Space Milkshakes and Killer Karts at Friday’s Film Fest
Friday, April 5, 2013, kicked off the first full day of fun at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival/ Phoenix Film Festival and it was jam-packed with drama, fantasy, laughs and even some disturbing cinematic chicanery.
The day started off with Science-Fiction Shorts ranging from alien invasions (Ontogenesis and Low Tide in the High Desert) to fantasy bar escapades (Ellie and Iris) and creepy cloned kids (Restitution). For me the standout sci-fi shorts from this first set of films were Dry Gulch, an inventive Heavy Metal styled western, and Odokuro, a wildly imaginative B&W stop-motion piece about the “Orbiting Depository of Cursed Objects.”
Next up was the collection of Animated Shorts that contained everything from simple computer animation (The Nebbish and Make a Wish) to “limited” style animation (Buy Buy Baby) and stop-motion (Head Over Heels). The best of this set included Shelved, a British comedy with computer generated robots that would give George Lucas a run for his money, and Worlds Apart, a post-apocalyptic story that follows a Teddy Bear from its human owner to the hands of an alien child in another galaxy.
My first feature film of the day was Space Milkshake, a very entertaining and funny sci-fi comedy about an orbiting space sanitation station that gets mixed up with a time-altering “milkshake” and an alien rubber-duckie. It stars Billy Boyd, who you’ll remember as Pippin from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Kristin Kreuk, who played Lana Lang on Smallville, and Star Trek’s George Takei as the voice of Gary the alien. This movie is as crazy and corny as it sounds, but it is a lot of good-natured fun.
The next feature was Found, and it was not much fun at all. This is a disturbing ultra-violent movie about a dysfunctional family with a teenage serial killer son, a racist father and a younger son who doesn’t stand a chance with the role models he has to look up to. There were a handful of people who actually walked out of this screening, but there were even more people who applauded it at the end. This is a very dark film, but not completely devoid of a sense of humor – an extremely perverse dark humor. It’s not the kind of film I enjoy, but there is obviously an audience for this type of movie.
So from a deviantly dark feature I moved into the first set of Horror Short Films that included a spoof red-band trailer for a film called Diecons, where Hannibal Lector was recruiting all of the iconic film killers of the past 40 years (including Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers), and a story about a nerdy accountant who runs up against evil within his office building in Steve From Accounting Vs. The Shadow Dwellers.
The highlight films from the Horror Shorts collection were The Root of the Problem, a retro looking movie about a visit to an evil dentist office, and my favorite film of the day, Killer Kart, which is just what it sounds like – a shopping cart terrorizing the closing crew at a supermarket. Written & directed by James Feeney, Killer Kart is an homage to Jaws, among other films, and is a lot of fun.
Next was the feature Play Dead, produced and directed by Teller, from the popular Penn & Teller magic duo. This is basically a “concert film” that was taped live during the Todd Robbins’ Broadway play “Play Dead.” The audience is locked in the building while the showman plays with their fears and sensibility to being scared, often in total darkness. It’s a thought-provoking macabre show that incorporates magic, Ouija Board trickery, séances and a history of real-life evil characters.
The usually silent Teller spoke after the film (which was a very strange event in and of itself if you have never heard the man’s meek and mild voice before) and described the three-years of work that went into the elaborate stage-show’s creation and the safety concerns that they had to address with this show that has moments of absolute darkness.
There are plans for the Play Dead stage-show to go on tour at some point, but next November it will open for a limited engagement in Los Angeles. Just this day, Teller and his usual partner Penn Jillette were in Los Angeles where they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame, and the magician also spoke briefly regarding his 38-year partnership with Jillette.
The last show of the day was the feature film The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, a B&W musical with fifties-style characters, about a rebel outcast from another planet who is sent to Earth, along with his crew of Ghastly guys and girls, in order to learn humility and how to be less selfish.
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X was very much hit & miss for me; I love the initial concept and a lot of the music numbers were fun, but the story is just all over the place. There’s something about a “Resurrection Suit” that everyone is after and Johnny uses it to bring his rock-star father back to life, but first he has to recover it from his girlfriend, Bliss, who is on the run with a soda-jerk she hooks-up with from out of the blue.
This is a very ambitious project and director Paul Bunnell commented after the film screened that he has been working to complete this project for years, using several different writers; and this elongated and disjointed process definitely shows up on the screen.
That’s just a portion of the day’s events. 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.