Monday, October 24, 2005

Back in Black. Well, Dark Colors. And Blue Jeans.

I’m back! Now that my once robust readership statistics have dwindled away like a priapism dosed with saltpeter, I feel it’s about time to rebuild a new audience upon the ruins of the old. Those of you who were with me from the beginning shall be rewarded with my continued blessings, but those who have abandoned me for other, better film review sites that focus on the actual films as opposed to the racial lineage of the actors will be punished through dark vodun gris-gris and blood magicks. New readers shall be forbidden from procreating without both my written consent and a clean genealogical chart, and no one who enjoyed Cinderella Man shall be allowed to enter. You shall be rewarded with more of my writings. Normally, I don’t like to write anything but movie reviews here. But, more and more of you have been asking for glimpses into my personal life, and I’ve decided to oblige, though I refuse to guarantee that I won’t just sub in details from Martin and Michael McNamara’s Dragon Hunt.

On that note, this first post will be an account of my trip to New York, where I attended the New York City Horror Film Festival, and was hunted alongside my identically moustached brother by a group of mercenaries in retaliation for crippling a master criminal in Twin Dragon Encounter. Don’t worry, the article is film related, and I’ll be back to the daily movie reviews tomorrow, but until them, enjoy a glimpse into the New York horror scene.


The highlight of today was of course the opening night party, which kicked off the festival in style. Held in a tiny electric blue Mazda 3, the party was a little cramped, but fun. Highlights included almost hitting a deer, getting held up at the border because my passport makes me look like a drug-dealing white supremacist, and leaving the window open in order to get a whiff of the fact that New York smells like somebody already ate and passed the Big Apple. Of course, this amazing and star studded opening night party would not have been possible had one of my three companions not forgotten a Beta SP projection tape back in his house, forcing us to drive clear across town a couple of times and get stuck in rush hour traffic. Needless to say, we arrived in New York about 6 hours late for the official festivities, but we made our own fun in the car, such as almost getting kicked out of a Friendly’s for decidedly unfriendly behavior. I thought that everyone would be interested in hearing me pontificate loudly about the time I bought a ‘French Connection U.K. Israel’ T-shirt from the FCUK website, only they mis-spelled FCUK as ‘FUCK’ on the t-shirt, and ‘white alert .com’ in the URL, but apparently Americans have a different sense of humor than Canadians. The customs agent didn't find it funny either.


The majority of our first day was spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, enjoying an exhibit of occult photography. Every photo looked like a panel from a Hellboy comic, my personal favorite being a section devoted to ectoplasm, featuring a woman throwing up a mass of fibrous material forming an image of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Following that, we headed down to the festival to meet Programming Director Anthony Pepe, a special effects technician who, along with Festival Director Michael J. Hein, couldn’t be a nicer person. They were organized, enthusiastic, and very accommodating, although a lot of the time it felt like hanging out with friends of an older brother, who are more than willing to talk with you, help you out, and lend you a couple of well-worn Slayer LPs, but have to meet a bunch of college girls at a bush bash in a few minutes. Apparently, what they were expecting was a burly thirty-eight year old, and what they got was me, 15 years younger, and looking significantly more like I’m made of pipe-cleaners draped in an Emperor T-shirt. Anthony hid his disappointment well, and I picked up my Festival pass and dropped off the cursed tape.

A decision was made to only catch one program a night at the festival, as we had come down with a couple of lovely and talented ladies, one of whom was still upset at me for making her go to a Behemoth concert, so we headed off to see a taping of The Colbert Report, which is The Daily Show with stage fright. The show was funny, and Steven Colbert is tall, though I feel it needs some work. It’s a great idea for a program, imitating and satirizing the asinine far-right commentary of American news anchors and old Italian men on benches who love talking about how they’re ‘old school’, but Colbert doesn’t stick to his guns. The first part of the show is strong, with talking points and plenty of uninformed grandstanding, but by the end he’s just screwing around with his guests like a Who’s Line Is It Anyway? outtake. I’m sure it’ll mature, however.

Then, back to the festival, where I was official introduced to Michael J. Hein, Festival Director, who is an incredibly nice, funny, and intelligent guy, despite the fact that he directed Biohazardous. We caught a pretty cool short film called The Road Virus Heads North, based upon one of my favorite Stephen King stories, which was very well acted, cast, and paced, though there’s a certain mystique in the story that is lost when literalized on screen. It was followed by the new Tobe Hooper film, Mortuary, which I’ll review later, though I’m not sure why, because I’m sure the only people interested in hearing about it were at the screening.

