The Scare-A-Con 2015 Film Festival Report
The Scare-A-Con 2015 Film Festival Report
Scare-A-Con is a three day horror and pop culture convention that has been held at the Event Center of the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York since 2012 (the convention started in 2011 at a different location). As a part of the convention, which includes celebrity guests and vendors and whatnot, there’s a film festival featuring low budget genre movies, both feature length and short form. By and large, it’s my favorite part of the show (although this year I got to meet my hero and inspiration Joe Bob Briggs, so that was the ultimate highlight of the three days), and 2015 had some very cool movies on display. I didn’t get to see every movie shown, but I did see a good mix of both feature and short length movies. Now, when it comes to some of the feature length movies I was only able to catch parts of them, so with those ones I won’t provide a full rating. The ones I saw all the way through, though, will get a rating.
And now, the reviews.
I Am Alone
I Am Alone is one of the best, maybe even the best, found footage zombie movies I’ve ever seen. Directed and co-written by Robert A. Palmer, the movie shows us a reality TV host out in the wilderness, recording an upcoming episode of his wilderness survival show, getting attacked by a zombie, and then transforming into one. Since the reality star, played by Gareth David-Lloyd, has no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world during the time he’s in the woods, we see him suffer through the zombie transformation and describe, to the camera, what he’s feeling physically and emotionally. It’s heartbreaking stuff because the guy wants to get back to civilization, wants to get back to his girlfriend, and wants to live, but you know that there’s no real hope for the guy. He can fight, sure, and try to keep the zombie virus at bay inside his body, but he isn’t going to be able to hold it off forever. The virus is going to kill him.
While David-Lloyd’s Jacob is trying to survive in the woods, reality TV cameraman and former soldier Mason Riley, played by Gunner Wright, tries to find a way to survive after witnessing first hand a mass zombie outbreak. When we first see Mason he’s working with the survival show’s producer, conducting interviews with locals about the woods and local stories about bear attacks. Little weird things keep happening in the background of each interview, and then the shit hits the fan and Mason and his producer Adam Levine (Rory Zacher) watch a guy shoot a woman in a parking lot. They freak out, more zombies show up, and then it’s full on pandemonium. Adam is killed on camera, Mason is left to fend for himself, and then Mason decides to travel back to the woods to save Jacob. Jacob is his friend and colleague, and Mason doesn’t want him to die needlessly, too. Armed with his camera and whatever he can find while on the run, Mason books it for the woods to try to save his friend.
Now, the reason we get to see Jacob’s footage and Mason’s footage is because Mason has been captured by the U.S. government and sent to a CDC scientist trying to figure out what the heck is really happening. The scientist, played by Marshal Hilton, has watched all of the footage and believes that Jacob may hold the secret to the cure of the zombie virus, but he needs help figuring some stuff out. So we see Hilton’s Doctor Marlow questioning Mason about the footage. The interrogation part of the movie is the weakest part of the story. I understand why it’s there and it helps break up the found footage action, but it just isn’t as interesting as Jacob’s footage and Mason’s footage. Hilton, like everyone else in the movie, does a great job, but I would like to see a version of the movie without Hilton’s interrogation of Mason. The Jacob footage and the Mason footage could probably survive and make a crackerjack movie all on its own.
The shaky camera work is disorienting in a good way, and the violence we get to see is excellent. The zombies are nasty, the havoc they wreak on the world is horrible, and it’s hard to defeat them even though they’re slow, like Romero zombies. I’m also quite fond of the rhythm created by shifting camera feeds from hand held cameras to surveillance cameras. I’m usually annoyed by that kind of thing but it works in this movie.
The ending is a little off because there’s clearly hope of a sequel, which I’m completely onboard for, but I think I would have liked to see an ending that was, you know, the end of the story. But, in an overall sense, that’s just a minor quibble. I Am Alone is an awesome zombie flick. Hopefully it finds proper distribution and more people get a chance to see it. Horror movie nerds will definitely dig it.
