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The Scare-A-Con 2016 Film Festival Report

October 28, 2016 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Scare-A-Con 2016 Film Festival Report

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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. There’s also a “New England” version that runs in Massachusetts). As a part of the convention, which includes celebrity guests and vendors and whatnot, there’s a film festival featuring various low budget genre movies, both feature length and short form. It is, without question, my favorite part of the convention. This year I made an effort to see more stuff than ever before. For 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.

Features

PlankFace

Plank Face: This was the first thing I saw. I actually had planned to see Frankenstein Created Bikers but I accidentally walked into the wrong screening room. Since I have a personal policy to not walk out of a movie unless it’s incredibly terrible I decided to hang around and watch Plank Face, whatever the heck that was.

So what is Plank Face? Basically, it’s a movie about a young couple who goes camping in the woods, is assaulted by a psycho for some reason, and then gets split up. The young male, played by Nathan Barrett, is then kidnapped by three backwoods women who spend the rest of the movie making Barrett’s Max into one of them. The women, a gross old woman and two younger women, torture Max, rape him, and eventually glue a piece of wood to his face.

Plank Face is a technically beautiful movie. It looks great, it has great sound design, and it has tons of creepy woods atmosphere. However, as a movie watching experience, it’s hard to believe. It’s difficult to believe that Max would succumb to the plan hatched by the old woman and her daughters. Now, had the women not tortured and raped him repeatedly I might believe that Max would change and become one of them, but that doesn’t happen. Max is put through hell over and over again. Why would he give up?

In short, Max’s eventual transformation into Plank Face just sort of happens and we’re just supposed to accept it. I couldn’t. In the end, the movie felt kind of pointless.

I will say, though, that the movie does know how to stage a full on cannibalism scene. Very, very nasty.

I didn’t care for it, but I’d still say it’s worth checking out at least once. Perhaps it will end up meaning more to you.

Rating: 5.5/10.0

FrankensteinCreatedBikers

Frankenstein Created Bikers: I saw the last ten minutes or so of this movie and, dammit, I wish I had seen the whole thing. The short segment that I did see was freaking insane. A badass biker talking to a severed head for some reason (and the severed head talks back)? Who the hell wouldn’t want to see that movie? The end titles music was awesome. I hope this eventually gets some sort of DVD release. I want to see the whole damn thing.

Peelers

Peelers: Peelers, directed by Seve Schelenz, is essentially a zombie movie that takes place inside a strip club. It’s chock full of gore, rampant female nudity, and dark comedy. It has all of the necessary elements to be a potential minor low budget classic horror movie. And yet, the movie just sort of fizzles out at the end. It starts strong, it allows you to get to know the characters, the set-up (the strip club is set to close at the end of the night and go out of business), and it has a nice build up to the first zombie attack. And then it just keeps playing too long.

The characters argue. Things start happening. The characters argue more. Some of the characters die. And more things starts happening. It’s at this point that you realize that, while you know that the movie takes place in a strip club, you don’t know the layout of the strip club and it’s never clear why the characters “stuck” in the strip club just don’t leave. Are the exit doors destroyed? Barricaded? No. But the characters just keep hanging around (right after telling all of the patrons inside the club to leave). What’s the deal with that?

And what’s the deal with the zombie infection/virus/whatever the heck it’s supposed to be? I think the virus/infection is meant to be nature’s revenge on the world, but I’m not sure about that. It’s also unclear how the zombie are supposed to die. How do the survivors kill them? The movie doesn’t spend much time dealing with it. The zombies just sort of die at random.

And then there’s the ending. Why does ever zombie movie have to end the way Peelers does?

Now, the zombie make-up and the gore is nothing short of spectacular. If the special effects crew isn’t up for major low budget horror movie awards when it eventually gets a proper release I’ll be shocked. And Wren Walker, the strip club owner Blue Jean, is awesome. You want to root for her the second you see her.

Peelers is disappointing, but at the same time there’s enough good stuff in it to warrant making an effort to see it. So, yeah, see it. Just be prepared to be confused.

Rating: 6.9/10.0

TheDarkTapes

The Dark Tapes: I managed to see most of this found-footage sort of anthology movie and, man, was it great. There are four separate stories, one with multiple segments, and they’re all interesting and good enough to warrant their own feature length movies. The segment about a young woman trying to stop aliens/demons from assaulting her every night was my favorite segment, closely followed by a section concerning two women running a private streaming sex camera and a fat guy who will do whatever they say. This section is so messed up (I both cringed and laughed at it).

This movie deserves all sorts of praise and a major release of some sort. And people need to see it. Even if you don’t care for found footage movies see it anyway. You won’t regret it.

TheLunaticler

The Lunaticler: The Lunaticler is easily the sleaziest movie I saw at this year’s film festival. From the demonic killer clown at the heart of the story to the perpetually drunk psycho asshole clown that the lead character keeps hallucinating to the mild gay bondage sequences to the seemingly out of place sex scene in the middle of the movie to the movie’s hazy cinematography, it just oozes a kind of dirtiness that’s kind of unsettling. Why is it unsettling? Because it’s hard to tell if the movie is meant to be the way it is or if it just sort of worked out that way and the people behind the movie just went with it. I really don’t know what to think.

