Friday kicks off with a 7 p.m. showing of the nearly completed Lonely Joe, a low-budget horror yarn filmed last summer at various Salt City locales, including the offices of the Syracuse New Times.The event, billed as a fund-raiser to help pay for the costs of finishing the product, requires a separate admission; hell, I’ll pay five bucks just to ensure that New Times sales manager Ben Chernoff’s cameo appearance is left on the cutting room floor.
A double-bill slayathon commences at 10 p.m., with two 1980s flicks presented in 35mm prints. Friday the 13th(1980) kicked off a lucrative R-rated franchise for Paramount, featuring nubile nitwits getting slaughtered by a hockey-masked hacker at a summer camp. Director Sean S. Cunningham orchestrated the lucrative template, although he borrowed several of his film’s gruesome deaths from Mario Bava’s far superior Twitch of the Death Nerve (1972). The hit list includes a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon and Bing Crosby’s Minute Maid-swilling son Harry, although the biggest shock remains its casting of I’ve Got a Secret panelist Betsy Palmer in a crucial role.
That’s followed by director Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), an 85-minute Halloweenknockoff about a psychotic Kris Kringle on the loose. So low-budget that it was already in the black after its first weekend of release,the profits would have been more impressive if distributor Tri-Star Pictures didn’t yank the grisly flick from theaters (including a cancellation of the West Coast run) after it encountered pressures from parents and church groups.>
“I’m all for the First Amendment,” wrote Mickey Rooney, “but don’t give me Santa Claus with a gun going to kill someone. The scum who made that movie should be run out of town.” Such disdain, however, didn’t stop Rooney from being a co-star in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker (1991). And that “scum” Sellier was also connected to family fare such as In Search of Historic Jesus and The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. Perhaps to make amends, Tri-Star released the Dudley Moore bomb Santa Claus: The Movie the following year.
Saturday’s Shaun Luu Horror Fest features five movies never seen on Syracuse-area screens. It kicks off with a digital-video projection of The Holy Mountain at 7 p.m.,director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 mind-blower crammed with sex,shocks, symbolism and sitars. Jodorowsky also stars as the film’sChrist-like alchemist in a head movie-journey that features hypercolored widescreen photography by Rafael Corkidi.
Save the last dance for me: Two men cut the rug in the shocking finale to Salo, screening
Saturday at the Palace.
Four 35mm prints flesh out the rest ofthe evening, beginning with a pair of relatively easy-to-take movies from producer Charles Band. Re-Animator (1985) is director Stuart Gordon’s crazed reworking of an H.P. Lovecraft classic. Jeffrey Combs hams it up as a mad scientist, Barbara Crampton plays a frequently naked damsel-in-distress and David Gale shines as adecapitated professor who ventures into carnal territory with Ms. Crampton in a twisted yet amusing scene that pays homage to The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Next is TerrorVision(1986), which places a goofy cast (including B-movie vets Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham) in a satire about suburbia, satellite TV and space aliens.
The Horror Fest saves its truly stomach-churning items for last. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom(1975) is director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious attempt at placingthe writings of the Marquis De Sade into the historical context offascist Northern Italy during 1944. Four powerful men (Paolo Bonacelli,Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto Paolo Quintavalle and Aldo Valletti)orchestrate the kidnapping of a group of teenagers for unspeakablepurposes of debauchery and torture over a four-month period. Man’sinhumanity to man is addressed, while certain scenes of humiliationclearly parallel the events at Abu Ghraib.
Yet despite scenes involving the forced consumption of feces (relax, the prop was a chocolate facsimile; at least John Waters’ Pink Flamingos had the real deal), Salois a class production, with costumes by Danilo Donati, photography by Tonino Delli Colli and music by Ennio Morricone. Still, United Artists experienced major problems with its worldwide release of Salo,with art-house walkouts galore and legal battles involving censorship and obscenity. Pasolini, who labeled himself a homosexual Communist and was murdered shortly after the film’s release, handles much of the scatology and carnage with master shots, culminating in long shots of the finale’s mass torture sequence, clinically distancing the viewerfrom the disturbing visuals. You’ve been warned: If Salo is your cup of caca, dig in.
Wrapping the fest with a bloody-red ribbon is director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, filmed in 1979 (note the Manhattan location scenes with a looming billboard of the Frank Langella movie Dracula)but not released stateside until 1985, whereupon it quickly earned a cultish following among gore hounds. The movie deals with two separate treks into the Amazon jungle; the first half records the journey of NewYork University professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman), as he investigates the disappearance of a four-person team of journalist-documentarians who wanted to film the rituals of a rainforest cannibal tribe.
Dudes look like ladies: More depravity from Salo.
Monroe discovers that things didn’t workout so well for the filmmakers, but he miraculously recovers the celluloid footage that might reveal some answers. That’s an understatement: The film’s second half, shot in a 16mm cinema-verite style, depicts the quartet (Francesca Ciardi, Luca Barbareschi, Perry Pirkanen and Carl Gabriel Yorke) as insufferable jerks who would rather create, not capture, actual events. But the extreme actions of these interlopers eventually result in big-time payback, cannibal-style.
For years Deodato’s brutal film has beenthe ultimate litmus test for moviegoers who think they can handle anything, although even the scenes involving animal cruelty may prove too much for some, which resulted in legal problems for Deodato. Now there’s a renaissance, even a reappreciation, for Deodato’s film, if only because it so clearly influenced later horror yarns such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.
Robert Kerman may seem a trifle miscast as an NYU prof, especially for those who know that Kerman is better known under his nom de porn R. Bolla and his sweaty work in Debbie Does Dallas and The Adventures of Rick Quick, Private Dick;indeed, Kerman even takes his clothes off for a nude frolic in the river with some cannibal cuties (relax, nobody gets eaten). Still,Kerman’s soulful basset-hound eyes become our emotional center in this industrial-strength shocker.
And those grueling moments of violence are further underscored by the music of Riz Ortolani (famed for the1963 pop hit “More” from the bizarre documentary Mondo Cane),who fuses majestic orchestrations with disco-era synthesizers. Thanks a bunch, Riz: I’ll never be able to listen to Donna Summer’s “MacArthurPark” without also connecting it to Cannibal Holocaust.