This year the Three Corpse Circus really hit its stride with polish and panache and easily the best crop of short horror films they’ve screened yet. The whole evening was enjoyable… for those, of course, who enjoy an evening of gore and terror. A few touches were tasteful, like the costumed vampires who handed out programs while others were simple but greatly appreciated, like projected list of films shown between each movie that reminded viewers of the title and country of origin. The evening was preceded by a zombie walk and the lobby was filled with tables for the local chapter of Zombie Squad, The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and the Flint Horror Convention which rounded out the sense of an actual horror community in Michigan.
The films were the stars as it should be at a film festival. I was struck by the “freshness” of the offerings since all but one were made within the last year. Those who have read my reviews of the previous festivals (year one and year two) will remember my embarrassment that so few exceptional films came from the US. I am pleased to note with a quiver of patriotism that this year the domestic product was clearly dominant. U-S-A! U-S-A!! Overall, the movies themselves were of such a generally high quality, a loud disagreement broke out among myself, Elsa and Igor when it came time to choose our favorites.
Igor particularly enjoyed the taut Spanish short “Refuge 115,” a beautifully shot tale of mysterious disappearances in a bomb shelter. The location was spot on perfect and was exceptionally well lit, a necessity since darkness in the tale seethed with malevolence.
Elsa agreed that Refuge 115 was the most consistently scary piece, but she also quite enjoyed “Saw Misgivings” a British farce that depicted the dark hilarity resulting when a housewife discovers a torture-porn head vice and gets it stuck on her head… just as company is expected for dinner. The acting was spot on and its comic timing was immaculate. It was the kind of droll comedy we expect from the British Isles.
I, however, don’t like to laugh.
I am a purist and a snob when it comes to horror and I tolerate only the lightest touch of comedy and only when it’s used to heighten the overall tension of the piece. Otherwise, I’d be extolling the obvious virtues of “Zombie Factor,” a locally produced piece about reality TV after the zombie apocalypse. Its tone perfectly captured the feel of survivor-type television with a healthy dose of the undead. The director was on-hand and answered questions during intermission and he should be justly proud of his work. It really felt like a professionally produced product. Honestly, the only thing I can say against this film is that is was funny, quite effectively so… and with horror at least I am not amused by humor.
With that prejudice in mind, let me highlight the three films that rocked my world.
“Tarnished Gluttony” (2012), a music video, told an eerie Lovecraftian tale of sacrifice. Gorgeous visuals and convincingly bloody with good, yet tasteful gore, this short piece left just enough mystery and wonder unexplained to whet my taste for more. Igor, that grouch, couldn’t get past the soundtrack.
“Familiar” (Fatal Pictures, Canada 2012), the final piece of the night, was a well-shot and perfectly acted tale of middle-aged quiet horror that spirals downward into more Cronenbergian body terror. The effects were nicely achieved and the whole tone of domestic desperation was masterfully portrayed. Damn those Canucks and their National Film Board!
But my favorite piece, the one that I would like to watch again, was the brief gem titled “Green Glass Door,” which depicted a grisly parlor game directed by a serial killer. (It can be watched in its entirety here.) Elsa, Egor and I were talking about it as we left the theatre, puzzling it out. Pay attention to the closing credits if you’re still in the dark. It was for my money the most consistently brutal piece cramming a fist full of convincing executions into its scant seven minutes. The horrific deaths were unsettling, immaculately shot but framed so as not to show too much. And if all that wasn’t enough, I discovered that “Green Glass Door” was entirely shot and edited in 48 hours as part of a Lousiville, Kentucky project. I expect great things from Antonio Pantoja.
I could keep going since there was something interesting about each of the films this year. I left eager for more but quite satisfied. I felt that last night, Three Corpse Circus really started to its promise as a rallying point for the Michigan horror community. I can hardly wait for next year.