After an almost half-hour delay where latecomers were ushered in and festival founder Adam Lopez spoke at great length about, well, what seemed like anything and everything to do with the festival, audience members eagerly awaited the films.
And waited some more.
Technical problems delayed the start even more, leaving the crowd to make sounds at a dark screen and then a screen with images but no sound. But after the short film, Kin (dir. McKinnon Brothers) started playing, a dark screen would have been preferable.
What's been labeled as a "journey into fable" was instead an eight-minute display of cliched movie techniques. Slow motion allows for more details to be shown, heightening tension. Or at least it could be, if it's not used for the duration of the entire film. And covering the faces of characters, whether by armoured masks or paint, to indicate they're bad guys is a gimmicky alternative to actually exploring a character's depth and personality.
The cheap tricks continued with We Are What We Are, filmmaker Jim Mickle's 2013 remake of the popular 2010 cult hit by Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau. A family's power dynamic shifts after the mother dies, leaving the eldest daughter in charge.
It's unclear whether Bill Sage, the actor who played patriarch Frank Parker, could handle a meaty role after being stifled with banal lines and delivering them woodenly, but excellent actors have a way of rising above bad scripts. The daughters don't present a refreshing change either, with Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) appearing more like shell-shocked Sister Wives extras than sisters guarding a secret generational way of life. Only the youngest child, Rory (Jack Gore), gets credit for actually seeming like a human person who looks, talks and acts like a child.
Bounty Killer (dir. Henry Saine) was the second movie opening the festival and unfortunately, again, didn't provide much else except water cooler fodder. Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and Mary Death (Christian Pitre) are bounty killer colleagues forced into a new kind of working relationship when a bounty is put on Drifter's head.
That would have been the premise, had the hackneyed product actually resembled quality filmmaking. Horror has largely gotten a reputation as a niche market, failing to gain credibility due to its overuse of blood, guts and gore. What keeps the horror genre from ever being taken seriously is there aren't enough filmmakers like Hitchcock and Kubrick, directors who understand that true terror lies in the unseen and imagined.
Because when you give it all away in the first 15 minutes, what else do people have to stick around for?