Hello Ghouls and Boils,
Today we are pleased to present a delayed, but in-depth, report on the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. Sit back, relax, pop some popcorn, and view the HPLFF through Minion Paul Weir’s eyes. Enjoy, my fiends!
Sarah L. Covert
When I arrived, I was immediately impressed with how friendly and courteous the staff were, and how quickly and efficiently they handled the lines and crowds. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an event with this many people in attendance where things flowed so smoothly. It clearly showed that the people working the event actually enjoy their job. They all came across as passionate about being there.
Upon entering the Hollywood Theatre, the first thing I did was wander around a bit, checking out the various vendor tables. I saw a lot of amazing art, but did not do that much lingering. I wanted to get a good seat for the first set of Shorts starting at 7pm in the Main Theater. There were still plenty of seats, and I found one that suited me well without any problem. As I took my seat, the theater was filled with the strains of Goblin’s theme from Suspiria. It was definitely a cool tune to sit down to. Once I was comfortably seated, I began to go through the program, planning my itinerary for the weekend. The screen was filled with a slide show of some great art and ads from the various vendors. Of the art in the slide show, I was most intrigued by Lee Moyer, Mike Dubisch, and Liv Rainey-Smith. The music shifted from Goblin to music by Lovecraftian composer, Mars.
It was at this point that I looked around to see what my fellow festival-attendees looked like. This is not only my first year attending the H.P. Lovecraft Festival, but it’s actually my first film festival altogether, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was definitely pleased to find a very eclectic mix of people. It literally takes all types to make the crowd I was surrounded by, and that was a relief. I had sort of expected a ton of sci-fi nerd types (not that there is anything wrong with sci-fi nerd types), and I was glad to see that there was actually a broad cross-section of people. While I was checking out my surroundings, the music of Mars was replaced by Goblin’s theme from Tenebrae. This great music from some of my favorite Argento films was definitely putting me in the right mood. Can we all just take this moment to recognize how much Goblin rocks? Can I say that’s my jam? HOLLA.
At one minute after Seven, the room was mostly full, and the lights dimmed and people took the stage. I missed the names of the people on the stage (but based on what they said they were the organizers). I did catch that this was the seventeenth annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. I marveled that there were people in the audience that hadn’t even been sperm when this thing started. That’s pretty cool for such a specific genre film festival. There was mention of the new seats (which while they don’t have the vintage charm of the seats that used to be in Hollywood, they are infinitely more comfortable — way important for three days of movies and presentations) and the ability to enjoy alcoholic beverages at the Hollywood Theater. And then they got the show started.
I decided I wanted to check out the first block of shorts. While The Skull and The Ruins were showing at the same time, both of those would replay later during the weekend so I figured that Shorts Block 1 would be a better choice for getting into the mood of the weekend. Plus, it’s hard to say no to a bunch of smaller movies as opposed to one longer one.
There were a lot of shorts in Shorts Block 1 that stood out to me. I noticed that the more overtly comedic shorts went over better with the crowd. We began this set of shorts with Midnight, the Stars, and Lovecraft, which had a series of cosmic images placed against Ray Noble and his Orchestra’s Midnight, the Stars, and You. It was a very short four minutes and was a nice start to the festival for me. This was followed by Ivan Radovic’s The Tunnel. I found it to have a bit of a Blade Runner vibe, and it was short and sweet. At five minutes it had just enough time to set up its hook. Next up was Stay At Home Dad. This one was very much a comedy and seemed to be one of the biggest crowd pleasers in this first block. At fifteen minutes, it felt just long enough to develop its characters and lay out its premise before coming to its twist ending. Black Pharaoh was also short and fun — let’s face it, anything utilizing Swedish Death Metal can’t be all bad!
There was a short commercial, Cultist Co. Starter Pack, that also went over really well. Artist Mike Dubisch’s Ambidextrosity was up next. As an artist, it was incredibly fascinating to watch Dubisch sketch for a split screen, and use this to enhance his drawing and expand the drawing’s scope. I totally dug this one. Up next, comedy again seemed to please the crowd the most with Doctor Glamour, a short that I can only describe as a campy rock-opera adventure. It was part Moulin Rouge / part Rocky Horror. The animated short Bedtime for Timmy was (as far as I could tell by audience reaction) the most successful of the first block. It was also my favorite.
