‘Channeling’ John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’ at Saturday’s Film Festival
Saturday was the second full-day of programming at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival (IHSFFF) and Phoenix Film Festival (PFF), and the weekend brought out even bigger crowds for the mix of local filmmakers and world renowned stars like Australian singer/actress Natalie Imbruglia (who I heard had a very close encounter with PFF’s camera-headed mascot while promoting her film, Underdogs.)
My second full day at the opening festival weekend started with a look at local film creators at the Home Grown Shorts Showcase, which featured films as varied as the gay divorce comedy (Second Chance) to an entrepreneurial tale about shoelaces (Cordones). For me the standouts from this set of films were Dust Jacket, a serial murder story with a twist by writer/director Kenneth Miller, and Another Chance by writer/director Barbara Gross from the Humane Society of Wickenburg, a heart-warming and gut-wrenching story about an old dog abandoned at a pet shelter – it’s the only film of the festival that brought me to tears. (Wait – no – that didn’t happen!)
Next up was the Best of Filmstock set of local shorts that included a film about Tucson cops under Duress and movie about a demented poker player with a Dead Man’s Hand. The best of this collection was Paint Life Beautiful, by directors Mark Susan and Brandon Barnard, an introspective look at a west Phoenix graffiti-artist, Joseph Perez (AKA Sentrock), that incorporates his words, art and even some pretty fancy dance moves.
After enjoying the local short films it was back to an IHSFFF feature, Channeling, by writer/director Drew Thomas. This was easily one of the best films of the festival so far and was a thought-provoking statement on our social-media obsession and how media advertising rules our lives. This is a sci-fi action-thriller with very smart commentary on the state of our society and its potential path of destruction.
Channeling tells the story of a soldier who returns home for his brother’s funeral to find that his older sibling’s death is mired in a mystery involving social media “eyecasting,” where a user places a contact lens with a camera on their eye and broadcasts everything they do. The more hits you get on your “channel” the more sponsors you can acquire. This spawns casinos where gamblers can bet on people’s life events and unscrupulous channel producers who try to spice up the action on their eyecaster channels.
The best science-fiction films always have something important to say about our current world and Channeling ranks with movies like Robocop, Total Recall and They Live (which coincidentally would play later in the evening at this festival) as a genre film with something to say beyond its action/suspense wrapper. This movie is highly recommended and filmmaker Drew Thomas is a creator to keep an eye on.
I took a break from sci-fi & horror for a bit and set in on the Music City USA documentary about the musical community of Nashville, Tennessee and how they were affected by the 2010 floods that devastated the city. The film was written and directed by Arizona fimmaker Chris McDaniel (who is a Tennessee native) and he interviewed dozens of country music stars, from Charlie Daniels to Vince Gill about the history of Nashville and the effects of the great flood. This was an interesting film, but when the emphasis drifted to having these well-to-do musicians discuss how the city recovered without government assistance, as if their gumption and resourcefulness is somehow better than the rest of the country, it struck a sour chord with me.
Next in line was the preview of Da Vinci’s Demons, a new STARZ network original series about the life of inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci. I believe this show is trying to capitalize on the popularity of adult-themed historical dramas like Game of Thrones. It was a decent introduction to the new series, although it does play fast and loose with historical accuracy. The show has a certain steampunk appeal to it, even though Da Vinci’s time was well before the Victorian era where the steampunk genre is usually set.
The big event of the night was the screening of the classic John Carpenter film, They Live, which was introduced by the movie’s female lead, actress Meg Foster. This is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi films and it was great to see it again on the big screen. There were several attendees who saw the movie for the first time and were astounded by its insightful social commentary that is as timely today as it was 25 years ago.
Ms. Foster is now a spry 64 years old and it was a lot of fun to have her introduce the movie and answer questions for the audience after the screening. She talked about her love for “renaissance man” John Carpenter, who wrote, directed and scored all of his own films; and she also spoke admiringly of Rob Zombie and her role in his upcoming film, The Lords of Salem.
Meg Foster also played Evil-Lyn in the Masters of the Universe film as well as roles in genre television shows from The Six-Million Dollar Man to Xena: Warrior Princess, and the actress with Hollywood’s most mesmerizingly beautiful eyes graciously stuck around after the movie to sign autographs and pose for photos with her fans.
Saturday was wrapped up with a screening of Errors of the Human Body, a film about a geneticist whose experiments go awry and come back to haunt him in a strange and ironic way. This was a very good low-key sci-fi/horror flick that reminded me of films like Altered States, The Fly and even Frankenstein. It’s another highly recommended film and it was also a great way to end the evening’s festivities.
Both the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Phoenix Film Festival run through April 11, so it’s not too late to try to make it to some of these films. Check the schedule for the joint events at phoenixfilmfestival.com. Check back with NERDVANA all weekend for recaps of the shows we cover, or follow us live from the festival on Twitter.