Atlanta Film Festival 2015

James Franco?! Sorry, no James Franco this time.

We at Disturbing Films have done a rather awful job at covering film festivals in the past. Some times it's been a lack of resources; other times we got in over our heads. See the Articles page for an abundance of evidence.

It's been some time since we've provided any festival coverage (nearly two and a half years!), so, when I saw that the sequel to one of our favorite films from the 2011 Buried Alive! Film Festival was to be screened at the academy-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF), I had to go back into festival mode. To keep matters manageable, this is the only film we're going to review this time around.

The film I'm speaking of is Satanic Panic 2: Battle of the Bands. We previewed this film with an interview with co-writer/director Eddie Ray earlier this month. Our review will be up in the coming week, so from here on I'm going discuss the festival, venue, etc.

The ATLFF spread its 2015 festival across the city, featuring events at The Goat Farm and the Plaza Theatre, two historic Atlanta venues where we've covered festivals in the past. In line with being a large festival, they hosted events with some pretty great food too!

On Friday evening, we moseyed down to the 7 Stages Theatre, just east of the city. The venue is narrow and cramped, seeming more like a concert site than a theatre, which provides a good contrast to the old flowing curtains of the Plaza Theatre and the modern, urban, hipster look of The Goat Farm. In addition, 7 Stages features a coffee bar/mostly full service bar, which earns it several bonus points in my book.

The atmosphere was superb and felt much more like the small independent horror festivals that I'm accustomed to than one that occasionally reminds everyone of its Oscar-qualifying status. We made the poor decision of sitting at what seemed to be directly under the speakers. This led to some of the music bits in the film feeling like a concert. Given the venue's appearance though, it was more than fitting.

I have only positive things to say about this festival. Obtaining tickets, information, etc. was quite easy. The audience, though a good bit were affiliated with the film, was energetic. In a festival setting, often the audience can either make or break the viewing experience.



Afterward I even got a chance to snap a picture with Eddie (I'm the one in the brown jacket). I must say that it feels nice cover a festival with just a few posts. Check back for more festival coverage coming this September.

Interview: Eddie Ray

Eddie Ray is a director/producer/writer/etc. from Atlanta and worked on one of our favorite films from the 2011 Buried Alive! Film Festival: Satanic Panic: Band Out of Hell. The sequel, Satanic Panic: Battle of the Bands, will be screening at the Atlanta Film Festival on March 27th. Click here for tickets! Take a look at the music video/trailer for Part 2.

DF: Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in the Himalayan Mountains with yetis. Just kidding. I wish. Let’s see I have been filming shit since I was like 10 years old and I used to work for Universal (the record label) and now work for Adult Swim in Production. I love horror movies, ghost hunting, transformer toys, buffalo wings, the season of Halloween, limes, dance music, Jem and the Holograms and Icees. I also make movies with over-the-top vulgar characters.

DF: Describe the Satanic Panic series in 11 words or less.

A musical action horror comedy about hot characters fuckin shit up.

DF: What are the inspirations for the films?

I worked in the music industry for a few years and there I realized just how regular musicians were. They get on stage and pretend to be one thing and then come off stage and are just normal people. Like Marilyn Manson, ya know, he is that character on stage then he comes home and puts on shorts and cries and watches Honey Boo Boo or whatever. He is just a person that becomes a character when he performs. Satanic Panic is a band that puts on costumes and sings about Satan but they don’t believe in or even like Satan. It’s just for show and money. They are just regular people, but their acting gets them into trouble. They used to be a Christian band but they didn’t make money doing that so they switched to Satanic and dance. The cartoon Jem and the Holograms also inspired me. Jem was about duality. It was an animated show about a plain Jane girl who turned into this over-the-top pop singer. Then got off stage and had to turn back into a plain Jane girl and pay the fuckin bills. Also in the show there were music videos and songs. I loved that. Even rival bands. Also many horror movies. The “Bad” guys in Satanic Panic are all the Satan worshippers but you sympathize with them the most. They are really the most human and caring characters in these movies. Except that they kill people, but shit they love each other. Also Purple Rain the movie.

DF: Was making the sequel more difficult than with the first film?

Shit yes. Sequels are always harder. They have to be bigger and better than the first one. Not just that, but they have to be different than the first one, it has to take you in new directions or people will get bored. Shit I will get bored. I luckily have a co-writer with me that is smart and funny with shit named Max Fisher. He balances me out. If not I would just go nuts and it may not make sense. Also you have to add more fun characters. So double the cast. Also double the music. Also double the locations. Also double the money. Thank Samhain the cast and crew are amazing and really love doing these movies and believe in me. YAY!!!!!

DF: What does the future hold for this series?

