By: Nicole Boychuk and Brittany Rudyck
EDMONTON – An unusual October storm knocked out the power at the Garneau Theatre the first night of DEDfest, resulting in an unfortunate cancellation. Luckily, co-founder of the fest, Derek Clayton reassured BeatRoute everyone still had a great time goofing around in the dark.
The festival officially kicked off Wednesday, October 18th with Norbert Keil’s Replace, a “Cronenberg-esque” body horror. If you find Replace floating around Netflix in the next little bit, we recommend not wasting time twiddling your thumbs for an hour and a half and pick literally anything else. Though the score for Replace was exciting, this film reeks of male-gaze that not even horror casting veteran, Barbara Crampton, could redeem.
Fake Blood is a mockumentary two Canadian filmmakers, Rob Grant and Mike Kovac decided to make about the impact film violence has on society, and if it truly triggers violence in real life. This is inspired by an alarming “fan-film” that was sent to them after the release of their 2012 gory feature, Mon Ami.
It took a little bit to get into and realize the film’s subtle brilliancy. It cleverly answered the questions it posed as the film progressed, through a show-rather-than-tell narrative.
I left DEDfest that evening with a new outlook of violence presented on screen. As a society who is peppered constantly with violence, real or fake – of course we are desensitized but that isn’t making us more violent. As a society we are not experiencing empathy; we are not viewing the aftermath of brutality. It’s not just about the violence, it’s about everything else we aren’t seeing. (NB)
The second night of screenings (technically the third if it weren’t for that power outage) began with Radius, a film rife with mediocre acting, some strangely written lines and a shocking twist that had us questioning everything. What would you do if you woke up from a car crash and slowly discovered anyone who came near you would instantly die?
The storyline was unique and hooked us from the very beginning. The power in this film was its ability to become so emotionally disturbing at the end. Am I allowed to still be invested in this character? Which side should I be on? Any film that tricks the viewer into questioning themselves in such a way is a must see, even if there are moments of bad acting. (BR)
Friday had a stacked line up and BeatRoute was happy to catch The Lodgers and Game of Death. Our stomachs couldn’t handle Assholes. We’ll take everyone’s word for it that it’s gross.
One of the best parts about DEDfest are the short films screened before most movies. Transmission was a creepy, tortuous and mentally unsettling short. Whether the victim and his captor were in that creepy cave for two weeks or four years, we’ll never know. Was it meant to symbolize purgatory? Was it a form of mind control? Short enough to keep us guessing and also induce nightmares.
The Lodgers is an Irish film set in 1920 with stunning Gothic imagery, a lot of incest and discomfort related to said incest. The plot is unique, taking its time to develop before we realized why the siblings Rachel and Edward live as they do. A lot of creepy moments scattered throughout, but the real horror is in the relationship between the siblings and their dark family history. The cinematography alone is worth watching for.
The sombre tone of The Lodgers was quickly balanced with Game of Death, another movie oddly related to incest. Though it wasn’t the primary focus to begin with, things got heated up as soon as brother and sister Tom and Beth get a thirst for blood. This film kicks off with an average group of teens, hungry for sex, drugs and adventure. After the group stumbles upon the game, they soon realize it’s no joke. Hilarious, over the top gore and the chance to go mildly into philosophy with a bizarre end scene make for a fun watch. Not to mention to recurring manatee theme. Don’t ask. (BR)
The first film and director to grace Saturday’s stage was Canadian director, Gina Haraszti and her documentary, Geek Girls. This film shines light on a variety of women involved in communities that some would consider “geeky,” including eSport star Stephanie Harvey and Anita Sengupta, a engineer who worked on the 2012 Mars Rover. In these interviews the women talk about their experience trying to make space for themselves in a culture that has been historically male-dominated. Though not necessarily providing any new insight into this issue, Haraszti was able to give women a voice that may have otherwise been silenced by their male counterparts.
Lowlife is a “completely independent” slice of life, black comedy, crime drama. It is everything at once and the characters quickly find that out after banding together in hopes of destroying the organ-harvesting pimp who is their connecting link. Written by five friends (one a previous Edmontonian), allowed for different perspectives, which gave complexity to each individual character and gave representation on screen to minorities and the usual “stereotypical” character. Hilarious and risk-taking, Lowlife slid its way into my favourite films of the year.
A few scenes into fantasy thriller Tigers are not Afraid, quickly you can see why Stephen King would name this film as one of his favourites of the year. Described by King as “magical realism,” this film sweeps you off your feet into the lives of five Mexican orphans whose mothers have been kidnapped and murdered by drug lords and their cartels. After listening to the Q&A afterwards, I developed a genuine appreciation for the film and the writer/director, Issa López (who visited Canada for the first time for this screening!). Voices like hers cannot be silenced; issues like this cannot be silenced. Seeing the impact this film had on members of the audience was truly moving. Tigers are not Afraid was a reminder of everything I love about cinema.
Deliver Us also known as “Libera Nos” was the perfect god-hating way to start a sleepy Sunday. Deliver Us is a quiet, well-shot documentary about a handful of Italian priests giving exorcisms to people who claim to be demonically possessed – without acknowledging that these individuals “demons” are actually misunderstood, undiagnosed mental illness. I found this documentary to be extremely effective due no interference from the director behind the camera, Federica Di Giacomo, which allowed the priests to condemn themselves and their doing without even realizing. (NB)
One of the creepiest moments of the festival was the short film that screened before Night of the Living Dead. Dramatic camera work and and brilliant casting (excluding that strange gelatinous ear/mouth blob thing) made for a great intro to the George A. Romero tribute.
Not much to be said about Night of the Living Dead other than to recognize what Romero created is a masterpiece. A 49 year old black and white beauty, a must see for all classic horror buffs.
Sequence Break was an abstract and artistic treat, full of video game references, fascinating and neurotic characters and some psychologically damaging body horror. Perhaps a bit more tame than I was expecting, but every bit as satisfying as 80s classics like Videodrome and Altered States. The dark synth score was the perfect backdrop to pseudo sexual scenes with the sinister arcade machine responsible for the aforementioned gore. I appreciate an awkward love story as much as the next person and enjoyed the way director Graham Skipper rounded out the film. (BR)
The final film of DEDfest X was the hugely anticipated Tragedy Girls. Gaining traction through the festival circuit this year, I was so excited to see former Edmontontian Tyler MacIntyre present this film. Often hype can be dangerous for a film but this was not the case for Tragedy Girls. A smart, refreshing horror comedy about two 17 year old girls who gain popularity becoming serial killers and exploit their killings to curious fans. The only thing I have to say about Tragedy Girls is…..when can I watch it again?! (NB)
DEDfest, Dedfest X, Edmonton, Genre, horror