Summit is a slick, well made thriller that ultimately fails because its big revelation at the end isn’t a big revelation. When you do a slow burn plot you have to deliver the goods at the end, you have to have an ending that blows the audience’s mind and leaves them shocked. Summit thinks it does all of that but the reality is the movie just ends because… I’m not sure why it ends beyond the director wanting to make an 80 minute movie. The cast is excellent, the production value is top notch, and the mood and atmosphere created are amazing. Director Christina Raia clearly has talent and a good visual eye. But Summit just doesn’t deliver. It’s sad. Infuriating, even.
What would have saved Summit? It probably should have strived to be more of a straight up slasher type movie. The plot involves five college types on a ski trip getting lost in the woods after their truck breaks down in the driveway of an abandoned house. They have no food, no water, no cell service, and no one knows where they are. They spend two days inside the abandoned house before they start to crack up. Then one of them is killed under mysterious circumstances and all hell breaks loose. Who is the killer? This plot is fine but, as I said, when we find out who the killer is it feels like a big letdown. If the movie had been more of a slasher movie we would have had a body count faster and we could have had more cat and mouse stuff in the abandoned house and in the woods. That would have been more interesting than waiting, waiting, and waiting for something to happen and then, when something finally does happen, being let down by it.
Thrillers are hard to pull off, especially the slow burn kind. Raia has talent in spades and has a bright future as a director. Summit has some good, even great stuff in it, but it just fails in the end. It’s worth checking out, though. Just be prepared to be underwhelmed.
Flesh of My Flesh
I got to see the last forty minutes of this low budget zombie action flick and was impressed by the movie’s energy, although I had no idea what the hell was going on. I know there’s zombies, it’s the end of the world, and there’s some guy that can control zombies or something. There’s also a female character that, I guess, is the hero of the story. I liked her quite a bit.
The ending is, imagery wise, one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen. Apparently there are jail cells and whatnot underground chock full of naked people. Why? I have no idea. But then, hey, it is the end of the world. This kind of stuff tends to happen when it’s all over.
And kudos to the writer-director Edward Martin III for embracing the video game world on such a small budget. The gun toting characters on display in the movie could easily appear in a Resident Evil video game and it never looks ridiculous or out of place. That is hard to do when you don’t have a few million dollars at your disposal. Good job, Martin III.
Just like Flesh of my Flesh, I only got to see the last forty or so minutes of this movie and had no idea what was going on but was still transfixed by the action on screen. I know that the movie takes place on Halloween night and involves some sort of ancient evil accidentally unleashed on the world and that there’s a group of people that have to band together to try to stop the great evil from spreading. It switches back and forth between color and black and white for some reason, and it features “chapter” breaks that are confusing because it doesn’t appear that the movie is engaging in a disjointed, non-linear structure. The movie does have a sense of humor and some kick ass music (the end titles theme is catchy as hell). It also has the great Tony Todd as a priest. That always helps.
The movie also features glowing skull zombies with machine guns, something that should help it gain traction in the world of horror movie fandom. I wouldn’t be surprised to see T-shirts in a few years with the zombies from this movie. Posters, too.
I want to see this all the way through, too. I want to see what I missed, just to see if the thing makes sense in the end.
Once again, I only saw the last forty or so minutes of this movie, so I was confused by what the hell was going on. The plot has something to do with a child killer, World War II, an old amusement park, and some sort of curse. It switches back and forth between color and black and white, with the black and white footage dealing with the World War II stuff and nostalgia and whatnot. The color stuff, which takes place in the here and now, looks like some kind of low end HD video, while the black and white looks amazingly crisp and vibrant. The black and white footage also looks like it cost considerably more than the color footage. The WWII costumes and weaponry and whatnot looks great. Over on the color side, there’s some awesome gore special effects stuff going on, including a wonderful “man on fire” scene that will definitely gross you out. This movie has been around since 2007 and, according to this website, is available on DVD. So, you know, that’s cool.
El Aura Azul
I only got to see the last few minutes of this 9 minute short from Colombia, but what I saw was very cool. It has something to do with a glowing orb causing trouble for people and there’s a weird as hell scene inside a bathroom. The orb special effects are amazing. Hope to see the whole thing one day.
