Razor-blade snickers

Pub date October 1, 2008
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

Earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, I ran into Dead Channels Film Festival director Bruce Fletcher more than once — not surprising, considering we were both haunting the same Midnight Madness screenings. This is, after all, the local programmer who brought 1975’s Welcome Home Brother Charles — with director Jamaa Fanaka in tow — to the 2007 Dead Channels fest. He’s also the mastermind behind White Hot ‘N’ Warped Wednesdays, a weekly summer series hosting such should-be cult classics as Pakistan’s first (and only?) gore film, Hell’s Ground (2007).

Fletcher’s 2008 main event unspools Oct. 2, with more than a week of films not suitable for the faint-hearted. Making its US theatrical premiere is Puffball, the latest from Nicolas Roeg, known for 1973’s Don’t Look Now and 1971’s Walkabout. Fay Weldon’s son, Dan Weldon, adapted the script from Mom’s 1980 novel — appropriately enough, since the story deals with motherhood in its more terrifying forms. A young architect (Kelly Reilly, prissy enough to have played Caroline Bingley in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice) decides to renovate an Irish country cottage, not knowing the neighbors are baby-obsessed and black magically–inclined. High production values and the participation of Miranda Richardson and Don’t Look Now star Donald Sutherland (in a glorified cameo) lend Puffball a gloss that Dead Channels’ lower-budget selections don’t have. But the story — which treads semi-close to a mix of The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby — never quite came together for me, in a way that was unsatisfying rather than acceptably ambiguous.

Still planning that Irish vacation? The horrors of the Emerald Isle are further explored in David Gregory’s Plague Town, yet another film that exists to remind city folk to NEVER GET OFF THE MAIN ROAD. Seriously. Because you know if you do, you’ll wind up stranded within evil-cackle earshot of the locals, most of whom happen to be hostile mutants.

Better cancel that road trip and hang out at the Roxie instead — Dead Channel’s opening-night flick, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, is highbrow enough to be playing the current Mill Valley Film Festival. It involves vampires (totes hip) and picked up a big award at the TriBeCa Film Festival this year; see it now and brag to your friends that you caught the Swedish original when the just-announced remake by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is eventually released.

Other Dead Channels trick-or-treats include Frank "Basket Case" Henenlotter’s freaky-deaky latest, Bad Biology, which opens with the line, "I was born with seven clits — seven that I know of," and gets more satire-tastic from there. When a seven-clitted girl meets a boy with a "drug-addicted dick with a mind of its own," what do you get? Maybe the first horror film to ever feature a vagina’s-eye-view shot, for one. Also on tap at the fest: Justin Paul Ritter’s A Gothic Tale, whose distinction of being narrated by Rowdy Roddy Piper is enough to intrigue me; San Francisco–spawned nugget o’ zombie weirdness Retardead; and a late-night program of woman-made shorts hosted by Viscera Film Festival director Shannon Lark, herself a filmmaker and Fangoria magazine’s first-ever "spooksmodel." Dead Channel’s other shorts program is comprised of international thrills and chills, including Oliver Beguin’s Swiss import Dead Bones. The setting is the old West; the cast boasts Ken Foree and Ruggero Deodato (that squealing sound you hear is the horror geek next to you, who no doubt worships both). The gory tale — bad taste? Or tastes like chicken? You decide.


Oct. 2–10, $5–$10

See film listings for venues and schedule