We were then treated to ten minutes of the long-lost Charles Band directed (and soon to be released fully restored on DVD) The Evil Clergyman. This is classic Charles Band — Lovecraft-inspired late 80s horror fromage. For those not fans of Band’s films, like Re-Animator, this will probably fall flat. While I was never a huge fan of those films, I certainly appreciate what they have to offer. It was also nice to see vintage 1988 Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs camping it up. My favorite line of the segment was delivered by Combs with the gusto only a seasoned B-actor can muster: “Your body is my religion.” I definitely plan on checking this out when it is fully restored and released later this year.
The first block then drew to a close with The Curse of Yig. While the other shorts up until this point (save The Evil Clergyman segment) felt very experimental, The Curse of Yig had a far more straight-forward horror tale set-up. I’m actually a sucker for these kinds of stories and was mostly pleased. I thought the female lead Amy Schweickhardt (who played multiple roles) was extremely likeable in that girl-next-door way that horror film scream queens and b-girls should be. She looks like someone you know, which always adds to the buy in for a horror film. The main downside to The Curse of Yig was that it was a bit long for my tastes, clocking in at thirty-two minutes. I felt it could have been edited down by at least five minutes, and found myself thinking toward the end, “Can we get on with it?” Definitely not a good place to be with a short. However, even that is a relatively small complaint in light of the enjoyable story and good acting.
With the first block over, I made a quick pit-stop for a soda and Red Vines; which probably cost me a better seat for the Shorts Block 2. Located in the Upper Left Theater, I ended up in a corner against the wall right in front — not ideal at all, but it’s Red Vines you guys. Those seriously rock. And I totally ate them within a span of five minutes. More like inhaled them.
The first short in Shorts Block 2 was Cell Phone Psycho. I actually wish some of the major theaters would pick up this short to use before their movies to warn people from using their cell phones during movies. It restaged the classic shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho, but instead of crazy Norman Bates in his momma’s dress, we get noisy clowns with lots of star confetti. After such light-hearted fare, the silent film Fortuna was a stark contrast. This was actually my favorite of the second block of shorts. The mood, music, and lighting — grainy hazy sepia edged frames — just really clicked for me. It almost felt like a fever dream, and it ended with a very ominious tagline: To Be Concluded. I certainly hope so. I would love to see a bit more of this story. Next up was the DumbShow. This is a locally filmed short and had some very good imagery and a strong lead actor. Mimes are vaguely creepy to begin with, and this short exploited that very well. It was also poignant; the relationship between Young Felix and his mute mime father was very well presented. I felt like this one ended too soon. It felt slightly rushed in the end; I could have dealt with another three to five minutes. That to me is the sign of a good short, it’s so well presented that you want more. After this, we got more of Mike Dubisch’s inspired doodling in Cthonic Doodling. I was only more impressed by him and his talent after this second short, which had music by Mars.
Next was Vadim. I really liked this one, and like the DumbShow I found myself wanting more story here. Set in a creepy apartment somewhere in Europe, a young couple moves in to find the previous tenant has left behind a mysterious trunk. Clocking in at fifteen minutes, I was left feeling like this one had enough going on that it could be expanded to feature length. The young couple was likeable and I would have really liked to spend more time with them; also the creepy-crawly-what-the-hell-is-that could have been more fleshed out and developed. I actually am hoping some studio will look upon this short as an audition and give director Peter Hengl the opportunity to further explore these characters and this scenario. Up next was a three minute adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s poem Nightgaunts that was well done and very creepy.
The Thing In The Lake was another one of my favorites. Visually and thematically it fell somewhere between Night of the Living Deadand Carnival of Souls. With its grainy black and white film and very low-budget music, it reminded me of one of the odd shorts that Night Flight (anyone else remember that?) used to show in the 1980s. All of this came together to create a dreamy, hallucinogenic quality. And at five minutes it felt like it was just the right length. The second block of shorts ended with The Earth Rejects Him. This one was a very nice contrast to the other shorts, as it was full of vibrant greens and bright hues, and saturated with light in places. The colors and light gave it a realism that helped sell the odd, nightmarish story.
As the second block of shorts ended, I decided to call it a night so I could go home, rest up and prepare for the rest of the weekend. My plan for Saturday is to start the day with Die Farbe, inspired by Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space. After that I want to hit the panels for Women and Gender Roles in Dark Fiction and Horror In Comics. The evening will bring a big screen viewing of the 1994 Charles Band adaption of The Lurking Fear prominently featuring a post-Hellraiser/post-nose job Ashley “Lauren” Laurence. Finally, I plan to end tomorrow evening with The Whisperer In Darkness.