This short film starts out as a twin serial killer thing and becomes something hilariously supernatural at the end. I won’t spoil the surprise but I will say that it will leave a smile on your face because it’s so goddamn brilliant. Why the hell hasn’t anyone made a feature length movie with this plot?
This is a weird short film in that it doesn’t feel like a regular short film. It feels like an extended trailer for a possible feature length movie. It takes place in some sort of post-apocalyptic future where the world has gone to shit and is all about a man and a child trying to survive being attacked by marauders and zombies. It has great production value, a great score, and an interesting idea. Hopefully one day it becomes a feature. The world needs more zombie movies that take place in the snow.
You can watch the full movie below as it’s on youtube:
This Canadian short takes place during the Black Death in Europe and is all about a woman trying to save her husband, who has been buried alive. It looks great, has a great cast, and features a nice twist at the end. My only complaint with the movie is that it isn’t long enough. I wanted to see more with the woman and her believed dead husband and the aftermath of her decision to dig him up. She couldn’t have been the only person digging up believed dead bodies.
This British short is probably a little too weird for its own good. It’s about this kid that’s searching for his missing father and ends up finding him inside a horror movie on an old VHS tape. I think that’s what happens. The final image is pretty disturbing and sort of heart-warming at the same time. The movie would probably be more successful if it played down the “VCR tracking” stuff and the haziness in the woods. It’s hard to see exactly what the heck is going on.
I was confused by this horror short. It has something to do with a young girl being chased by evil smoke for some reason, and there’s a creepy spider, too. Everyone in the screening room seemed to be into this more than I was. What the hell did I miss? If anyone out there has seen this, please drop me a line and explain it to me. It did have a nice look and atmosphere. I can say that.
Dude, man, this short is seriously fucked up. It’s about two drug addled metal heads snorting a powder they assume is cocaine but turns out to be something else entirely. One guy snorts the stuff and ends up melting into a giant pile of goo, and the other is attacked by the tentacle demon thing that pops out of the dead one’s remains. The Chunkblow is seriously gory and a true joy to behold in terms of its practical monster effects. If you’re into latex monsters, blood, gore, and nastiness that looks like multi-colored scrambled eggs and sizzling bacon grease, then The Chunkblow is your kind of movie. Awesome stuff.
A sort of found footage deal, Torture Tree is about two guys trying to find an old tree that is believed to be the place where soldiers during the Revolutionary War were attacked by Indians, disemboweled, and forced to wrap their intestines around the tree. It’s well done and funny but, like Madness, it ends too quickly. I wanted to see more of the cast screwing around in the woods and more full on gore when the videographers are attacked by Indian ghosts and killed. What we get, though, is good stuff, and I highly recommend checking it out. In fact, you can watch the full short below:
The Blood of Love
This short is all about a woman who kills men so she can use their blood to keep her sick husband alive. The woman has to run the stolen blood through a special machine that a creepy doctor gave her and, at least at the beginning, the scheme works. Things eventually go awry, though, and the woman’s husband becomes even sicker than before and she has to find a way to permanently cure his sickness. I didn’t really care for the way this ended as it’s a little too upbeat for its own good. I would have preferred to have seen a downbeat ending that made everyone look bad. I mean, this woman is a murderer. Why should her scheme work at all?
I wish I had had time to see the movies I missed, like No Solicitors, which had Eric Roberts, Felissa Rose, Vernon Wells, and Ken Sagoes in it, and All Hell Breaks Loose, which was apparently some sort of grindhouse demon biker movie. I also missed Savageland, which is, based on what I’ve read on imdb, is a fake documentary of some sort, and The Man in the Shadows, which is about a guy in a hat that stalks people for some reason (that’s what the trailer I saw for it seemed to suggest). But that’s what happens when you go to a film festival, you miss stuff because of other stuff. I’ll be on the lookout for the stuff that I missed, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the stuff I did see because I wouldn’t mind seeing that stuff again.
I once again enjoyed my time at Scare-A-Con and tried to take in as much as I could while I was there. If you have the chance to attend a convention and or a film festival you should make an effort to attend. You’ll likely have tons of fun, and you’ll see stuff you never thought you would get the chance to see. That’s what happens to me every time I attend Scare-A-Con.