein Karlsen's feature directorial debut Fuck Up, but it was the Dutch who left a lasting impression with their film offerings featured in this year's "No Clogs or Tulips" Dutch spotlight.
Several filmmakers and cast members of films premiering at this year's fest traveled to Austin from the Netherlands, including Fantastic Fest 2011 Best Director awardwinner Steffen Haars (New Kids Nitro) -- seen above second from left with director/writer Arne Toonen (Black Out), fellow New Kids Nitro cast members Wesley Van Gaalen and Huub Smit and writer/director Max Porcelijn (Plan C). New Kids Nitro was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Film in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards. See more photos after the jump.
Home haunt documentary The American Scream premiered at Fantastic Fest 2012 to a sold-out audience, and the audience applause lasted longer in the initial screening than any other film I attended. Therefore it came as no surprise when the film won Best Picture in the Documentary category in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards -- read my review of this award-winning documentary that captured the audience and awards jury's hearts.
Several members of the cast and crew were in attendance and participated in a Q&A after the premiere, including director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and film subject Manny Souza (pictured above). After the Q&A the audience was informed that due to a spill in the hallway, attendees would need to exit through an alternate route. We were then ushered out and into a darkened makeshift alcove, where we were greeted by The American Scream producer Zack Carlson -- read my recent interview with Carlson -- who sent groups through the haunted house created exclusively for this year's Fantastic Fest. At the end of the haunt attendees were treated to Halloween candy, cans of SILLY STRING, and complimentary sponsor beer and cocktails.
Check out Fantastic Fest 2012 The American Scream Q & A teaser and see more photos from the event after the jump.
"When you are scared, you are most alive. People need that -- they need to feel alive." -- Victor Bariteau, The American Scream
Before sharing my views of the haunted house documentary The American Scream, I must provide two disclaimers. First of all, I've known producer Zack Carlson for several years through his roles at Alamo Drafthouse, which we discussed in a recent interview. Second, I've been involved in a local haunt SCARE for A CURE for several years, although not this year. As a haunter, I am more aware of the inner workings of a haunted house and was fortunate enough to have grown up during an era where haunted houses were as common as Christmas decorations in our community. We knew which houses had the scariest scenes and the best candy selection as we did our Halloween night lap around the neighborhood.
If it appears that I can't be objective about The American Scream, I must actually admit to being more critical and even skeptical than usual -- my moviegoing tastes often are quite different from Carlson's, but I can appreciate his passion for certain subgenres. However, I often used the film Darkon as a gauge for personal story documentaries and so my expectations were set quite high. My prognosis is that the filmmakers behind The American Scream wholeheartedly captures the soul of those folks who dedicate blood, sweat, tears and energy often year-round for one special night.
Director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and the rest of his crew scoured the U.S. for the best home haunts to feature in their documentary, and it would be hard to believe they could have found a better mix than in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Deprived of Halloween celebrations as a child by his parents' religious beliefs, Victor Bariteau compensates by making his home haunt a year-round obsession for his family. His eldest daughter is thoroughly immersed and helpful, and his supportive wife Tina states, "Not too many people know what their dream is -- they might think they do, but if they have a chance would they take it?"
Chilean director/writer Ernesto Diaz Espinoza has returned to Austin once again for Fantastic Fest to premiere his latest Latin-sploitation action film, Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman. Accompanying Diaz Espinoza was the Machine Gun Woman herself, Chilean television star Fernanda Urrejola, as seen above on the red carpet. Diaz-Espinoza first visited Austin in 2007 for Fantastic Fest where he premiered Mirageman, along with a screening of his earlier project, the first Chilean martial-arts film Kiltro starring Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror.
With Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman, Espinoza has crafted another humorously entertaining exploitation film that centers around a beautiful and mysterious hit woman clad in machine guns, stiletto boots and not much else. The Machine Gun Woman is tracked by other killers-for-hire including Santiago, a videogame-playing deejay who must deliver her to a crime boss or face his own death.
