A grindhouse is an American term for a rundown theater that mainly shows exploitation films. Fangoria presents Fright Nights at the Projection Booth is just such an event. Showing two films from Black Fawn Films, a Canadian production company that does small budget horror films, the event provided far more than was advertised.
The Projection Booth was opened to help support Canada’s vibrant filmmakers and create an intimate and unique theatre going experience. Formerly known as the Gerrard Cinema, the venue fell on hard times and sometime in 2011 the Principals Jonathan Hlibka and Nadia Sandhu along with Grinder Coffee’s Euan Mowat relaunched the theater as it is today. This viewing was but one of a long list of outside and independent events the venue holds.
Being a grindhouse event, the location was perfect. The theater has everything in (mostly) working order. The age of the building becomes apparent upon entering and the theater itself is a holdover from a bygone era, from the cracks in the stucco ceiling right down to the seemingly original, but refinished, seats. Surprisingly comfy too.
This event is as much about the venue and the audience as it was about the movies. Black Fawn Films seems to use its personnel interchangeably, so an actor on one project might write the next, or the director for one stars in the next. A group of professionals that not only work well together, but enjoy the work they do and are all also friends. Many of the people involved were also at the venue, sitting among fans with family and friends as the films rolled. A close, intimate feeling was evident from early in the evening, as people chatted, mixed and generally treated it as one would a film viewing among friends. A far cry different from the cold detachment one finds at the chain theaters.
Keeping with the grindhouse feel of the evening, there are the tacky coming attractions and feature films made sometime in the 60′s. And then the first film starts, well, after a couple of minutes of red screen and music waiting for the projection booth to start it. And then If a Tree Falls starts.
If a Tree Falls is an homage to the same exploitation films that made the original grindhouse films possible. The quality of the film is keeping in tradition of grindhouse films. Bad lighting, sound, focus and color, coupled with random effects give the film an authentic feel.
The movie is simple enough. A group of four friends are going on a cross country trip to camp. Along the way they decide to stop overnight in a mostly uninhabited area, away from proper campgrounds. In the middle of the night, someone begins to attack the group. By morning, it is evident what the intentions of the attackers are and the real horror begins for the campers.
The film has an interesting message about the randomness of violence intertwining with the cold detachment of violence. Violence is personified by these killers, who go about their business without word or emotion. Violence is used as a tool for destruction and a corrupting influence. In the end, even those who survive it become something different because of it. This film is neither for the faint of heart or those looking for silly horror. There is no happy ending here. This is dark and vicious, and goes much further psychologically than some of its better known, big budget brothers.
The lights come up and the intermission reel starts. Playing a ten minute countdown onscreen that someone acquired from a drive in, it featured all of the lobby taunts and songs those of us who actually went to drive-in’s remember and added atmosphere for those who don’t. As the reel ends and the MC for the night begins to speak, he realizes most of the audience is still outside and runs to get them. Everyone seated, after another brief wait on the projection booth, this time in dark with no sound, the movie begins.
Kill is interesting in that it is being shown at all. Made 8 years ago and never properly edited, it was initially put aside for other projects and then eventually forgotten. Recently unearthed, the production company finally finished it. Just prior to the screening, the director spoke briefly about how bad the film was. And while what he said about the film was accurate, there were also some interesting and highly entertaining moments to the film.
A group of six people wake up in a house, not knowing how they got there or each other. A voice speaks to them through speakers throughout the house. It becomes apparent that the purpose for being in this place is to kill one another. Through a series of bizarre and illogical personal choices, then encouraged to act by equally bizarre tiki men in oversized masks, the group begins to actually break apart and kill one another. One does not simply say, when they find themselves in a house where someone wants them dead, that people should go into rooms alone, and “yell if they need anything!”. To tell any more would take away from the charm and beauty of the film’s grindhouse aspirations.
The major difference between the first film and this was this film was done straightforward. It shows a very amateurish approach to film and filmmaking, and the company was right to have left it hidden for 8 years. As a part of a double grindhouse bill, specifically this venue and audience, it was perfect. And it’s in this context it should be viewed.
The lights come up and many of the people involved take the stage for a short Q&A, though it becomes more of a conversation among friends than one might typically encounter. Slowly people begin to shuffle out of the theater and into the night. All in all it was a fun night for grindhouse horror fans and fans of Black Fawn Films and most of the proceeds of the night going to a Henry Rollins sponsored charity A Drop in the Bucket.
Best known for its’ cult classic“The Toxic Avenger” Troma Entertainment is the granddaddy of independent filmmaking. With hundreds of titles as both producer and distributor in its arsenal, they are best known for bringing us schlock and bad movies everywhere while providing a way for even the most marginally talented people to get work. In allowing filmmakers complete freedom to go wherever their creativity takes them we as viewers are sometimes lead down the path to some very bizarre, sometimes humorous and sometimes sad places. Always in a very Troma-like manner this journey is always accompanied by cheap production and even cheaper jokes abound.
If you’re not a fan of “The Toxic Avenger” or do not enjoy shocksploitation films then stop reading. I can assure you this film is not for you. Find something more suitable to your taste. It’s not that the movie is bad, it’s that the design of the filmmaker is to offend and shock and that is not for the faint of heart.
“Father’s Day” is a amazing film in every regard.
It is an ultra-violent exploitation film that seeks to assault the viewer in every way possible. It is aptly played as a cheaply made 70′s horror flick complete with bad sound, lighting and dialogue. By design, the audience winces and squirms at what takes place on-screen because the actors give us the performance we need with both a straight face and the conviction the parts call for. Given how the material is so grossly bad, the importance of the actors executing their parts as they do and with a professionalism is what allows the movie to not only work well, but succeed.
The plot (without giving too much away) is about a serial rapist/killer that targets fathers. A one eyed man names Ahab (Adam Brooks) vows to hunt him down and kill him in an act of revenge. This gore infused nightmare is an action-packed, ultraviolent, slashfest that can only be described as gore porn. Not in the same way that “Hostel” or “Antichrist” could be considered gore porn, no this is much, much worse. It’s not just that it is grossly over the top in terms of both quantity and variation of rape and torture, but it’s done only to disturb the viewer and emulate a bygone era of filmmaking. An era that, in its worst self indulgent moments, never stopped seeking to exploit anything and everything it could while also understanding that there were limits to how long one would sit through watching others pain. This movie operates under no such illusion.
I think nearly everyone will be repulsed by this film. As they should be. It’s not made to attract the audience that would enjoy “Twilight” or “Shaun of the Dead“. It is a film meant to attract a much darker and more hardcore horror fan. I’m not suggesting you don’t see it. Rather I am simply warning you of just how deep the rabbit hole goes, which is far deeper than most are willing to go.
You have been warned.