Chicago’s Music Box Theatre presents 60 films and a bevy of guests for the debut year of Cinepocalypse film festival — an evolution to the program design of Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival — which is set for November 2–9. This event will be the Midwest’s largest gathering of genre films and fans, and the festival’s organizers are proud to feature dozens of new features, shorts, and premieres, along with repertory and secret screenings.
We here at That’s Not Current have a passion for the cinematic past, but a finger on the pulse of the present, as well, so we are greatly looking forward to several Cinepocalypse offerings that look to combine the best of both worlds. We would like to recommend six movies screening there that should appeal to the hearts of old-school genre fans.
Let’s start off with four films that I have been fortunate enough to already see this year, and can personally recommend as required Cinepocalypse viewing. All cast and crew information and film synopses below are from the festival’s website, https://www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/cinepocalypse, with comments in italics from yours truly.
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen
A FILM BY: STEVE MITCHELL
WRITTEN BY: STEVE MITCHELL
STARRING: J.J. ABRAMS, RICK BAKER, ERIC BOGOSIAN
Indie film legend Larry Cohen has directed cult classics like Black Caesar, It’s Alive, Q the Winged Serpent, and The Stuff. Hollywood screenwriter Larry Cohen delivered enjoyable “high concept” matinees like Best Seller, Phone Booth, and Cellular. And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Fans will savor every minute of this documentary as it covers Mr. Cohen’s highly impressive career — and newcomers will simply dig the classy old guy’s attitude.
Larry Cohen is the sort of filmmaker who creates movie geeks. Upon discovering discover Black Caesar, It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, or The Stuff, you’re immediately tempted to see all of the director’s other movies. Between his directorial work and his (non-stop) screenplays, it’s safe to say you’ve seen and loved a few Larry Cohen movies without even knowing it. And this year, he’s here to hang out with the audience at Cinepocalypse and watch some movies!
I was too young to associate Larry Cohen’s name with the science-fiction television series The Invaders and the classic baby-monster shocker It’s Alive when I first watched them, but once this maverick genius released Q: The Winged Serpent, I would burn his name into my memory banks and watch as much as I could of his work. This terrific documentary serves as both a marvelous tribute to the man for fans familiar with his work, and a wonderful introduction for those new to it.
A FILM BY: RYAN PROWS
WRITTEN BY: TIM CAIRO, JAKE GIBSON, SHAYE OGBONNA, RYAN PROWS, MAXWELL TOWSON
STARRING: NICKI MICHEAUX, RICARDO ADAM ZARATE, JON OSWALD, MARK BURNHAM, SHAYE OGBONNA, SANTANA DEMPSEY
One of the most talked about films out of Fantasia 2017, Lowlife is nothing short of the brutal, often explicit, stripping away of any facade that still exists to hide society’s gross and desperate underbelly. The sordid lives of an addict, an ex-con, and a failed luchador collide when an organ-harvesting caper goes very, very wrong. The feature debut from director/co-writer Prows, this film is a calling card as both a wholly original crime thriller and a weigh station for some of the most memorable on-screen characters of the year.
The humor in Lowlife is as dark as the heart of its main villain, but the heart of the movie itself beats large and loud. The ensemble cast brings the eclectic, eccentric characters to vivid life, resulting in a lunatic thrill ride that is one of my favorite films of 2017.
A FILM BY: GRAHAM SKIPPER
WRITTEN BY: GRAHAM SKIPPER
STARRING: JOHN DINAN, LYLE KANOUSE, FABIANNE THERESE
To call this freaky dark romance a love letter to David Cronenberg’s classic Videodrome would be an understatement, but at least writer/director Graham Skipper has awfully good taste in influences. Sequence Break is a story of a lonely guy, a sweet girl, a deserted arcade, and a video game with insidiously biomechanical tendencies…and innards—all of which become intertwined in a perverse, melancholic string of events that will leave all of them forever changed.
This twisted, icky-sticky science fiction/horror outing shows obvious homage to influential filmmakers and movies — David Cronenberg, for one — but it offers an abundance of originality and heart in delivering a winning, outrageous viewing experience.
The Terror of Hallow’s Eve
A FILM BY: TODD TUCKER
WRITTEN BY: RONALD L. HALVAS, TODD TUCKER
STARRING: CALEB THOMAS, SARAH LANCASTER, ANNIE READ
Timmy Stevens is a socially awkward 15-year-old, obsessed with horror movies and frequently beaten up by high school bullies. Timmy’s wish for vicious revenge unwittingly unleashes a particularly nasty creature known as The Trickster on Halloween Night. Genre veteran Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) provides an amazingly evil creature performance, but the real stars here are the array of surprisingly effective creature FX and affection for old-school ’80s mayhem.
If you love Tales from the Darkside, Creepshow, and the like, you owe it to yourself to watch The Terror of Hallow’s Eve.The film boasts both practical and CGI effects in the creature feature, blood and gore, and supernatural hijinks departments, and beyond; however, Tucker invests plenty of well-crafted, nostalgic story elements into his film so that it rises well above being a mere special-effects showcase.
Now, here are two films that I absolutely cannot wait to see. Both are from proven horror film directors.
A FILM BY: BRIAN O’MALLEY
WRITTEN BY: DAVID TURPIN
STARRING: CHARLOTTE VEGA, DAVID BRADLEY, EUGENE SIMON
This eerie Irish offering is another example of how to combine classy scares and intermittent nastiness into a solid thriller. Director Brian O’Malley (Let Us Prey) brings us the tale of two young twins in the 1920s, the edicts that govern their existence, and what happens when a handsome newcomer threatens to upset the order of things. Each night, the property where they live becomes the stomping ground of a sinister presence, from which they are kept safe if they follow three rules. Things are disrupted when a war veteran returns home to the nearby village and falls in love with one of the twins, who is then tempted to destroy the stability of their home in the name of love.
Director Brian O’Malley’s Let Us Prey was stunning and creepy, and one of my favorite horror films of recent years. The long wait for this follow-up feature looks to be well worth it, with eerie, macabre visuals and a disturbing tale to tell.
A FILM BY: PACO PLAZA
WRITTEN BY: FERNANDO NAVARRO, PACO PLAZA
STARRING: SANDRA ESCACENA, BRUNA GONZÁLEZ, CLAUDIA PLACER
After making a Ouija with friends and playing during a total solar eclipse, a teenager is besieged by dangerous supernatural forces that threaten to harm her whole family. Advised by a local nun (nicknamed Sister Death) about the nearby spirits, young Veronica desperately searches for a way to break the connection she seems to have formed with them. From the director of the [REC] franchise.
Supernatural shockers are back in a big way, and I couldn’t be happier. This Spanish offering from Plaza should deliver the chills . . . I can’t wait to find out.
Plenty of classic genre films are on tap at Cinepocalypse, as well, including a 40th anniversary screening of Suspiria, with the uncut, 98-minute version on a newly-discovered 35mm print; a 30th anniversary screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark; Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown with Pam Grier and Antonio Fargas; Larry Cohen’s The Ambulance; and more. Guests at this year’s festival include writer/director Larry Cohen, screenwriter/guest curator Joe Carnahan, actor Antonio Fargas, actor Eric Roberts, screenwriter/guest host Simon Barrett, actress Barbara Crampton, and Suspiria star Jessica Harper, with many more to be announced. For tickets or more information, visit the official Cinepocalypse website at https://www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/cinepocalypse