Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reel Fest 4 dates announced!!!

We have dates for Reel Fest 4!!!
 Dec 26th to 30th at The Out of The Blue in Cambridge, MA!!

The Church of Love & Confusion: Cycle 1: Sleep Walk, is the featured feature this year, and will headline for the duration of the festival. (Dec 26th to 30th)

Go to Schedule page for more details.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Lo" - Film Review by Mark Donovan

Lo starts with the main character, Justin – or, as he’s called throughout; Dinner – performing a ritual to summon the demon Lo. The scene is framed and scored very seriously, and the entrance of Lo is plenty dramatic. The creature is first seem crawling out of the darkness, slowly revealing its form – an ashen gray, hairy beast that is essentially one large torso with ruined scraps of legs trailing behind, with a small patch of its skull either missing, or it has a slight touch of harlequin ichthyosis. It is a frightening moment that lasts for about a minute, and then, with a cough, all pretense of seriousness is dropped, and the true nature of the film reveals itself.

The friend that recommended Lo to me summarized it thusly, “A guy summons a demon to get back his girlfriend, and then they dance.” He wasn’t being entirely accurate, but he was honestly recommending it. While initially billed as a horror movie, Lo is far more of a quirky comedy. Or, more accurately, it is one part comedy, one part love story, one part musical, and a few parts community theater. That last bit is not a knock against it; while you can see various stage productions similar in theme to Lo, most tend to be lacking in one very important area: the script. The makeup effects also help. Think of it more as Buff the Vampire Slayer: The Play. While Buffy did take itself seriously, to an extent, it was always aware of what it was, and used its premise to make more than a few sly jokes. The same can be said for Lo.

Lo, as played by Jeremiah Birkett, is all dry humor and sarcasm. Birkett is one of those ‘that-guy’ actors that has been acting in bit parts for over two decades - though he is unrecognizable underneath all of the makeup – and his experience is certainly evident in his timing and delivery. He is one of the reasons why the film works as well as it does. By contrast, Ward Roberts is less experienced, and when compared to Birkett, it shows. His delivery isn’t bad, but it lacks polish. He also looks like the love-child of Bruce Campbell and Marc Heap, and has more than a few moments where he seems to be channeling both actors.

The script does occasionally drop into camp - like the various song and dance numbers and a first-hand account of the tortures of hell as delivered by a bickering couple from behind a backlit bed sheet – but those moments are done willfully, usually as the setup for a joke, or just as the joke itself. Lo, in essence, is a one room, one act play and writer/director Travis Betz knows it, and uses that to his advantage. Half of the movie is set on a theater stage – if not all of it - with stagehands visibly smoking in the background, and occasionally reaching out to hand off a prop. The bulk of the action takes place on these various stages, and even the main circle, where protagonist Justin sits for the entire movie, looks like it is in the middle of a stage. Apparently there is an actual stage version in the works, which is surprising in that there isn’t already one. That is also one of the charms of the film; there is no reason for a film where the protagonist does little more than sit on the floor for the entire movie to work this well.

There will undoubtedly be a few people who stumble across this film on Netflix while looking for a horror fix, and those people will be disappointed. But those that don’t mind giving the film a brisk 80 minutes will find that there is quite a bit to recommend. It is no wonder that there seems to be a growing bunch of devoted followers on the film’s IMDB page. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Buddhists in Toy Land

I am lucky enough to have been enjoying the offerings from Reel Groovy Films and their prolific creator, John Mayer Hartman, for a number of years on the independent/underground film scene. Until now, I had only been exposed to Hartman’s quietly quirky brilliance in short-subject form. I have found these white dwarves of movie magic to be universally entertaining, artistically striking, and technically impressive. For all of this, I’ve been hard-pressed for a single, summative word for what this unique experience is. With my recent viewing of the feature Reel-Illusionary Zone, I have found the word that eluded me, and it is Fearless.

Zone is a powerful, stylistic fusion of classic German minimalist cinema, the New American Independent esthetic, Buddhist philosophy, and vintage stop-motion animation techniques. It approaches deep, introspective themes with both a subtle beauty and a genuinely whimsical sense of itself. In light of how risky being so true to one's art really is, fearless is the only fitting adjective, which is good, since 'Pygmalian Drops Acid' with the 'Vampire in Wonderland' as performed by the Buster Keaton Players is nowhere near as snappy or dramatic sounding.

The film makes the most of a mixed bag of low-budget, high-impact special effects, expertly chosen scoring and nuanced, high-theatrical performances. Bringing together these elements to highlight an otherwise very sparse, mostly black & white, silent production, the mad coven at Reel Groovy films present a truly affecting and enjoyable Odyssey of oddity. Hartman and Co. craft a psychedelic epic beyond the frontiers of the individual mind, through the interwoven fringes of our shared consciousness, across the assumed boundaries of what is ‘real,’ into the very heart of the human experience.

We embark on this journey along with the Toymaker (Hartman) a cursed, dimensionally displaced hermit. His only companions are his lovingly crafted, creepily human toys. When his beloved creations, Groovy Girl and Bean Pole, are lost and stumble into the Reel-Illusionary Zone, the mystical border between the land of toys and the ‘real’ world, the saga begins. First, the Toymaker builds replacement toys, including a disturbing, faceless creature and 2.0 versions of Groovy Girl and Bean Pole. The Toymaker charges these creations with finding their predecessors, and they, too, get lost in the mysterious landscape.

The two sets of toys have a variety of misadventures, my favorite of which involves a beautiful homage to the gold standard of German minimalist film, Nosferatu, complete with gothic European castle and buck-toothed vampire. Eventually, the toys each emerge into the ‘real’ world, attaining humanity as they do so. With all the new knowledge, and needs of humanity, the toys attempt to make their way in our world. Their travels leave them (in succession and ultimately mistaken for each other) at a movie set, where the story has its conclusive epiphany.

The Toymaker, for his part, has gone in search of his ‘children’ himself. Following the advice of a supernatural princess, he retraces the steps of his creations. His path is advanced by super-trippy visions, transcendental trances, saints, and sorcerers. He is challenged with his own fears, misconceptions, and prejudices of perspective. It is only by facing and overcoming these inner limitations, including his attachments to a lost love and his toys, that he is able to navigate the Zone and find his way back to his rightful dimension. When all the players are reunited on the movie set for the climax, the development and depth of the characters is fulfilled.

The Reel-Illusionary Zone is a deep meditation cleverly disguised as whimsical, art-house experimentation. Hartman and, indeed, all the talented creators and performers who bring this delightful fantasy to life can be proud. It’s a visual treat, a true work of art, full of thought and emotion that really shows off excellent mastery of classic minimalist film-making.

Written by Joseph James Bellamy
Editor: Deb Bellamy

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rod Webber nominated "Best Interview" by the 10th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards

Rod Webber and Reelzine have been nominated for "Best Interview" by the 10th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards for Rod's interview of Jane Asher: "On Masque of Red Death," actress talks about working with Corman and Price. Conducted by Skype in conjunction with Diabolique.

Winner selected by votes. Go to the  Rondo website for more...

Or, email to cast your vote. But, you must select TWO nominations for your vote to count. In which case, we recommend Paulo Zelati's interview: Barbara Steele: "The Gothic Queen of Italy," DIABOLIQUE #5.