05 October 2009

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2009 (Sunday).

The best way to begin is to tell you about the storytelling session which occurred before What Does it All Mean Elwood? played. Festival founder Andrew Migliore told two stories. The first was from his youth, about a cat vomiting worms and goo. The setting was a game store called Dragons and Spaceships, and the story goes that the cat coughed up this disgusting pile of sickness and Andrew became very grossed out. Yes. The second was another story from childhood, and the subjects were beef jerkey and a creaking stair. Yes. Then came on another man, a friend of Andrew's, a jovial and entertaining right-to-bear-arms kind of guy, who told longer and more detailed stories. His two stories were longer because there were more details, not because there was more content, and the details consisted of his inner-paranoia while encountering first an invitation to a horror-themed play, The King in Yellow, in an old theater, and second a giant box on his doorstep in New Orleans. Mostly he told us about the many gun firings which were to occur should he find himself in a doomed situation.

Nothing horrifying truly happened in any story told. It seems to me, although I am no expert and I know now that there are indeed very serious and very dedicated experts on the subject, that the Lovecraftian sense of horror is a pre-modern concept of the genre: shadows are potential threats, your personality is unpredictable to yourself and others, the fantastic and the magical can occur, and all things are creepy and potentially harmful. The world is fantastically spooky, anything is possible, and the cosmos are indifferent. I think their stories are evidence of patience and true belief in the coming of horror, and at the festival they spoke of Lovecraft as a deity. Worship Lovecraft is a running theme. It's one of those serious comments that's partially a joke or vice versa, depending on who the speaker is (some might call it tribalism, etc).

The Lovecraftians are truly like a religious sect within the horror community. They await Lovecraft to receive his proper recognition as a master, they have a set of beliefs, the Mythos, books that originate and delineate their beliefs, and they expect there to be a horror revelation. They're very aware of how funny this is, to certain degrees and depending on who you talk to, but in general they're all nice, godless people who are avid readers. I liked them, those that I met.

I attended a panel on Weird Horror in Popular Fiction, that was the first thing I did. It had your regular assortment of panel members, my favorite being:

Who has an eye patch (+1, obviously), but is also a great speaker and a sensitive, insightful personality. His name is Laird Barron and I'm going to check him out. Cody Goodfellow also impressed me. There were two major discussions: Cthulu bumper stickers, the pros and cons, and Del Toro's potential adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. They are against the adaptation if it means a copyright on Lovecraft's material, and of course they worry about how the material would be handled. Overall I had the sense that they trust Del Toro but not the studio's interference with intellectual property through trade marking, etc.

The one true film I saw was Italy's Colour from the Dark, directed by Ivan Zuccon. The theater was packed, people were standing in the aisles. It was a micro-budgeted Bava-inspired Lovecraft-infused camp-fest that I and the audience loved. There's a certain type of American slasher film in which a litany of plot devices must be executed in service of the genre, and then there's the much more exciting Italian tradition of a series of death scenes. This one went though some good ones, including gut-stabs and eye-gouges. It also featured incest, blasphemy, and evil curses. And a breast-feeding joke.

I made the mistake of passing on Beyond the Dunwich Horror for festival favorite What Does it All Mean Elwood? There was a lot of buzz about Elwood before it started and I got sucked in, but this infamously bad 1996 Lovecraft Fest submission was basically a Lovecraft themed student film that the Festival wanted for some reason to advertise as their own Rocky Horror, because for some reason everyone needs their own Rocky Horror. Its best parts were the mumbling Elwood and a ferret. I didn't take anything from it, and I did Colour from the Dark, and I probably would have taken something from Beyond the Dunwich Horror. The lesson is always choose the better film regardless of the quality of the audience.

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