The second day of the Fangoria Trinity of Terrors event, which also happened to be Halloween, brought out the big guns—or at least it was supposed to. The highest-profile screening of the entire festival, George A. Romero’s new zombie film Survival of the Dead, didn’t end up running as scheduled thanks to a faulty projector that scuttled the planned midnight screening (after the audience waited nearly an hour). It’s showing tomorrow, albeit outside its intended late-night setting, so at least I’ll still get to see it.
Other big events on this second day included John Waters offering up a version of his monologue This Filthy World, customized with thoughts on Las Vegas and horror movies, and a concert by potentially horrific heavy metal band Slipknot at the Pearl. Waters was breezily entertaining, not so much putting on a show as just chatting about his thoughts, and I appreciated that he went up and did a performance of sorts rather than just taking questions (I managed about five minutes of Bruce Campbell’s Q&A session before the useless fanboy queries drove me away). As a filmmaker, Waters doesn’t much appeal to me (although he’s undeniably a distinctive artist), but as a raconteur he’s top-notch, and his stories about improvised low-budget filmmaking techniques, fighting the MPAA and how he’d like to run his own amusement park were consistently funny and engaging. Plus, he managed to enlighten the audience on a number of obscure sexual fetishes.
Slipknot singer Corey Taylor managed only one brief reference to Trinity of Terrors during his band’s performance, which didn’t really feel like part of the festival. The band did take advantage of actor John Kassir’s presence at the festival to enlist him to provide an intro in the voice of Tales From the Crypt’s Crypt Keeper, though. Otherwise, the final performance on the nine-piece metal band’s latest tour was as intense as would be expected, with an audience primed for mayhem. It was 90 minutes of powerful heavy metal, with the full force of the band’s percussion-heavy sound dominating the venue.
Movie-wise, the absence of the Romero film left the day a little underwhelming; neither the messy horror-comedy Smash Cut (about a horror-film director who starts using extremely realistic special effects) nor the boilerplate documentary Nightmares in Red White and Blue (tracing the history of the American horror film ) deserves much mention.
I did see a couple of modest movies that made the most of their limited means, with mixed but occasionally exciting results. Jake Kennedy’s Penance is an uncomfortably brutal bit of sadism that effectively induces feelings of disgust, although it’s questionable whether that’s always a good thing. Following a deluded doctor who uses extreme means to “rehabilitate” women he sees as morally wayward, the movie is in constant danger of becoming the very thing it condemns. At the same time, Kennedy’s verite shooting style and the strong, believable performances create a sickeningly real effect despite the numerous plot holes.
Directed by actor Corbin Bernsen, the zombie movie Dead Air features some intense sequences and a nicely claustrophobic feel, taking place almost entirely within the confines of a Los Angeles radio studio. Horror fixture Bill Moseley is excellent as a talk-radio host forced to respond to and report on an unfolding catastrophe in which a toxin released by terrorists turns people into flesh-eating maniacs. The increasingly heavy-handed forays into political commentary don’t work, but Bernsen creates a real sense of dread, and takes time to develop his characters. It’s nothing spectacular, but certainly a cut above your typical direct-to-video zombie fare. I hope for at least that much from Survival of the Dead when I finally get to see it.