The movie also has a penchant to go all surreal at weird times, like when the movie briefly morphs into a live action fighting video game. It’s interesting and features some decent martial arts fight choreography but it just so damn weird.

I’m also confused by the ending. I think it’s meant to be downbeat but, at the same time, I’m not really sure what the heck is going on. I mean, the demonic killer clown doesn’t seem to figure into the ending. So, again, what the heck is going on?

I can’t quite recommend The Lunaticler outright, but if you have a chance to see it, see it and tell me what the heck I’m missing. I’d really like to know.

Rating: 5.9/10.0

ZombiesVsJoeAlien

Zombies Vs. Joe Alien: I missed the first half of this movie, but what I did see was quite good. It was funny, kind of sweet, and just ridiculous enough not to be annoying. As far as I can tell it’s about a good guy alien who has to prevent a bad guy alien from infecting the world with a zombie virus that will kill all of humanity. The zombie special effects are moderately okay, but the sci-fi special effects (spaceships and stuff like that) are quite good. And the star, Alex Knapp, is excellent.

I want to see the whole movie. Hopefully it gets a wide release. If you’re into goofy sci-fi horror movies, I think you’ll get a kick out of Zombies vs. Joe Alien.

HoneyBee

HoneyBee: I saw about half of this movie, too, and was shocked at how good it was. It’s a movie about a weird family of stylish scumbag vampires in a small town and the young woman who is really into one of the male vampires. Or something like that. It almost sounds like a low budget Twilight type deal but, no, it isn’t anything like that. The actors are all strong and do a great job, the special effects are shockingly good, and it has a great sort of pop soundtrack (the end titles theme is catchy). This is another movie I want to see from the beginning, and based on what I saw of it, it shouldn’t have a problem finding distribution.

Keep your eye out for Connie Saltzman, the star of the movie. Just outstanding.

Androgynym

Androgynym: I only saw about twenty minutes of this movie and, truthfully, I have no idea what the heck it’s about. It seems to shift back and forth between live action and what appears to be paper stop motion animation. The shifting back and forth is kind of jarring, but it also looks good. I also want to commend the movie for featuring an excellent head squeezing scene. It looks outstanding.

DeathHouse

Death House Sneak Peak Panel: Death House, of course, is the big hooha horror event movie chock full of modern horror icons (Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Barbara Crampton, Sid Haig, and many more), and the flick’s director Harrison Smith was at the convention to show the opening scene and talk about the kind of movie he made. After listening to Smith hype the movie and talk about his movie making philosophy I can say that the movie looks good, sounds awesome, and Smith really doesn’t like it when you compare Death House to The Expendables. I’m still not sure why he doesn’t like the comparison because, ultimately, Death House isThe Expendables of horror.” One of the big draws for The Expendables was seeing multiple big time action stars in one movie. As far as I can tell, Death House is using the same sort of strategy except instead of action icons it’s using horror icons. So what’s the big deal when the comparison is valid?

I don’t get it.

Anyway, the opening scene is all about Tony Todd’s character and his penchant for “psychic surgery,” which is all sorts of weird. What does that have to do with the plot of the movie? We’ll have to wait and see the full movie, I guess.

Smith was asked during the discussion part of the panel that Death House “may” get a theatrical release, but he didn’t elaborate on what that meant. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that “theatrical release” in this context means it will play in movie theaters in a few big cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, places like that) and that it will be available everywhere else via Video On Demand. I hope I’m wrong and that the movie gets a major theatrical release, but I just have my doubts.

Death House is expected to be released at some point in 2017. Maybe. Who knows?

**

Check out my full review for Ryan LaPlante’s Holy Hell here!

Check out my full review for Night of Something Strange here!

**

Short Films

TheBackpage

The Backpage: I missed the first ten minutes of this thirty-minute horror comedy, which I’m still annoyed about because the movie is so damn good and I really want to see how the whole thing gets set up. Basically, the movie is about a nerdy guy who calls a number on the back page of a newspaper concerning a “massage.” Of course, “massage” here means escort. It sort of plays out how you expect it to since it’s a horror story (I won’t give away the big surprise at the end but I will say that the escort really isn’t an escort), but it feels fresh and feels like a big surprise at the end. The writing, the acting, the direction, the production value, the gore, it’s all amazing and well done. The Backpage is a definite must see and should have a nice life on the festival circuit. It deserves a good wide release of some sort (too bad the premium cable channels shy away from short films because I could easily see this playing on one of the Showtime channels. Maybe a streaming channel will pick it up?).

Hindsight: This is a slick, well made short film that’s as confusing as hell. I think it’s meant to be a sort of examination of the complexity of suicide and anxiety, but I have a feeling that I’m wrong about that. I’m also sort of convinced that the main character might be psychic, but at the same time I could be reading too much into whatever the heck the main character is actually doing in the movie. Worth examining in depth.

