By Michael P. Scasserra
Looking for something cheap, entertaining and a little sleazy to do this week? (Who isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t?) Then consider heading to Syracuse, New York, for the 2005 B-Movie Theater Festival, opening April 8 and running through April 14. This celebration of B-movies from around the globe promises a full week of zombies, aliens, gender confusion, strippers, drug addiction, senseless violence, teen angst, and rock and roll.
Among the titles screening at the fest: “Land of College Prophets,” a thriller about a possessed wishing well, described as “‘Batman’ meets ‘Pi’ meets ‘Wonder Boys'”; “Ghoul,” a horror flick about a dead teen brought back to life by his grieving father, purportedly shot in eleven hours with a budget of $72; and “Inbred Rednecks,” a cock-fighting comedy that screens in tandem with a “Dress as Your Favorite Inbred Redneck” contest. Other titles include “Teenage Bikini Vampires,” “Saloonatics,” and “Mari-Cookie vs. the Killer Tarantula,” as well as retrospective screenings of “Reefer Madness” and the 1952 “Red Scare” oddity “Invasion USA,” in which folks gather at a local bar to watch in terror as America is attacked by archival military footage.
Our personal favorite: “Graveyard Alive: A Zombie Nurse in Love,” a delicious, post-feminist feature about a wallflower nurse who gets injected by a backwoods zombie, then transforms into a sexy but decomposing siren with a taste for human flesh. Shot in luscious 35mm black-and-white, sans sync sound, for about $50,000, writer-director Elza Kephart originally intended this to be a silent movie then changed her mind. With the entire soundtrack done in post, the result is something like a long-lost horror flick from 1963 and one of those rare occasions when B-movie aesthetics have been honed to perfection. When it played at Slamdance, “Graveyard” took home the cinematography award and earned more than a few rave reviews, including one in Variety that compared Kephart to George Romero, Sam Raimi, and her very arty fellow Canadian, Guy Maddin.
“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see ‘B-movie’ as a derogatory term,” says Kephart, who found inspiration in Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” and in the sublimely creepy “Carnival of Souls.” “B-movies aren’t necessarily bad they’re just cheaply made and often have weird, quirky elements. To me, it just means that you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t have any stars. That’s the actual origin of the term. Since we didn’t have much money, I figured that if we modeled something after a B-movie, we couldn’t fail.”
So now that she’s conquered the cult crowd, does Kephart plan to stay in a B-movie state of mind? “Yes,” says the filmmaker, currently at work on three more horror scripts. “Not because I plan to do kitsch but because I still don’t have much money.”
For more on the 2005 B-Movie Theater Festival: www.b-movie.com/hof/specifics.html
For more on Graveyard Alive: www.bastardamber.com