Diabolique International Film Festival Reviews, Part I
For the past eight years, tucked away in Bloomington, Indiana, the Dark Carnival Film Festival has showcased the work of independent horror filmmakers. This year, the festival has expanded, taking international submissions and rebranding itself as the Diabolique International Film Festival.
In addition to the slate of films, the festival also features in-person visits and screenings with director Ti West (“House of the Devil”; “V/H/S”) and Hoosier native Zack Parker (“Proxy”).
The Film Yap crew has viewed several of the entries at DIFF and has assembled something of a critical guidebook for the festival, which runs Sept. 19-20 at the IU Cinema in Bloomington. Here are their recommendations for the festival.
If only Carl from “The Walking Dead” grew up with this little gem, he would have been ahead of the curve during the zombie apocalypse. “Zombies4kids” is a very funny short that teaches young ones how to identify, avoid and ultimately survive zombies when they’re around. Making it even more awesome is the fact its song is incredibly catchy. Filmmaker Pedro Santasmarinas crafts a super-cute short that gets you laughing from the start and continues throughout. Plus a gray-haired old lady blasting a zombie is always a welcomed sight.
— Caine Gardner
The Last Halloween
An ambitiously spooky, wonderfully wicked tribute to Halloween’s trick-or-treat tradition. At the end of the world, four children try to recapture some semblance of childhood normalcy by trick-or-treating. The apocalypse is indelibly rendered in terrifying fashion — with a synth-stalker score reminiscent of John Carpenter and horrifically specific production design of decrepitude and decay. As the kids court treats from survivors with open sores, nervous eyes and vacant minds, we fear for their safety. But director Marc Roussel (who co-wrote with Mark Thibodeaux, on whose comic book it’s based) cleverly gets you thinking twice about this quartet. Economic, eerie and effective.
— Nick Rogers
A husband and wife (David O’Donnell and Hali Lula Hudson) awake to an interdimensional door in their apartment. What they find comes to mirror a monster movie they snuggled in front of the night before. O’Donnell and Hudson share natural, easy chemistry. In fact, their domestic routine’s minutia are so authentic that filmmaker Alrik Bursell seems to position the horrors they face as manifestations of marital angst or complacency — “Scenes from a Marriage” by way of “The Evil Dead.” Bursell unfortunately gives short shrift to that notion, diminishing the payoff. That’s just one slight ding on this preternaturally patient short.
— Nick Rogers
The Carriage or: Dracula and My Mother
The music of “The Carriage or: Dracula and My Mother” hints at a “Shaun of the Dead” style of comedy/horror flick, but what’s presented is very different. The movie starts with an elderly lady finding a carriage parked in her backyard. Ben, his wife and his baby show up and he’s instantly entranced by the carriage. His wife is creeped out and ends up leaving with the child. From there, the short kicks into gear. We see Dracula, but this Dracula is an old man with root-like things that suck the blood of his victims. He attacks Ben, but is fended off Ben’s mother by way of the faith she barely practices. One of the best part of filmmaker Ben Gordon’s short are the effects of the root-like appendages, and what emerges from the crushed carriage at the end is a pretty cool touch.
— Caine Gardner
“Judas Ghost” follows a team of paranormal investigators as they search for answers to what they initially believe is a “standard” haunting of an old village hall. The team, which includes an impishly wise-cracking leader (Martin Delaney), a levelheaded psychic (Lucy Cudden), a spook-shocked veteran ghost finder (Simon Merrells), and a fretful technology expert (Alexander Perkins), soon finds much more than it bargained for and must fight for their lives to learn the secret of the haunted hall and make it out alive. “Judas Ghost” is more a supernatural mystery than outright horror film, driven more by the solid all around performances of the ensemble cast than by gore or special effects. A low budget production shot essentially in one room, director Simon Pearce paces the action quite well, balancing scares with story in a way that let the characters develop more fully than most entries in the horror genre today. “Judas Ghost” is based on the Ghost Finders book series by New York Times best-selling author Simon R. Green, and the film manages to establish the characters in much the way a good television pilot would. Indeed, with a 75 minute run time, intimate staging and characterization, and supernatural mystery plot evokes some of the best qualities of “The Twilight Zone” series. All in all, “Judas Ghost” provides impressive entertainment value for a low budget feature.
The Seventeenth Kind
The first thing you need to know about “The Seventeenth Kind” is that is it one helluva fun ride. Coming in at 28 minutes, this gem of a short is pure entertainment from the opening scene. Filmmaker Andy Collier brings us the story of James (Tony Curran), simply the best damn late night salesman in the business. Finding his career on the line, James needs something to put him back on top, and he finds it in the form of an alien who has a miracle metal polisher. The bad news is, the polisher is actually a food source for a race of aliens who are stranded on earth. Seeing his shot, James puts his skills to the test, selling the aliens on an oversized remote that will help get them off this rock. After his success, James finds his star shines bring in any galaxy — and yes, he’s still the best damn salesman in the business. “The Seventeenth Kind” is the type of short that you hope to find. It’s funny in all the right places with a lead character off whom you find it hard to take your eyes.
— Caine Gardner
“Extreme Pinocchio” is a wonderfully dark fantasy comedy produced in France and directed by Pascal Chind. The film is a twisted reimagining of the story of Pinocchio dropped into a hellish and bizarre Jean-Pierre-Jeunet-meets-Terry-Gilliam urban nightmare. Patrick is a dwarf junkie whose dealers coerce him into posing as a prostitute for a psychotic pedophile who believes himself to be Geppetto … and believes Patrick is Pinocchio. What follows is every bit as politically incorrect and wickedly funny as you might imagine. Everything about this production — from the acting and direction to the sets and costumes — is top notch. “Extreme Pinocchio” is 23 minutes of sublimely grotesque farce.
— Ben Johnson
Possessed Forklift of Death
Even more fun than its title suggests, this delightfully schlocky short revolves around a repo man who sneaks into a shipping yard and stumbles upon “a different breed of guard dog” — a living, breathing forklift that slashes people with its steel prongs. Complete with an ominous, ’80s-esque synth score and trailers for “Deathforks 2: The Massacre” and “Deathforks III: Return of the Massacre,” this film is a grindhouse riot.
— Sam Watermeier