Afterwards, we met a couple of guys from Chicago also attending the festival. Director Anthony Sumner had come down to promote their short film Jitters, and Eric Richter had made the trip to blow two rolls of film on the exterior of the firehouse from Ghostbusters, and talk about it incessantly for three straight days. Great guys, both, and I had a picture taken with them to prove to people at work that I am capable of making friends, though they know I have Photoshop so I’m not sure it’ll work.


Most of today was spent on Canal Street, which is a hell created specifically for me, with hordes of gibbering Chinamen yelling the garbled names of design houses I’m entirely too classless to recognize. The best part was being taken to the secret rooms full of counterfeit merchandise, though I’m a little confused as to how the secret merchandise differs from the counterfeit merchandise clearly displayed on the street. One of the rooms was in a shabby basement stained like the killing floor of an abattoir, which I feared I would never exit, almost slipping in a puddle of dropped ‘S’s leaking from the animated Asian hustler yelling ‘fifty dolla’ at us for a solid twenty minutes while brandishing a fake Coach purse. Then, we went to the museum of sex, to watch vintage pornography for four hours and not touch anything.

Afterwards, our path took us back to the Horror Festival, located at the historic Tribeca Cinemas. There, we met up with Eric and Anthony again, who were proving to be the only guys at the festival who didn’t think I was a high school student who snuck in trying to buy a rum and coke. We watched their short, Jitters, .which is simple, effective, and has more balls than those funny pictures of tribesmen with elephantitis on Following that was a screening of the first episode of Showtime and Mick Garris’ Masters of Horror series, entitled Incident On & Off The Road, directed by Don Coscarelli and starring Angus Scrimm. Coscarelli directed the Phantasm pictures, which are a series of films that don’t even make enough sense for one movie, let alone four, as well as Bubba Ho-Tep, thus making him a hero of mine. There’s an argument to be made that Bubba Ho-Tep is the greatest film ever made, and while it’s not correct, it contains several solid points. I spoke with him for a few minutes after the screening, and he’s a very pleasant man, despite the fact that his height indicates he’s clearly an ogre of some kind. Angus Scrimm was also very kind, and took a photo with me, something that will impress no one who reads this


The early morning was spent at the Natural History Museum, or more accurately, outside the Natural History Museum, waiting for half our party to arrive. They had elected to spend their Saturday waiting in line at the discount Broadway TKTS booth for day-passes to be homosexual. Satisfied with a matinee showing of a Christina Applegate musical and the requisite all male gang-bang/cuddle party that I understand follows every Broadway performance, they eventually met up with us in the dinosaur section, just in time to leave to be interviewed for a documentary at the New York Institute of Art. The interview was conducted by Joshua Blankman, a Troma employee and student of the Institute, who had arranged to interview Eric and Anthony. Television had taught me that Americans were all either cowboys, Bloods gang members, or Southern Baptists, but apparently had neglected to mention how nice some of them were, as evidenced by the two Chicagoans inviting me to horn in on the interview. I don’t remember exactly what I said during the interview, as I was heavily under the influence of cold medicine and social anxiety disorder, but judging from the gathered crowd with wide-eyed expressions, I’m sure they regretted the invitation. Then, the Chicago guys bought us lunch, which means I was probably so obnoxious I made them look good.

Then, we checked out a few more shorts, including Road Kill, an absolutely hilarious and crisply made film which deservedly won the Audience Award. It starred Roach from People Under The Stairs as a serial killer who meets another serial killer coming through the rye, and hijinks ensue. It was followed by Facility 4, an average but still suitably creepy film about zombies in a Soviet military facility. The film worked because Russian zombies are the only things scarier than regular Russians, with their thick, fragrant hide and tendency to burst out into bellowing song at the vaguest sniff of grain alcohol. The Masque of Red Death followed, a film I had remembered being one of the lesser Poe/Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaborations, but upon second viewing took its rightful place near the top. Then, festival guest Roger Corman was given a lifetime achievement award, at which point my heart stopped. I’m told a photo exists of me beside Corman, face cracked into a toothy smile as Corman holds up a DVD I’d handed him, but I don’t believe it. If it were true, I would have to kill myself, my life’s goal having been completed, and that would violate the terms of my Faustian contract with Mephistopheles, which stipulate that I must turn a few more readers onto the films of Kenneth Anger before I can die.


