Well, the time had eventually arrived - Dead by Dawn 2000 was upon us and even though this SGM'er was a bit ill (leading to a trip to hospital the following Monday morning) there was no way I was going to miss out on the fun!!
We made it through to Edinburgh on the Saturday afternoon in time to catch the World Premiere of Jean Rollin's 'La Fiancee de Dracula'. Sadly Jean himself could not make it to the festival due to heart problems (our thoughts and wishes are with him), but he did send over several of the cast/crew to present the film.
The film follows the adventures of a Professor and his young sidekick in their search for Dracula, tracking him down through all sorts nutters of the usual Rollins nature (waspy dancing mad chicks that like flashing their breasts, dwarves and a crazy bunch of Nuns - the Order of the White Virgin - kudos go to Sister Pipe and Sister Cigar in particular).
The print on show was a working print that had just came through the editing process mere days before, with 'soft' subtitles for all us lazy folk that only know english.
As for the film itself, well - if you're a Rollins fan you will probably love this. It's well up to the standard of his previous works, but sadly I've never been able to see the appeal of his movies so it was lost on me (and after having to sit through Sacred Flesh the week before I can't handle any more bloody Nun flicks!!)
Next up was a treat for all fans of the Italian scene - a double bill of 'Bird with the Crystal Plumage' and 'Blood and Black Lace'. Before the ball got rolling we got a brief intro to the Giallo genre from Kier-La Janisse, (check out her excellent magazine Cannibal Culture in our Books section) whom beer in hand proudly sorted out those new to the scene.
You really shouldn't need these gems explained (Bird is in the SGM Reviews), Argento's 'Bird' was the BBFC approved 18 print which was slightly trimmed but was still a delight to view on the big screen. Some of the movie's set pieces are simply stunning to view on a large screen and if you ever get the chance to see it at a cinema - GO!! The only down point about at this particular screening was a large number of folk viewing were plainly ignorant to Argento's (and Bava's for that matter) work and spent most of the movie laughing as though they were watching some old dodgy badly acted B-movie - ah well, fuck them!
'Blood and Black Lace' was simply great - giallo hi-jinks in a 60's fashion house with fantasticly glamorous acting and standard setting direction from Mario Bava. Even though the print on view really was showing some age the film was a delight to watch, showing that it indeed was to be the template for all giallo films to follow. And the inevitable remastered DVD release will be a must have purchase for any fans of the genre - don't miss out!!
And so, next up was a quick sprint down to the Filmhouse (via a local eatarie/'chippie' to refuel) for Part 2 of Saturdays proceedings with the All-Night event.
First up was the UK premiere of 'Pitch Black', a sci-fi horror flick that follows a ship crash landing on a planet full of CGI creatures with all the usual carnage ensuing. This lacklustre movie was a real disapointment, after seeing quality films like Starship Troopers and the Aliens series you would think that movie makers would realise that indeed the standard had been set, but 'Pitch Black' just plainly stinked!
The cast really try their damndest to work with what little they'd got, poor script with the most predictable of dialogue. You know from the word go that the chained killer on the ship will soon get free and become the hero of the scenario, with a selection of tough guy cliches of course! The creatures/effects were particularly disapointing (more so on the big screen) and the killings were either so fast cut or obscured that they lost any impact to the viewer. Straight to video methinks (and if not don't be fooled into going to the cinema to see this turd - you have been warned!!)
Next up though was a real treat - 'Angel of the Night, Shaky Gonzalez' debut feature that has vampires, shoot outs, comedy and frights - all at a thrilling break-neck pace that will delight any genre fan.
The story follows three young folk who travel to a strange old house that one of the girls has inherited. Deep in the family crypt they come across a book that tells how the girl is in fact descended from a vampire. As they read the book, the story unfolds! And what a story - like a live action comic book, the film is full of thrills that will have all delighted and went down an absolute storm with the festival crowd. Definiteley THE highlight of the festival! (and now available on DVD, you too can enjoy the fun also - more info on this gem in our DVD Review section!).
After 'Angel's screening director Shaky Gonzalez took to the stage for a question and answer session which was entertaining also. Clad with quif and leather trousers this shy but friendly director had the crowd chuckling away with many great amusing anecdotes (including the dubious confession that his name came from his childhood love of rock 'n roll wild man Shakin' Stevens!) Nice guy - great film!
A double bill of golden oldies next with both 'American Werewolf in London' and 'Return of the Living Dead'. 'American Werewolf' was screening as festival director Adele stated "it's my fucking festival and my favorite film so we're showing it!" and nobody was complaining. Even after all these years it still stands up with the best as a gory gem with loads of great black humour, the Picadilly finale still rips me up - classic! 'Return of the Living Dead' (which everyone knows and loves) was interesting to see again after having just read the great background piece in Allan Bryce's excellent 'Zombie' book and also went done a storm with the festival crowd who reacted like they were seeing it anew for the first time!
For the undead in the audience who were still going at sun-up at the festival showing next was Michele Soavi's 'The Church'. Most SGM readers should be familiar with this Italian underated masterpiece which plays like 'Demons' transfered from the Cinema to the Church environment. It was the original Italian print that was on show (with 'soft' english subtitles) and it's never looked better. Very atmospheric with great direction and stunning visuals and gore, it really deserved a more prominent screening than breakfast time on a Sunday morning! (I would have happily bumped 'Pitch Black' for this beautiful piece of cinema). Great news though is that seemingly Michele Soavi will be making an appearance at the festival next year - can't wait!
Finally on the all-night bill was Dario Argento's 'Phantom of the Opera'. Pushed to the end of the bill like an unwelcome guest, 'Phantom' is Argento's interpretation of Gaston Leroux's classic novel. Sadly due to a mixture of exhaustion, poor health and (erm) some dodgy comments about the film we made our zombielike exit of the theatre and swaggered our way for the long journey home. I really wanted to make a more balanced judgement of the film, which I looked forward to doing when the DVD appeared at SGM towers!(check out the DVD Review section)
So, fifteen hours of non-stop horror cinema was consumed and now after a big, big sleep it's time to reflect. Overall, Dead by Dawn was well worth every penny of it's measly £22 cost (more so considering the festival kept on going later that day with Scream 3, The Wicker Man and loads more!) and any Horror fan worth their salt really should make the effort to go not only next year - but every other year also !!
COMPETITION : Apologies if we missed you at the festival, but Adele assured me that some SGM DVD's went to a good home at the end of the festival. And as a special treat (ahem), we have a couple of extra terrifyingly trashy Troma DVD's up for grabs. Just email SGM stating 'I want a trashy Troma DVD!!' and the first name out the hat will get the discs to do with what they wish!! (closing date 10th June!)
EXTRA - The winner of the discs was K. Hazel - congratulations !!
Got to the Dead by Dawn website here.
For a taste of what you missed go to the Virtue TV site for some online broadcasts from the festival.Back to the Spotlight page