TheGroup

The Group: I was surprised at how much I ended up liking this short film. When it started I didn’t really understand what the heck was going on, but the more it went on the more interesting it became. There’s a nice, bizarre twist at the end, and the young cast is totally committed to what they’re doing. The cinematography is a little shaky at times, but the sound design is excellent. The movie also has a message, something that you don’t really see all that much in any kind of movie these days. Be on the lookout for this short. It was made by LaTracey McDowell.

RainPoster

Rain: This is a stylish, well made, great looking horror movie with a messed up twist at the end. I believe the look of the short is meant to evoke a film noir feeling, but I thought it looked more like a slick, modern Twilight Zone type deal. Definitely worth seeing if you can find it. I am curious, though, about the size of the desk and office of the main cop character in this. Why does his office look like the room a city council would have a big public meeting in? Why does his desk take up the entire room?

Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir: Well made, slick, and a little too obvious for its own good. Once you realize what the setting of the story is, you can pretty much figure out what the story is before it plays out in front of you. The gore effects are top notch, though, and the sound design will surely give you the heebie jeebies. I do think this short’s concept could be expanded into a feature length story and the short could serve as the opening scene.

Postal: A Grindhouse inspired fake trailer for a fake horror movie about a psycho killer mailman. It’s sort of charming at times, and kind of funny, but the Thanksgiving style voice over is overdone, and the “grindhouse” scratches are distracting. I liked it, though.

Candy Skin: This is a bizarre story that starts out in an interesting way (guy uses eye drops and then starts apparently hallucinating things) and then becomes a series of holy hooey special effects gore sequences that are just freaking insane (the last effect is just… you have to see it, man. You have to see it). Why does that happen? I still can’t figure that out. I’d like to see this again, just to see if I can actually figure out what the heck it’s about.

WhenSusurrusStirs

When Susurrus Stirs: As far as I can tell this movie is about a guy with a parasite inside his body that decides to completely take over the guy. Why? I don’t know. In the end, I think this is really more of a special effects showcase than anything else. The special effects are absolutely disgusting and fun to look at, but, again, I’m not entirely sure there’s a story here. Anyone else out there see this? Am I missing something?

Sloven: This is a nifty little horror story that ultimately fails because it lacks a “proper” big time jump scare at the end. The run-up to the end is outstanding, and the acting and the look of the sort if top notch stuff. But the pay off at the end just doesn’t pay off. I think the ending needs to be louder. I have no idea how to make the ending louder, but I think that’s what needs to happen. Worth seeing, though.

MidnightMacabre

Midnight Macabre: I liked everything about this short except the title. It’s about a mannequin that schemes to kill its human husband for some reason. Why isn’t it called Mannequin Macabre or something like that? Midnight Macabre makes it sound like it should be a parody of a late night horror movie show.

Dystopia St.: I liked the way this sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare looked, but I’m still trying to figure out what it’s supposed to be about. Why is it called Dystopia St.? What’s with all of the maggots and mealworms and the guys in potato sacks? Just confusing.

Monster: A lovely little story about a nerdy guy who somehow turns his plastic toy dinosaur into an unrelenting monster. There’s a great bit where the nerdy guy takes a selfie with the dinosaur. Track it down and check it out.

CryingWolf

Crying Wolf: This is one of the most expensive looking short films I’ve ever seen. I’m still not quite sure what the point of the story is, but, man, it has a real attack helicopter in it in several scenes and has some pretty cool action sequences in it. But what the heck is going on in it? Is it meant to be a complete story, is this like a short film in name only, a way for the filmmakers to get more money to make a bigger movie? And what’s the deal with the ninja?

MrDentonn

Mr. Dentonn: This Spanish short is all about atmosphere and mood and honoring John Carpenter. It’s jaw droppingly beautiful to look at, but it should probably be shorter. It’s only 9 minutes long but it feels like it drags in the middle. That’s never a good thing. Worth looking at, though.

Zero: This zombie short from New Zealand is absolutely brutal in its depiction of what it would be like if a young child became a zombie and the child’s parents really didn’t know what to do. Because, really, what the heck is a zombie here? Why is their child the only one? The ending will move you. Great stuff.

Conclusion

The following were movies that were screened that I just didn’t get the chance to see: The Barn, Divination, Aaron’s Blood, Blood of the Triblades, Sociopathia, She Kills (already saw it, reviewed it, and loved it), American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock, Bonejangles (Reggie Bannister apparently has a bit part in this. I really wanted to see this but I decided to go to the Death House panel instead), Empire State of the Dead (I saw the zombie short films that make up most of this movie but I haven’t seen the connecting parts that, well, connect them all together), Pig Pen, Bear With Us, and Dry Blood. Anyone out there see any of these? Did I miss anything?

Once again, I had a great time checking out the films that I managed to see, and I look forward to tracking their progress over the next while. And, yes, next year and the next film festival can’t get here soon enough. And 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. It’s what happens to me every time I attend Scare-A-Con.