Our last day in New York began with a visit to the Tea and Sympathy English Tea House in Greenwich Village, our companions apparently unsatisfied with a mere 24 hours as Broadway fans. Long having thought tea the domain of immigrants and antiquers, I refrained from the filthy brew, opting instead to giggle over the term ‘bangers and mash’ on the menu and order blood pudding just to say that I did.

The afternoon brought a filmmaking panel, moderated by the talkative but always interesting Michael Hein and featuring Fangoria General Manager Michael Gingold, Horrornet TV head Kim Bangash, legendary director and current Blue Underground CEO Bill Lustig, and Armand Mastroianni, who directed some great films, but cancelled them out with The Linda McCartney Story. Lustig was very funny, as was Mastroianni, and Gingold was quiet but articulate and knowledgeable, though he looked for all the world like he was sitting in a high chair at the big boy table, due entirely to the fact that he was swinging his legs like a toddler on a bench. The panel was supposed to contain Joe Bob Briggs, which would have been great, since he’s one of my heroes and the reason I started writing movie reviews in high school, but he was stuck in Austin after an evening of drinking whiskey and re-writing Michael Jackson song lyrics to include slurs against Mexicans. I spoke with all the panelists afterwards, all of whom were very pleasant.

We then caught Aunt Rose, a local film directed by James Tucker, as the grand finale of the festival. Though not as polished as some of the other films we saw, the performances were absolutely fantastic, a rarity in the low-budget horror world. A throw back to brutal 70s exploitation films that tread the line between drama and horror, the film throws in a few supernatural elements into the mix, wisely leaving them under-explained. And with that film, our New York City Horror Film Festival excursion came to an end, not with a bang, but with a puddle of black blood and maggots thrown up by a talented actor/writer who had seen The Last House on the Left one too many times.

I’ve been to a few genre festivals in my time, and while they each have their pros and cons, Michael Hein and Anthony Pepe are putting on a great show each and every year in New York, and I highly recommend it to filmmakers, horror fans, and high school students looking to buy drinks at the bar. I had a great time, and met a lot of great people, including Roger Corman. Now, please go out and watch a few Kenneth Anger films so I can slit my wrists in peace.


Blogger David Wester said...

I ignore the racial lineage of the actors to my constant regret.

Nice report. I look forward to seeing some of these.

12:41 a.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

Ash (we can still call you Ash, can't we?), I had to skim through your review twice to find the bit where you met Joe Bob Briggs and thanked him for teaching the world to rate movies according to a strict Blood, Breasts and Beasts principle. Crushed, I left to hang around at the Joe Bob Report instead - where I discovered that he doesn't look anything like Billy Bob Thornton's dad. On the bright side, at least I can say I've posted on the site of someone who met Corman, a Troma employee and the Maniac Cop guy in the space of a single week. Oh, and on your site too of course.

Seriously, even my mom is impressed.

5:14 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

David, I wouldn't hold your breath. I'd have to leave my house again this year for another such report, and increading OCD symptoms are rendering that unlikely.

Broadzilla, you may call me Ash, Sir, or Sphere Empyreum Tsepes, which ever you prefer. Yeah, the picture on Joe Bob's website doesn't look at all like I remember him. He's not even wearing a bolo tie.

9:07 a.m.  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...



Now you're cool by proxy.

10:58 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yup. Everyone else I met, I kept my cool, and had lengthy discussions about the horror film industry and the difficulties of independent filmmaking, but with Corman I totally lost it, blathering on and on about how I stayed home one Halloween night when I was 11 to watch four consecutive Poe/Corman films in a row on TVO. Awesome.

11:21 a.m.  
Anonymous Je Suis said...

It's okay to lose it sometimes. I once had a dream where I met Mr. Peanut. He was very dapper-looking. I punched him in the monocle and ran away. This has been my only encounter with a famous celebrity. Next time, I hope to take advantage of the situation and perhaps get him to recommend my blog to his audience. I'll put in a good word for you, too, Ash (not that you need it).

4:40 p.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Glad you had fun in NY. Meeting your idols is totally awesome. And I know what you mean about losing it when you meet them... the time I got to meet David Lynch I'm pretty sure I said something really stupid. Same with Bryan Singer.

3:02 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Je Suis, that might be the single funniest/saddest thing written on this website, narrowling edging out that time Rin's brother talked about breaking and re-setting Anne Hathaway's nose.

Sam, I also made a complete ass of myself when I met Elvira, and, strangely enough, when I met her director brother-in-law years later.

9:11 a.m.  

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