Me and Matt Gallo (he plays B. Elza Bob in the movie) created the idea of Satanic Panic and honestly I knew what would happen in part 2 and 3 while I was writing part 1. So yes hopefully if part 2 does well then there will be a part 3! Yes, we know what happens in part 3 and how it all ends. You do get to see the title for part 3 at the end of part 2! PS THE END OF PART 3 WOULD BE AMAZING! I LOVE HOW IT ALL ENDS!

DF: What other projects are you working on/developing?

Right now I write another web series about a gay horse named SPARKLE HOOVES. People seem to love it. I write it and do the voice for the main character Sparkle Hooves. A friend of mine named Tori Cook animates for it and designs the characters. You can watch his ass here: https://vimeo.com/album/3286548

Also Max Fisher and I are figuring out our next project right now. It will be horror for sure with over-the-top characters I’m sure. Characters are the most important part of any film. If the characters aren’t fun or cool to start with then what they are doing will not even matter.

DF: Which films are you most looking forward to watching in the near future?

There are movies I want to see coming that could cool or fun, but these are the ones I am excited about for real. I love going to the movies and I write reviews for movies as well. https://eddieraysmoviereviews.wordpress.com

1. Mad Mad Fury Road- I love apocalyptic films.

2. Insidious 3- I love ghost movies

3. Maze Runner 2- I was shocked I liked the first one and it’s apocalyptic too.

4. Krampus- I love Michael Dougherty

5. Trick r Treat 2- I love Michael Dougherty

!!! Wonder Woman – ummm WONDER WOMAN

Be sure to catch Satanic Panic: Battle of the Bands at the Atlanta Film Festival. To see the first installment click here.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Released: 1988

Directed by John Carl Buechler

This installment in the series does something that no sequel has accomplished thus far: legitimize Jason’s superhuman presence. Why, you ask? This one opens with a young girl killing her father (in a much less brutal way than expected) with psychic powers. Time passes and she’s now a traumatized teenager returning to the site of the incident as part of her therapy. In a fit of anger, she wills forth who she thinks is her father from the lake; it turns out that she resurrects Jason, again! Adding a second character with supernatural abilities lets the audience know that the film does not take place in the universe we inhabit, making Jason’s antics far more plausible than before.

Wait a tick, when does this film take place? I assumed that Part VI took place in the ‘80s, but between that entry and the present one considerable amounts of time had to have passed. Enough for it to be forgotten that Jason is tied to a rock at the bottom of the lake! In this universe, do the ‘80s last 80 years?

Jason is back from his watery grave to exact revenge… or just slaughter everyone in sight. The death sequences are quite the mixed bag. Most occur off screen and some are the worst the series has seen thus far. There is an excellent scene though where Jason pops up behind a character, grabs him by the head, and punches through him. This one is second only to the icepick to the head.

There is some character development; we discover that not everyone wears their motives on their sleeves, relative to the rest of the series. In the end, we want to see what becomes of the young psychic Tina Shepard. Though this is (gasp!) another new direction (unlike that joke), it does a lot in making the premise easier to swallow, making the series more enjoyable.

The New Blood features the best ending of any of the sequels. It will surely make you say something of the sort “WTF?! In this universe, can bodies not be retrieved from shallow lakes?!”

Rating: 6/10

Rebound

Released: 2014

Written and Directed by Megan Freels

Claire is distraught after walking in on her boyfriend and another woman. She quickly decides to move back home to Chicago. On the way, she encounters a good bit of bad luck.

Rebound is visceral and feels real, for the most part (more on this later). It goes a long way in capturing the gritty low-budget aesthetic that has long been dominated by found footage.

This film consists of three movements, each varying in pacing and tone. The first establishes Claire's emotional trauma and persistent instability. The stage is set by the opening credits where the cheating scene is played over and over in Claire's mind. That there are opening credits at all says a lot toward the low-budget aesthetic.

In the second, the tone changes from emotional to sinister. The audience feels that there's trouble afoot, but we're not sure where from. We are treated to an audio accompaniment in the style of John Carpenter, which both functionally and by allusion builds the tension (as explained by Kool Keith here).

The third movement is where Rebound is most modern. The mystery is over; the audience no longer feels around in the dark. While the final movement is less satisfying than the previous two, perhaps because the mystery is gone, it is still an enjoyable conclusion.

All this said, the problematic aspects of the film are its transitions between movements. These abruptly shift pacing, tone, and plot but are not well motivated by the story. It's beyond believable to chalk everything up to bad luck. Don't get me wrong; the kids in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre surely had awful luck. The difference is that their unfortunate events were more connected and felt less like cosmic injustice.

Rebound is more style than substance and accomplishes what it set out to do.

Rating: 5/10

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Written and Directed by Tom McLoughlin

 Released: 1986

Friday the 13th returns with (gasp!) another new direction. This time the film takes itself seriously only for the first two minutes; quite a pivot from the mild seriousness of the previous entry.