Until then… may you be safe from clowns.
On Day 2, I arrived right before doors opened at one p.m. after having a late lunch. There was a good-sized crowd, but there was still plenty of good seating. I headed straight for the Main Theater so that I could watch the German adaption of The Color Out of Space called Die Farbe. Die Farbe was presented in glorious black and white and was populated by German actors. While most of the action takes place in German and is subtitled, there was an opening sequence featuring American characters speaking in German-accented English. This was a bit disconcerting at first; however, since the action quickly shifted to Germany (and the subtitles), I was able to move past it. I found this to be a relatively faithful adaption of the original Lovecraft story, with the only real differences being the American soldier sub-plot, and the shift in location from America to Germany. I was impressed with the production values and care put into the film. It was presented in a very straight-forward manner, which was a bit of an adjustment since most of the shorts I’d watched the night before were a bit more experimental with their pacing and story structure. There was also a bit of an adjustment internally in going from nothing longer than 30 minutes to a feature length film. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking, “This is a quiet horror film.” There was quite a bit of understated story telling. I enjoyed that. Not all horror movies (at least for me) need to be full of blood and all-out action. Marco Liebnitz, who played the young Armin Pierske, was particularly good in his role. Also, I found it pure genius the way color was eventually introduced and used to denote the otherworldly evil at work.
Originally I had planned to follow up Die Farbe with two panels, but decided I wanted to check out the 3rd block of shorts—since Shorts Block 3 only repeats again Sunday night opposite The Ruins and Monsters… both of which I wanted to see since I hadn’t seen either yet. Plus, both of the Saturday evening events I was going to were feature length, so a block of shorts seemed a good idea.
Before the third block of shorts started, usherettes handed out 3-D glasses. 3-D glasses rock, especially the old-school red and blue ones! The third block started with The Shadow Out Of Time. I really wanted to like this one, but just couldn’t get into it and was left feeling rather “meh” with the whole experience. I was beginning to doubt whether I had made the right decision in attending another block of shorts instead of the panels, but the second short A Lot of Evil, reassured me that I had made the right choice. As I learned in the other short blocks, comedy goes over well, and I enjoyed this one a lot. The absurdity of buying a dark and evil book for invoking the great old ones on Ebay hit the right notes for me. This was followed by Re-Animate Her, another comedic offering. I didn’t connect with this one particularly, but I did chuckle several times during the course of it.
Next up was GAMMA, which was my favorite of this block of shorts. Its fatalistic dystopian view of the future, combined with real footage of Chernobyl, and earnest heart-felt monologue made me feel like I was experiencing a nightmarish fever dream. I would love to have had more of this one; it feels like there was some great story to be had here. Again, I really liked this one.
Next up was another dark comedy piece called Space Bugs. This one was very clever and made me realize that several of the offerings I had seen up until this point had to deal with auditory horrors: silence, loud noises, music, etc. I don’t think this was intentional, but several of the shorts had this theme running through them. Space Bugs was supposed to be followed by Asleep in the Deep but a technical difficulty shifted it to the end of this block of shorts. Instead, next up was Coda, which again dealt with matters of music and silence. It was seven minutes and took just enough time to develop its premise.
Next came the 3-D feature Shine, which featured singing puppets. Again, music and silence figured into the short, as did dark comedy. Finally, we got Asleep in the Deep. This was my second favorite of the block, and in my top five shorts so far. It had a David Lynch-surreal vibe that I really enjoyed. The snappy dialogue felt a bit disjointed in certain places, but that came across as an intentional touch — as in those instances the main character Alyce was not quite connecting or lining up with other human beings. Delilah Davis was the actress who played Alyce and I found her quite engaging. With her bright faux-red hair, unconventional beauty, and quirky delivery, she infused Alyce with a life that was the backbone of this short. Can you tell I liked this one?
