Due to other scheduling conflicts my first day at AHITH fell on what was actually the festival’s fourth day. Thanks to the constant rain pour that San Francisco has been receiving over the past few days, the setting was just right for a night of horror.
Starting things off was Justin Benson‘s feature-length debut that left more questions than answers, which, in this case, was not such a bad thing.
In the name of compassion and friendship Michael, after getting a weird video e-mail, takes a trip into the boonies to help his best bud, Chris, kick his drug habit. In this case “to help” means handcuffing his best mate to a poll for 7 days until the drugs are completely out of his system. Inevitably, things do start to get weird as Michael keeps finding audio tapes, films, slides, and a VHS cassette, each with their own personal and sinister message. It’s at this point that the movie turns from horror/drama to a horror/mystery.
Even though the portrayal of Chris as a drug addict wasn’t that convincing (coming from someone who has had drug addicts in his life) his acting was still good enough to keep me entertained. And really, what more can I ask for in a genre-themed film festival than to be entertained throughout the duration of a movie?
Step right up! Step right up! See audience members bludgeoned to death with a crowbar. Witness resurrections of evil spirits. Gasp as your host chews on a glass lightbulb… and then swallows it. Or, have yourself a good laugh, as I did, at this film version of the off-Broadway hit.
Essentially this is a haunted stage show/magic act, only the tricks are bloodier, and the humor is darker than most magic shows. The effect of seeing Play Dead as a movie was extremely funnier than it was scary. Having never seen the stage show, I had a lot of trouble feeling the fear that so many of the live audience were showing, especially since most of the fear is dependent on the theatre room being pitch black, as it was for the stage show.
My main issue with this movie is that the director can’t decide if he wanted the audience to be in on the joke, or if he was trying to recreate the live show experience. flip-flopping between the two only left me feeling frustrated, regardless of how captivating the magician/entertainer was.
Any fan of magic, and/or storytelling will probably eat this right up.