Every year, the Fuck, Yeah! Film Festival group gathers in Lafayette during October for a single-day marathon of horror films designed to bother the shit out of me. Everyone brings an entry or two to the table. This year, a quick rundown of the films we watched. No deep-dives. I recommend all of them.
In attendance: Nick Rogers, Joe Shearer, Sam Watermeier, Mitch Ringenberg, Ken Siu-Chong, myself.
The Exorcist III
Chosen by: Me
The Exorcist III lacks the focus and horror of The Exorcist, and from the get-go it feels like an odd direction to take for a sequel to that movie. Perhaps because it wasn’t initially written as a sequel? Whatever. The slow-burn investigation of Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) into a priest’s killer in Georgetown has all the hallmarks of a great murder-mystery horror film. Atmosphere rather than (too many) jump scares, dread over gore and a villainous performance by Brad Dourif that is nothing short of legendary. I’m not sure it has any real theological message about faith. I wouldn’t say that’s the key to The Exorcist. However, that movie at the very least treats faith and demons and possession as a tangible human experience. Not a knock on III: It has a sense of reserve that a majority of our picks lacked.
Chosen by: Nick
A movie I’d been fascinated by (and terrified of) from the days it was just a freaky VHS cover at the video store near my house as a little kid. Turns out there’s not actually a lot to be afraid of here; in fact, Pumpkinhead feels like an adult-oriented fairytale, a classic Grimm complete with a mythical setting (a bayou that turns into California, sometimes), human loss, a blood monster and a moral message about the cost of revenge. Legendary effects artist Stan Winston directs, which makes the odd ineffectiveness of the titular monster somewhat disappointing. Pumpkinhead is large and lumbering, and lacks the flexibility necessary to do much besides pick people up or step on them. While in motion, he simply isn’t frightening. But it’s a cool movie.
Burial Ground (The Nights of Terror)
Chosen by: Joe
Recently added to Amazon Prime but chosen by Joe far before, Burial Ground is a low-budget Italian zombie knockoff with one particular claim to fame — an incest subplot between a mother and her very young son that ends with a gory, glorious, uniquely disturbing payoff. Even better: The son is played by a 25-year old man named Peter Bark, who disappeared back into private life after filming. There are a few good kills and the zombies look all the more terrifying because of their shitty makeup, but it’s mostly a slough. Leave it to Joe to bring movies that feature strange incestuous relationships two years in a row. Worth it.
The New York Ripper
Chosen by: Nick
We were originally going to watch The Monster Squad, but I wanted something truly trashy, exploitative and full of bad feelings. Nick visited his Trash Gravitron and came up with The New York Ripper, a movie by Italian gore master Lucio Fulci that features some of the most … intimate gore I’ve ever seen. Surprisingly, it is also a well-plotted murder-mystery with effective red herrings that kept us guessing until the final minutes. It differs from last year’s “sleazy ’70’s New York murder-movie” Maniac by actually featuring hero characters and a story, but it never loses sight of the slime, sleaze and disturbing bodily mutilations. Ripper is a total blast from start to finish, a centerpiece for the day as a whole.
Chosen by: Sam
Sam’s aware that my least favorite horror subgenre to watch is “home invasion”; our first year was capped off by The Strangers, which still bothers me). Sam has always trended away from exploitation picks for our marathons and can be counted on to class up the joint, which is certainly how Funny Games felt after Ripper. We watched the original 1997 Austrian version. While not technically a horror film, it’s certainly horrifying. Up until that twist in the end, which I appreciated but also felt robbed the movie of urgency. It’s good shit, though, all the way until those last 10 minutes. Harrowing and upsetting.
Chosen by: Me
Guy Pearce stars as Captain John Boyd, a world-weary hero of the Mexican-American War who stormed an outpost behind enemy lines after playing dead to stay there. His cowardice makes him politically unviable to his general, but his heroic deeds make him hard to brush aside. So he’s sent to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevada that quickly becomes a wintery cannibal hell.
It’s a black comedy with so much tonal variety (gore, horror, hilarity, social commentary) that it got lost quickly upon release — opening at #18 its first weekend. Ravenous has gotten a critical reappraisal online, and it’s one I’ve loved since my first marathon of Guy Pearce movies years ago. The villain, Ives (Robert Carlyle), is a soldier who has given into the addictive restorative qualities of eating human flesh. Carlyle’s electric, and the Pearce-Carlyle bromance here sells the movie’s unhinged attitude. Topping it off is one of the best horror scores ever by Michael Nyman and Blur’s Damon Albarn.
I chose to bring Ravenous this year after last year’s event, when I learned Nick had never seen it. (Also of note: It is also the movie for which Ken took time out of his birthday celebration with his family to join us in watching.) I’ve found it an unforgettable movie for a number of reasons, first and foremost the score and atmosphere. And Pearce’s performance is so understated and sad. It was the second after his big break as Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential, and you can tell why he took it: a complete 180 from anything he’d played before until that point. There are so, so few great Weird West movies in the last few decades. I love it to death.
Chosen by: Mitch
I announced publicly a few days ago that Aly is pregnant with our first child; many friends, including the participants of FYFF, were aware long ago. But not before we made our picks for this year’s No Sleep October. Not before Mitch chose Inside, a movie he’s mentioned to us a number of times but that I had never looked into before this weekend. The movie is a New French Extremity film about a pregnant widow trapped in a house with someone who wants to cut open her stomach and steal her child. As the conclusion of the movie wound down after the preceding 65 minutes of merciless violence and tension, Mitch slapped me on the leg and said something to the effect of “Sorry for what you’re about to see.” Goddamn. Extremity indeed. Inside trips up narratively in the home stretch but it never fails to be disturbing as hell, and the final image (no spoilers) was the perfect capper on a day of upsetting cinema.
For most of his life, Evan Dossey has generally avoided horror films. The genre makes him profoundly uncomfortable. This means he has enormous gaps in his cinematic knowledge. Each year, he asks friends and family which essential horror movies he needs to see in order to fill those gaps and spends the better part of October agonizing over them, tossing and turning over them … and writing about them. This year, he’s sharing the month with those friends and family — letting them offer their own thoughts about the tales that terrify (or perhaps just titillate) them. This is everyone’s No Sleep October.
NO SLEEP OCTOBER 2018
Blue Sunshine — James Ledesma
Spoorloos (The Vanishing) — Andrew Kimmel
The Devil’s Candy — Joshua Hull
The Child’s Play Series — Salem
The Shining (1980) — Dave Gutierrez
Hellroller — Richard Propes
Poltergeist III — Greg Lindberg
Scream — Heather Knight
The Witch — Rick Dossey
The Frankenstein Cycle — Lou Harry
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors — Sam Watermeier
Eastern Horrors — Alex Holmes
Unfriended — Austin Lugar
Freaks (1932) — Alys Caviness-Gober
As Above, So Below — Jonathan Curole
The Beyond — Nick Rogers
The Dentist — Mitch Ringenberg
The Halloween Franchise — Evan Dossey