Let’s have no illusions; this is more of the same. Jason rampages through a summer camp dismembering anyone in his path. The often brutal slayings punctuate self-aware humor and genre specific satire. Despite following Tommy Jarvis for three films now, the audience does not have a deep connection to the character. To be fair, Tommy is, by far, the most developed teenager the series has seen thus far.

Now to the mythology of Jason. I’ve complained several times in the past that Jason is severely underdeveloped, even regarding the big picture questions as in ‘What the hell even is he?’ Jason Lives opens with Tommy digging up Jason’s corpse and unintentionally resurrecting him. There you have it: Jason is simply a generic killing machine. Ironically, this incarnation of Jason as the massive, haggard, machete-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing butcher is the one that was absorbed into popular culture. I have two possible explanations: 1. Previously, Jason wasn’t generic enough! 2. Jason never had a legitimate, concrete motive. Matters are different this time; Jason is out for Tommy’s blood.

The first two bits are the only scenes that stand out in this entry. In the first, Tommy reanimates Jason. The scene is comical, relatively plausible, and surprisingly tense. It is a satisfying way to depict Jason’s return. In the second, Jason confronts two (gasp!) camp counselors driving through the woods and (gasp! again) slaughters them. Prior to the spilling of blood, there is well executed dialogue between the couple about driving and directions. I wish those characters would have played a larger part in the film!

All in all, more of the same. Not great but not awful.

Rating: 5/10

The Babadook

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

Released: 2014

It’s not everyday that a respected member of the horror community gives to following sort of praise to a film that is not their own: “I've never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me” - William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist and Bug. Needless to say, my expectations could not have been higher. Unfortunately, The Babadook did not meet these bloated standards. Let’s put the buzz aside and take a look at the film.

Amelia is a sleep deprived and frustrated single mother. Her seven year old son, Samuel, is disruptive and unruly and is terrified of the thought of monsters that lurk in the shadows as he drifts to sleep. Before bed, Sam picks a book from the shelf to read, one that Amelia does not recognize. The book is about the terrifying Mr. Babadook and is, indeed, quite terrifying.

Samuel is perhaps the most annoying on-screen child character that I’ve ever seen. While central to the plot, his persistent whining and talking...and mere presence is enough to wish the Babadook upon him. It’s either the case that this kid is an amazing actor or he is simply being himself. If the latter, then we should each be thankful that we’re not in Amelia’s position.

Putting the kid aside, we can now focus on what works. The use of a children’s book to introduce Mister Babadook adds much to an otherwise generic but creepy character. We usually associate innocence with children, so when this motif is turned on its head the result is thoroughly horrifying. Look no further than Ringu and The Omen for instances of how this works. I also couldn't let go of the feeling that Mister Babadook has some J-horror inspiration.

Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia is pretty damn spot on and does much of the work in selling the premise of the film. The rest is accomplished by genuinely interesting storytelling with a fair amount of depth.

While The Babadook falls short of its hype, it is a well executed and unique horror film that will make one question whether the bumps and thuds heard throughout the night are solely the result of inconsiderate, noisy neighbors.

Rating: 8/10

You're Next

By Brett Mullins

Directed by Adam Wingard; written by Simon Barrett.

Released: 2011

I went into this film with quite a bad attitude: I expected to watch a generic family get hacked to bits by equally generic masked assailants, The Strangers-style. After the opening title, my prejudice was beginning to be confirmed. Quickly, the film picked up and I realized that You’re Next did not come straight from the cookie cutter. Instead, it’s an action filled romp with well placed horror themes.

The synopsis: a wealthy family reunites to celebrate their parents’ milestone wedding anniversary. Once they arrive and sit down for dinner, tempers flare and all hell breaks loose.

To say that this is just another ‘Home Invasion’ film is to sell its novelty short. Sure, it has death, tension, and more death, but it also features depth. While the audience likely couldn’t care less about some of the characters, partly due to some uneven acting, the performances of AJ Bowen, Sharni Vinson, and Joe Swanberg are quite convincing. There’s even a short-lived part featuring Ti West (director of The House of the Devil).

There’s also the violence, and it’s rather satisfying. It is not simply violence for the sake of violence, you know, the difference between Saw and Saw VI. The violence is used as a device to convey emotion, develop the characters, and progress the story. Near the end, though, there’s a bit that feels needlessly excessive and somewhat disrupts the atmosphere.

Disregarding the action for a paragraph, this is a busy film. There are a handful of subtle yet notable stylistic elements going on: the CD set on repeat, the frequent cut to the front door to build tension, etc. Importantly, there is somewhat of a legitimate story to be told. Characters have and act on motives and, though a bit contrived, are relatable. This is surely not Funny Games where things just seem to happen without a particular cause.

You’re Next greatly exceeded my expectations and is perhaps the best home invasion film to date.

Rating: 8/10