Great Caesar’s Ghost, I don’t even know where to begin with my coverage of BUFFALO SCREAMS. I suppose at the beginning is as good a place as any.
Upon arriving at the Screaming (Screening) Room, which is a little difficult to find because it’s set pretty far back on it’s lot, I was immediately in awe of the ambiance. I tend to profess cinema as my religion, and I’d be hard pressed to find a better place than the Screening Room to call a temple. Small, intimate, with decor indicating a devotion to the celluloid as a storytelling medium. Plus, beer at the concessions booth.
There was a reception set up in the back room, catered by local restaurant My Tomato Pie; it consisted primarily of exotic pizza and breadsticks, with a platter of stuffed peppers, a hummus platter, and cheese and cracker platters available as well. Kind of surprising; not exactly the sort of fare you’d expect in Buffalo, Wing capital of the world, but certainly tasty and gave us something to schmooze around. Debbie Rochon, the guest of honor, and I stood near the stuffed peppers, chatting and watching others attempt to eat these fiery demon peppers. John Renna, a filmmaker about whom I’ll speak more momentarily, was able to simply consume one with the comment, “Tasty,” prompting unsuspecting others to think the peppers were not particularly hot. Hilarity ensued.
Soon, Greg and Emil, our festival organizers, called us to our seats, and the show began.
The first feature was UNDER THE SCARES, from director Steve Villeneuve (a phenomenally nice person to talk to, incidentally) a fantastic documentary about the world of low-budget, independent horror cinema, and the challenges, rewards, and pitfalls that await those who decide to make a low-budget, independent horror movie. I’ve been entertaining plans and turning over ideas in my head towards making an independent, low-budget horror film of my very own, and UNDER THE SCARES had me rethinking some ideas and recognizing important elements that I’d not considered previously. When it sees the light of day, I know, my hypothetical future film GROUNDHOG SLAY will be better for having seen UNDER THE SCARES.
Next we had the short film EYES BEYOND, from writer-director Daniel Reininghaus…I’ll be honest, readers, this one I could go either way on. The cinematography was beautiful and the story deliciously unsettling, evoking a borderline-VIDEODROME experience in the viewer…but a PSA about mental illness tacked on the end felt forced and left me somewhat uncomfortable with the final product.
Following this was a short (very short, clocking in at only about 6 minutes) film from Canadian team of Rodrigo Gudino, of Rue Morgue Magazine, and Vincent Marcone, THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MISTER HOLLOW. Those six minutes were all it took to amaze me. It’s just an incredible testimony to the power of imagery as a storytelling medium. Despite the lack of tentacled horrors and ancient grimoires, it came across as deeply Lovecraftian to me.
Next up was TRUE NATURE, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is easily one of the most visually and narratively stunning films I’ve ever seen. Writer-director Patrick Steele’s elegant, unhurried storytelling is paired with engaging soundwork and a lavish attention to detail and symbolism. The theme of decay, both moral and physical, mirroring each other, reminds me of Poe, particularly The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia. I was experiencing flashes of pareidolia (finding significant patterns in random stimuli — seeing faces in patterns of shadows or tree bark, for example) that further enhanced the experience of watching TRUE NATURE, and I wonder if they were intentional?
The night closed with a trio of short films:
WHAT ARE THEY, at first glance a simple vampire shocker, quickly revealed not only a very energetic nature, enhanced by the musical cues, but a savage sensibility reminiscent of THE EVIL DEAD. And to answer the question posed in the title, NOT vampires. Kash Kostner wrote and directed.
THE FAMILIAR is one of the better pieces of vampire fiction I’ve seen in recent years, telling the story of a young man willingly apprenticed to an arrogant, preening vampire (“Danny Bonaduce with fangs”), disposing of bodies and handling finances (and grooming) for the undead in hopes of one day becoming one. I loved the make-up work and the sarcastic dialogue was a treat, plus we got an affectionate tribute to NOSFERATU. Kody Zimmerman wrote and directed.
Finally, ending on a very high note, we watched John Renna’s Grindhouse-inspired tribute to the VHS era IT’S IN BACK. There were a couple moments when I thought that John had gone a little too far in recreating the scratched, faded look and bleary, uneven sound, but overall it was an unrelentingly savage and fun film. John is a major rising star in the Buffalo Independent Horror community, having appeared in SLIME CITY MASSACRE and having worked on several other recent projects.
Tags: Buffalo NY, Buffalo Screams, Debbie Rochon, Emil J. Novak, Events, eyes beyond, Film Festival, greg lamberson, H.G. Lewis, Horror Movie, Indie, it's in back, john renna, Short Films, Slime City Massacre, The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, the familiar, true nature, under the scares, what are they, Zombies