Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, running November 14–18 at the 7 Stages Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, features a bevy of horror features and short films ranging from the surreal to the extreme. Among these offerings are two that should be of particular interest to When It Was Cool readers: Survival of the Film Freaks, a documentary about cult films and their fans, and Dead by Midnight (11pm Central), a horror anthology that boasts a 1980s vibe.
Cult films have been around since the earliest days of cinema, even if they were not identified as such. Cult films grew in popularity in America beginning in the 1970s, with the seedy grindhouses of New York City’s Times Square and midnight screenings across the country bolstering interest in such films as Eraserhead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Basket Case. Co-directors Bill Fulkerson and Kyle Kuchta take a loving look at the blood, babes, bikers, bombs, and all of the other elements that went into the horror, martial arts, action, science fiction, Blaxploitation, and other genre films that found devoted cult audiences, and how these films were discovered by those fans.
Rather than coming off as a preaching-to-the-converted piece, Survival of the Film Freaks instead comes off as a valentine to cult films and their preservation that gives a sense of community and camaraderie to devotees of these classics and not-so-classics, while at the same time educating those less familiar with the phenomenon in a manner that should help some of these films gain new admirers. Clips from such movies as the revenge thriller Ms. 45 and the science-fiction actioner The Raiders of Atlantis are plentiful, and the directors interview a wide range of filmmakers and industry insiders. Directors such as William Sachs (The Incredible Melting Man), Greydon Clark (Satan’s Cheerleaders), and Lloyd Kaufman (of Troma Films fame) share screen time with writers, podcasters, and others, all who give engaging insight into the topics at hand.
The film discusses the rise and fall of different viewing formats, from the days of 35mm prints to the advent of home video and the influence of cable TV — often featuring late-night hosts such as Joe Bob Briggs and Rhonda Shear — to DVD and Blu-Ray, to the current trend of streaming, which is seeing classic and obscure films from the past being shelved in favor of new, exclusive content to attract and keep new subscribers. This last part borders on the heartbreaking, and the film gives clear reasons why collectors love to build their home media libraries.
Anyone who has a nostalgic or current love of movies should seek out Survival of the Film Freaks. It’s a well-done, loving look at cult films of the past with its fingers on the pulse of the present.
Speaking of late-night movie hosts, Dead by Midnight (11pm Central) features a wrap-around story about the Mistress of Midnight (B-movie icon Erin Brown), whose annual Halloween horror movie marathon turns deadly after news of TV station WKIZ’s imminent closing spreads among its staff members. They disappear into the Mistress’s film offerings, a series of short tales, and line producer Candice Spelling (Hannah Fierman of V/H/S) must decide whether to shut down the broadcast in an effort to stop the insanity.
Director Tony Reames’ The Jersey Devil, a creature featurette, kicks off the short films with a tale of the titular cryptozoological beast and his attack on two waitresses, a father, and his foul-mouthed young daughter. The creature design and set design of its lair are both impressive, the pacing is swift, and the finale is a lot of fun.
Next up is Creepy Dolls, directed by Eric Davis. This tale of a man recounting what happened to his two friends when they all went investigating an allegedly haunted house has great, eerie atmosphere and solid performances — not to mention that it more than delivers on its title.
Jay Holloway helmed Lost Laundry, in which a young woman suspects her roommate of stealing her clothes, going so far as to record their laundry room with a hidden video camera. What she discovers leads to a rather unexpected climax. The two leads here, Melissa Oulton and Jillian-Van Blair, are both very good.
The least engaging of the shorts for me was the next one, writer/director Anissa Matlock’s downbeat Day Three. A young woman is locked up in a basement for a month, and then learns that she is pregnant. She is desperate not to have the baby, but outside forces insist on seeing that she does. This one feels rushed and I felt a bit distanced by it, as well. It certainly does have some nice elements to it, though, including some effective body horror scenes.
The final story is director Tory Haas’ Blindside, in which a woman with poor eyesight discovers that her boyfriend has a secret side. She wakes up one night and can’t find her glasses, without which she can only make out shapes. The short goes to unexpected places, including a chilling finale.
Overall, the production values, cinematography, performances, and execution of Dead by Midnight (11pm Central) are sound, and fans of old-school horror hosts and such television fare as Night Gallery, Monsters, Tales from the Darkside, and the like should have fun with this independent effort.
For more information about Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, visit http://buriedalivefilmfest.com/
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/).
He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), Scream Magazine (screamhorrormag.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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