After a dinner break, it was time for The Lurking Fear. This one originally came out in 1994, but I saw it sometime in 1995 or 1996 on VHS. I don’t know if this one actually had a theatrical release at any point. It’s possible that it showed in a couple theaters back in the day so that it wouldn’t be labeled direct-to-video (as was standard back then for some movies). In this one, we get Ashley Laurence of Hellraiser doing her best Linda Hamilton and being credited as Ashley Lauren. I’ve always wondered why she changed her name for just this one film. If you are not a fan of the Charles Band/Full Moon productions of the late 80s and early 90s, you might not enjoy this one. I’ve always had a mixed opinion about it (even though I own it on VHS). The Lurking Fear was the first Lovecraft story I read, and there are some pretty big differences between the story and this movie. For instance, Ashley Lauren’s character and entire storyline did not exist in the original story; and while the original story involved the cursed and deformed Martense family and their creepy old house, the movie grafts a crime story on top of the creepy house and deformed monster in the family. The criminal characters are cookie cutter; there is the ruthless, cold-hearted ringleader, the bumbling buffoon, and the blonde femme fatale doing her worst Sharon Stone. I definitely liked Ashley Lauren kicking ass and being tough, though. I also thought the monster was a pretty good representation of what the story described. I thought this was cheesy fun the first time I watched it and found it to be so with an audience as well.
The Whisperer In Darkness did a great job capturing the late 50s / early 60s sci-fi horror vibe. Imagine This Island Earth if the aliens were evil Lovecraftian Elder Gods. I dug the black and white cinematography and the set-up. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any Lovecraft (nearly ten years now), so I cannot remember exactly how faithful this was to the original story. But, with the exception of a dogfight at the end and the addition of a plucky pre-teen female character, I am pretty sure (as sure as my faulty memory allows me to be) that the rest of it was close to the original. I have to dig up my Lovecraft paperbacks and re-read all of these stories now. There was some humor peppered throughout, although most of the humor came across to me as poking fun at the structure, dialogue, and conventions of the movies this one is modeled after. The humor was not unwelcome and enhanced the movie for me. It made it fun. The CGI beasties were obviously CGI, but I find black and white is more kind to CGI monsters. I would have preferred men in rubber suits or tacky puppet beasties, but considering that everything else in this one worked for me, I’m going to overlook the CGI. After the film, I headed home for the night, with plans to catch Horror Express, The Skull, It’s In The Blood, and either The Ruins or Monsters on Sunday.
On Day 3 I arrived a bit earlier than intended, but that was OK since gave me time to look around the vending tables and determine what looked interesting for my planned shopping during the evening dinner break. I made sure to load up on beverages and Red Vines so that I would be snack-prepped for the four hours, then went to the Upper Left Theater, where I would be spending my entire afternoon.
The first movie of my day was Horror Express starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The film was introduced by Scott Glancy who went over the themes of Cosmic Horror that infuse the film. I was pretty excited about this, since I had never seen Horror Express. Most of my classic horror film viewing has been limited to the slasher genre and high profile films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, since I came to age right around the time slashers dominated the box office. In recent years I’ve been working through some of the more interesting and lesser known offerings of that era, and I’m sad to admit that a lot of the Hammer and Amicus films of the 60s and 70s are still undiscovered treasures that I’m just starting to dig down into.
I have been meaning to watch Horror Express since like 1986 when I spied a VHS copy of it at my local video store when I was a kid. I always wanted to get it, but it always lost out to something like Hell Night, Madman or Girl’s Nite Out. During his introduction, Scott Glancy explained that they have wanted to present Horror Express for a long time, but had been unable to locate a decent print that they felt worthy of showing. Obviously, they finally found one that they were happy with, and I was really impressed with the print. It was a very clean picture, without the normal scratches, blurs, and haze that I would normally expect from a forty-year old film that hasn’t been given the “full restoration” process.
It started out with Spanish titles, which betray this film’s country of origin. While great pains were taken to make this appear to be a Hammer film, including the casting of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, it is not. Several people I spoke to about this movie assumed it was a Hammer film, based on Cushing and Lee’s presence, which I’m sure was part of the filmmakers’ intent. The music over the opening credits strongly evoked some of Mario Bava’s work in the late 60s and early 70s. Particularly the music from Lisa and the Devil — also from 1972 and also featuring Telly Savalas.
The story is anything but cookie cutter. It begins with Christopher Lee’s Professor Saxon discovering a frozen humanoid that he believes is the missing link. Putting the frozen humanoid in a crate, he decides to take him back to society for study — referring to it as “the fossil”. Before Lee can even get the crated fossil onboard, he has drawn unwanted attention by a known thief dying mysteriously after trying to break into the crate. Once aboard, things go from bad to worse as we start with a rampaging monster movie that turns into the aforementioned Cosmic Horror film and then ends as a “zombies on a train” film. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot beyond that, since the various twists and turns are pretty fun. I must say it was nice to see Christopher Lee in the “good guy” role for a change, as he always seems to be the villain in anything I’ve seen him in.
