Bring on the gore; Horrorfest thrills, kills

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By Tyler Davidson

By Tyler Davidson

“(It’s)Too graphic…too disturbing…too shocking for general audiences.”

These are some of the terms used to describe After Dark Films’ “8 Films to Die For,” also known as “Horrorfest 2006.”

Stretching from Nov. 17 to Nov. 18, the macabre film festival showcased 8 films (with one bonus film) in 500 theaters that were deemed unfit for mainstream release .

“Penny Dreadful” seems to be one of the more legitimate entries into the festival, with actress Mimi Rogers (“Austin Powers”) lending her talents.

It tells of Penny, a young girl who, along with her psychologist (Rogers) is trying to get over her fear of cars,when a psychotic hitch hiker makes his presence known, and is, at times, frightening, which is sometimes dulled by the fact that it just tries too hard.

Next is “The Gravedancers,” starring “Prison Break’s” Dominic Purcell, about a group of foolish friends who drunkenly decide that a night of grave dancing after the wake of a friend is a good idea, until they are visited by some unwanted guests.

The special effects and dialogue make this film delightfully cheesy.

“The Abandoned,” one of the less campy entries, sees an American film producer travel to Russia following the death of her mother, and subsequently begins being haunted by apparitions (one of which is her own ghost).

“The Abandoned” relies much on atmosphere, while “The Hamiltons” goes right for the gore factor. Its story of a typical suburban family (that happens to be cannibalistic) seen through the eyes of a misunderstood teen (Cory Knauf) and his camera (a la “American Beauty”) surprisingly contains some of the better acting in the whole festival.

“Reincarnation” (known in its native Japan as “Rinne”) comes from Takashi Shimizu, the director of “The Grudge,” as is quite painfully obvious. The tale of murders occurring years ago at a hotel, and the tape of said murders subsequently unlocking the ghouls contained therein, works as kind of a cross between “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” which is still creepy, if not a bit hackneyed.

“Unrest” is another one of the more frightening entries, and in its trailer, it claims to be the first horror film to make use of real bodies as props, a morbid, yet effective notion. When med students intending to dissect a body anger the corpse’s soul, they begin dropping like flies in a variety of ways.

“Dark Ride” is a hokey film, full of cheap startles and lacking in legitimate scares. Starring Jamie-Lynn Sigler of “The Sopranos” and an absolutely ageless Patrick Renna (who most moviegoers will recognize from “The Sandlot”), its tale of a madman loose in an amusement park ride is original, but fails to deliver.

“Wicked Little Things,” on the other hand, is most likely the best film of the festival. With the perfect blend of startles, a foreboding atmosphere, and out-and-out gore, it works on a variety of levels.

The “things” in question are a number of children who were buried alive in a mining accident almost a century ago and come back from the dead with blackened eyes and whitened skin to terrorize inhabitants of their town.

Rounding out the nefarious nine is “Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror,” a hilarious gorefest/slapstick that doesn’t make any doubts of its “Tales from the Hood” inspiration.

Along with its namesake, the film stars bigger names than any of the other entries, such as Billy Dee Williams (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi”) and Ernie Hudson (“Ghostbusters,” “Oz”). There is something admirable, even refreshing, about a movie that isn’t afraid of what it’s supposed to be; call it the “Snakes on a Plane” charm.

Horrorfest has a novel element to it, eight different films and a host of gory suprises.

The festival was a huge step in the resurgence of the horror genre, and After Dark has opened the flood gates (or “blood gates”) as far as shock value is concerned.

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