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Photograph courtesy East Side Digital

Look at Me, I'm Leatherface! We assume that after looking at this, we don't have to convince you that 'Timmy's Wish' is pretty twisted.

Weird Tales

The Rio's debut indie film fest is a real horror show

By Steve Palopoli

MAINSTREAM CRITICS love to treat horror movies with the same twitchy disdain that wealthy suburbanites have for the ghetto--respectable people just don't go there, you understand, because ... well, we all know what goes on there. The occasional crossover film might be deemed acceptable, but most of the arbiters of establishment opinion need a few years' time to be convinced of the importance of something like Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2. And they almost certainly don't know the difference between that and Toshiharu Ikeda's unrelated but equally stunning Evil Dead Trap, nor will they ever care.

But fear not, true horror fans--I say it's all for the best. Do you really want these Blair Witch Project instant megahits hanging around leaving ka-ching sounds ringing in everyone's ears? Nah, it's better if the People's Republic of Horror remains the genre of choice for aspiring filmmaker talent--it's cheap, it's challenging, and it's a great place to learn how to tell a story frame by frame. Then 10 to 15 years and several landmark films later, the rest of the world can have Raimi or Peter Jackson or whoever to do with as they please.

That's the way it's gone for years now, and that's why I absolutely believe the Halloweird Film Festival--which marks the launch of the Rio Independent Film Series at the Rio Theatre--is a great opportunity to see moviemaker talent in its formative stage.

I've seen the 16 short films from Halloweird, which run from just one minute long to just over 10, and I can tell you that several of the selections actually do live up to the festival's name. Some are just entertaining one-offs, and a couple are utter shit, but there are a few that have the touch of someone ready to make their mark on the film world, and the audience. The best:

  • Thanksgiving by White Dog Productions is a disturbing 10-minute short that puts a subtly feminine spin on the beloved tradition of the icky surrealist film, as if Margaret Atwood had written Eraserhead for David Lynch. Part of me doesn't want to see bolts screwed into a 15-pound turkey dinner or greasy plastic doll heads again, but you need at least a couple of viewings to grasp everything that's going on in this fascinating little number that recalls the earliest short films of Canadian surrealist Guy Maddin, with a touch of the Brothers Quay. Creepy.

  • Locked by Rosario Garcia-Montero is a clever take on the revenge tale that pays off with a tense mood and a nice bit of poetic justice at the end. Spooky.

  • Timmy's Wish by Patrick Cannon is messed-up funny. This one makes you shake your head and whisper to yourself "no way" every time you laugh, like back when the original South Park short The Spirit of Christmas was floating around. And Jesus is once again involved--that guy gets to be in all the really offensive movies! Ooky.

    There are other shorter snippets I like, too--Slaughtered Pigtails, besides being the perfect name for some future hard-rock band, is an extremely visceral two-and-a-half minutes of slasher-movie extract. Millennium Bug is an interesting mix of sly wordplay and computer animation, and Devil Tour '94 is all the more bizarre for being real footage.

    Halloweird will be presented at 7pm on Sunday at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $5.

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  • From the October 23-30, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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