Peter Cushing puts in a good performance here too, although every time I see him I can’t help but mouth: “I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.” There is a slightly crazy monk character played by Alberto de Mendoza who looks like and comes across as a Phil Hartman character during his SNL days. And, of course, Telly Savalas shows up and completely hams it up as only Telly Savalas can in his trademark over-the-top “I’m the Man” style. There were the typical campy bits I would expect from a film of this era, such as the Inspector Mirov character declaring after the first few deaths that he doesn’t want anyone to know, because “I don’t want to panic the passengers.” Also, before we got a full reveal of the monster, we would get glimpses of its hand or its glowing red eye. In the early scenes of monster stalking on the train, I began to think of it as “the sparkly hand of death.” And, of course, some of the situations and acting are altogether over-the-top. But I find those usually add to my enjoyment of horror cinema. A touch of the absurd goes a long way to help balance out the terror. For a low-budget horror movie out of Spain, this movie looks very good. The sets are very elaborate (which apparently there was only one train car set that they kept redressing for each scene) and the costumes are very well done — helping to sell the period setting. I definitely recommend this film to anyone who enjoys the following: Hammer films, early 70s horror, Cosmic Horror, or just a good solid B-horror flick. You will not be disappointed.
After Horror Express, there was The Skull. This also featured Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, though Lee is billed as “Special Guest Star” and has just ten to fifteen minutes of screen time. This film is Cushing’s vehicle all the way. Based on a Robert Bloch story, this film tells the tale of the Marquis De Sade’s cursed skull and the death and destruction that follow it about. Peter Cushing stars as an occult writer/demonologist who buys De Sade’s cursed skull. This movie is very tense and does a great job of building suspense. I found myself on the edge of my seat several times, although I did find the “Skull Vision” scenes a bit detracting. They came across as something out of a William Castle film, and just did not fit the tone of the film. There was also a redundant flashback scene that could have easily been trimmed. While the second flashback had a few extra moments that revealed a certain character’s exact fate, that reveal could have easily been included in the original flashback instead of popping up again fifteen minutes later. Otherwise, I had no complaints. I thought Cushing gave a very tight performance, which impressed me since my only real exposure to him up to this point has been Shock Waves and Star Wars. I thought he carried the film very well and found his corruption by the skull believable. There was also a very well done forced Russian Roulette scene that was very suspenseful. Since this movie came out after Psycho had established that a lead character could die before the movie ended, and with Christopher Lee lurking in the background for much of the film, I was never entirely sure whether Peter Cushing’s character would make it out of certain scenes.
Once The Skull was over, it was break time and I left to get some late lunch/early dinner. When I got back, I went back to the vendors and picked up some loot. I picked up a copy of Gorgon Press’s “Phantasmagorium #2” from their new online editor Edward Morris, who is also a damned good writer. I spoke to him very briefly, as I tend to get more tongue tied around writers and artists than I do with actors and actresses, and I didn’t want to come across as a complete dork fan-boy. I also picked up a small trading-card sized engraving print from Liv Rainey-Smith entitled “Hieronymus Beast 1”. I’ve been a fan of Rainey-Smith’s work for years, and always love seeing what new awesome things her mind has come up with. I then picked up a copy of Boom! Studio’s “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” Annual 1 with a story by Brandon Siefert, getting Mr. Siefert to sign it. I have been enjoying Siefert’s offering of “Witchdoctor” from Image Comics’ Skybound imprint, so it was great to get to meet him. I looked around at some of the other art and merchandise offered and was impressed at the wide variety of DVDs and t-shirts. Nothing else screamed out to me to pick it up, but there was a lot there that I would have loved to pick up if I had unlimited funds at my disposal.