Films centering around a protagonist attempting to fill in the blanks of his/her past run the gamut from The Hangover to Memento, and in my opinion have been quite overdone. However, Dutch fillmmaker Aren Toonen delivers a fresh take with his comedic crime drama, Black Out. Toonen effectively weaves wickedly funny humor into a crime thriller that keeps viewers engaged.
Jos Vreeswijk (Raymond Thiry) wakes up with more than a hangover, as he finds a dead body in his bed the day before his wedding. Despite the realization that he has no memory of the last two to three days, Jos assesses and addresses his situation very quickly, as he is no stranger to dealing with a crime scene. Through the use of voiceover narration by Jos, we learn that 10 years ago he was a shakedown henchman for drug dealers, but he gave up a life of crime and his coke connoisseur ex-wife Coca Inez (Rene Fokker) for a career as a waiter and lovely fiancee Caroline (Kim van Kooten).
Jos must locate both the wedding rings and ten kilos of coke that have gone missing, while dodging a colorful and violent assortment of criminals including former Russian ballet dancer and kingpin Vlad "The Gay Basher" (Simon Armstrong), his rival Charles aka "Grandpa" (Edmond Classen), and the lovely and destructive duo of Charity (Katja Schuurman) and Petra (Birgit Schuurman).
Of all the film experiences Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas has to offer, the most consistent and long-running are the weekly series Music Monday, Terror Tuesday, and Weird Wednesday. Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen are the Alamo Drafthouse's "Cult and Culture" programmers behind the latter two, scouring the earth -- sometimes literally -- for unique and seldom seen 35mm prints to screen. These films could never be described as highbrow art, but have an appeal to film enthusiasts who want to see films that challenge the norm and are outside the comfort zone for mass appeal. I'll never forget the first time I saw Carnival Magic, nor the story about how Carlson secured a copy of a print. Watching that surreal movie with a Weird Wednesday audience is a memorable adventure worth experiencing.
Zack Carlson is more than just a film programmer, with many creative collaborative projects not just in movies but across multiple mediums including books and cartoons. He's written, acted in and produced film projects. This year at Fantastic Fest, attendees can see the premiere of the documentary he produced, The American Scream. Directed by Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie), this film follows three households in sleepy Fairhaven, Massachusetts as they dedicate thousands of hours along with a seemingly infinite amount of creative energy to capture the Halloween spirit in their haunts.
I recently spoke with Carlson at his Halloween-themed home about The American Scream, as well as about other projects he's involved with including the American Genre Film Archive and Fantastic Fest.
Movies based on comic-book characters can run the gamut from campy to straight action, and often have the greatest critics within the comic fanbase. British science-fiction anthology 2000 AD's best known and longest-running fictional character is Judge Joe Dredd, a law enforcement officer in Mega City One, a violent post-nuclear city that stretches from Boston to Washington. Chaos reigns within the streets, and drones are used to target suspects. With so many crimes occurring every minute, law enforcement officers have been given the title of "Judges" with the authority to arrest, sentence and exact punishment -- whether condemned to iso-cubes or executed on the spot.
Dredd 3D features Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) as he assesses rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who despite her marginal scores on the judge aptitude exams is a highly desirable candidate due to her psychic abilities. A "routine" call to investigate a homicide scene in the Peach Trees block becomes a fight for survival as the two judges stumble into a drug turf war. People are addicted to a new drug, Slo-Mo, which makes the user feel as if time has slowed down to an ultra-slow speed.
Three gangs struggle for control of the Peach Trees block, but it is the ruthless ex-prostitute and drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang who reign in the 200-story vertical slum. When Judge Dredd and his trainee attempt to leave the complex with a pivotal member of Ma-Ma's clan, the pair become trapped within and marked for execution by Ma-Ma. The residents of Peach Trees eagerly become vigilantes in order to be allowed out of the locked-down complex by killing the judges on the run.