Longhairs: Allergic to Laughter?

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Yesterday was Creative Loafing’s annual Reel Terror Festival; twelve hours worth of independently produced local horror product. (Okay,produced by locals, as one full-length (Joe Davison’s Frost Bite) and one short (Ryan Sullivan’s Jack Swings) were actually shot out of state.

Armzka Productions was there in full force, supported by our favorite (and only) musical director Whirlyn. Somehow our entry, the (retitled) Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg, was accepted; allowing Leigh and myself to walk amongst those who debate whether Hellraiser really needs/deserves a reboot, or whether Halloween is the penultimate slasher.

Needless to say, we didn’t fit in. Leigh’s a highly trained journalist; so superfluous shots were immediately called out. As were the weak(er) scripts.

I, meanwhile, was much too busy playing with Villagio Cinema’s robotic chairs to pay much of this any mind. As if the playing the Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg wasn’t a big enough affront to common sense, they had us watching it from the deck of the Enterprise!

Realizing ahead of time that we might be men amongst trolls, we made the logical decision to emphasize our differences. Draw a line in the sand as it were. So we opted to come correct in suits; figuring that the unshaven horror masses would show up looking like What Not to Wear rejects: blue jeans and black shirts.

One small complication here was my failure to factor in FL’s cultural delay. Any fad that hits the nation hits FL years later. Which explains why the blue jeans and black shirts also came decked out in sports jackets. While you might not remember sport coats since it’s been ages since Kanye (re)popularized them (right after his pink polo phase), in Tampa they’re apparently the rage. Or just never became unpopular again; after people came to their senses realizing that any event worth getting dressed up for is also worth getting dressed up correctly for.

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Suit and tie, kids; they’re not optional when you’re trying to look nice.

Other than my churlishness towards those who don’t follow implied dress codes (it is a FESTIVAL after all!), the day went off relatively well. The Haunted Stroller being one of the chosen few of shorts only being shown once; mainly due to its tone I believe.

Most of Reel Terror’s selections were tradition in a sense. Glenn Register Jr.’s Resurrecting Evil was a slasher with a fantastic costuming job and one of the strongest sequences when Jack Hatchett murders a slew of hilariously detailed background characters. (The Hatchett image on the website doesn’t come close to looking as nice as he does in the film.)

Joe Davison’s Frost Bite was the traditional zombie movie. Pretty much pick Dawn of the Dead up (the original, not the remake) and drop it into Alaska and you have the gist of the plot. Town under seige by zombies, which later undergoes an attack by bandits. Bandits wearing Road Warrior gear in freezing Alaska.

It turns out Tampa isn’t the only edge of the United States’ state with cultural delay issues…

Jake Jalbert’s House Guest was a home invasion movie. Smaller budget (obviously) than the Purge and that other movie that came out where the killers wear animal masks and one female protagonist had a surprisingly strong role by Hollywood standards. While predictable in that sense, House Guest also had a ton of recognizable locations (shot in and around Seminole FL), a bizarre bathroom sequence where one of the characters, Seth (Nick Canning), runs into the bathroom and talks to himself about shitting while he’s shitting, and Seth also has what will soon be Armzka’s running gag: the pizza slap.

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Imagine taking on a madman armed only with a slice of pizza and you’ll understand.

(House Guest also stars Alex Vincent (the kid from the Child’s Play movies), but the real star is Poppa John’s flying pan pizza.)

Reel Terror’s shorts were equally predictable. Agrizoophobia was tough, as there were a lot of places it could’ve went, rather than just being one note. Dormant was a(nother) zombie film; this time done video-game style with out-of-place Army of Darkness quotes. Also an uncomfortably strong touch of racism.

The first zombie we see is just a black man sans make-up, chasing our white protagonist. At first we all thought, Okay, they’re rage virus “zombies” a la 28 Days Later. That worked until the other All the (white) zombies appeared with actual zombie make-up on. I guess the filmmakers felt the need to underline to the audience that white people can be a threat too.

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Then came Round Two of shorts, a series that would only get one play: Secret Family Recipe, You Are All Going to Die (starring Kato Kaelin, Rhonda Shear, and my next door neighbor all in one short!), and the Night the Haunted Stroller Ate St. Petersburg. A set of films all connected by their strong comedic aspects.

We naturally wondered why the funny films were pushed to the side like this. Was it purely due to logistics (x amount of films playing on three screens versus y amount of time)? Or is the horror crowd allergic to things outside the norm the same way they’re allergic to fashion?

(For the record, Leigh in our photo above started the day out in a suit and tie, but took the tie off after lunch. See how quickly improper dress spreads its evil tentacles?)

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