After the break, the first movie of the evening was It’s In The Blood. This was the movie I had heard the most buzz about throughout the weekend. The theater was almost entirely full, which I thought was a good sign considering this was its second showing and most people had caught it the first night. This movie was filmed in the area of Texas I am from, and there is no better place to capture a certain eerie atmosphere. I have seen many an odd thing while driving through the rural areas, and was totally sold on the premise of this from the get-go. The performances were particularly strong, especially from Lance Henriksen. Mr. Henriksen has an intensity that infuses all of his roles with realism and elevates whatever he is in to a higher level of quality. Let’s face it, the only reason most of us even fondly remember the original Pumpkinhead was his strong performance in that one. Luckily, It’s In The Blood features a strong script, enhanced by good cinematography and shot composition. The other lead actors Sean Elliot (who also co-wrote the script) and Rose Sirna were very believable in their roles. I thought Sirna did an amazing job of handling a very difficult scene (which I won’t give away since it is pivotal to the plot). Elliot and Henriksen had very good chemistry and were believable as estranged father and son. Once the story really got going, I spent most of the movie on the edge of my seat not sure what was going to happen next. The effects on this were also very good, doing a good job of combining CGI and physical effects. This one is only available on the festival circuit right now, and that’s too bad. There was a question and answer after the film where the director and Sirna talked about the making of the film. Both only had glowing things to say about working with Henriksen, saying that he approached the film as though he were making a big budget Hollywood film and brought a lot of passion and craft to his performance. They said that they are hoping for a more wide-release of the film later in the year, most likely an On-Demand/RedBox situation, which is too bad because this one deserves a wider theatrical release. I left the theater feeling pretty rattled, and was glad I had picked a slightly more mainstream Hollywood film to end with.
Following the intensity of It’s In The Blood, I found the more mainstream Hollywood offering of The Ruins to be right up my alley. This film falls into the “White Kids Leave The Country And Bad Things Happen” sub-genre that has become popular over the past decade or so. It’s a variation of the sub-genre of the 70s & 80s where getting off the main road can lead to being chainsaw fodder and/or part of back-woods country folk’s award winning barbecue recipe. I honestly was not expecting much from this film other than a fun time and some good gross-out scares. I was not disappointed.
This was a fun popcorn movie where dumb college kids do dumb stuff (like climb down into the dark and scary Mayan ruins to look for a cell phone) and find themselves confronted by killer plants! If I have said it once, I will say it a thousand times — there are not enough killer plant movies. While the film did not make it clear if there was just one giant plant, or just a series of little bloodthirsty flesh-eating plants, the killer plant/plants were developed enough to go along with the story and to get the audience invested in them; more so than the paper-thin characters at least. I do not feel that the film suffered for not going more deeply into the origins of the plant. Shawn Ashmore of X-Men fame was the only face I recognized here, the rest of the cast being unknown to me.
One thing that always helps sell these kinds of B-movies is when the actors really get into their roles, even when it’s ham-fisted, over-the-top, scenery-chewing performances. There was definitely some of that going on here, but the characters were mostly likeable. I only found myself hoping one or two of them became killer plant chow after a while, which normally during these kind of movies I find myself reaching the point where I want all the stupid college kids/teenagers to get killed quickly and painfully for annoying me so thoroughly. The special effects were well done in this one as well. The plants were obviously CGI enhanced, but there were enough non-CGI gore effects that I was able to overlook some of the obvious CGI stuff. For me CGI special effects works best when used to replace something impossible to create through practical effects or when enhancing practical effects. There were some great gross-out moments — one of the college students decides to cut out the plant infestation under her skin and I actually squirmed and covered my eyes. I don’t want to give away the ending precisely, but one thing I had disliked about horror cinema over the past few years is all completely downbeat depressing endings. I miss the days where there was a Final Girl or sole survivor, or some indication that Evil did not triumph. Sometimes a bleakly horrific downbeat ending is what the story calls for; but sometimes the story calls for some minor ray of hope telling us that maybe something will be OK when the dust settles and the blood dries. The ending of this one did not disappoint me because it felt like a little trace of hope was called for and it did deliver on that front. It also felt like it left the door wide open for a sequel. Although since this was made in 2008 and no sequel has yet to arrive, I’m pretty sure there will not be a follow-up, which is too bad. I would much rather watch another one of these than another Hostel sequel torture-porn extravaganza or another remake of a classic horror film. If you are looking for a thought-provoking horror film with a ton of subtext and a world-view that has something big to say, then skip The Ruins. If you want ninety minutes of college students in peril and some nice gore effects, then this is your film.
When The Ruins ended, so did my weekend at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. I was pretty wiped out on my way home, (who knew that three days of back-to-back movies could wipe you out?) but I felt completely satisfied with the experience. I saw some good, some bad, and stuff in between. However; it was all enjoyable and what I realized was that with the blocks of shorts there was a lot of love and passion that had gone into each and every one of them — so that even the ones that I may not have particularly enjoyed all that much were still worth watching if just to see the love of film that brought about their conception.
Paul Weir, Minion (Reporter/Reviewer/Monthly Movie Tweet-a-thon Co-host)