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The Reeler Blog

Horror Fest Goes to School

By John Lichman

Dark and stormy nights aside, one of October's best local draws is the New York City Horror Film Festival, now in its seventh year with only the finest in terms of slashers, thrillers, ghost stories -- and Eli Roth. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the fest made a change from the second most evil spot in the city (Tribeca) to the focal point of all shattered dreams, creepy-crawlies and sheer terror -- namely, the Cantor Center at NYU.

Boll game: A scene from Uwe Boll's over-the-top Seed, screening at the New York City Horror Film Festival (Photo: Freestyle Releasing)

"Trust me, it's not going to be the boring crap you have to put up with in school," said Michael Hein, the festival's programmer and founder. And though that may mean no extra screenings of C.H.U.D. 2, it does happen to be a change from the more traditional slasher for the fest with the inclusion of features Death of a Ghost Hunter -- a faux-doc where a crew happens to make contact with a ghost -- and the noir-ish Nobody, as a hitman is hunted down by a nameless and faceless man through the streets.

But then there are more traditional horror entries like Seed, by the one and only Dr. Uwe Boll. "One thing's for sure, this film is brutal," Hein told The Reeler. "This is one definitely for fans that love the gory horror films." Screening out of competition is Blood Rails, which Hein himself produced; it does have some inventive kills, he said, but is a straightforward slasher. Thursday, NYCHFF will host a special screening of Eli Roth's Hostel, featuring the film's long-rumored alternate ending (spoiler: it technically predates Hostel Part II's use of child death as gratuitous plot point). Hein said that Roth has been great for the fest in terms of referring films without ever submitting his own work; he discovered Roth would be in town promoting the sequel's DVD release and simply asked if NYU’s enfant terrible would show the never-screened ending. Roth will appear after the screening for a Q&A, so he'll be available for all those follow-ups after telling Nikki Finke earlier this week that "it's someone else's turn to take over spilling blood and guts."

And what about honoring splatsploitation kingpin Herschell Gordon Lewis (2000 Maniacs, Blood Feast) with the fest's annual Lifetime Achievement Award? Is it Hein's way of thumbing his nose at the outrage of people like Finke against Roth, Lewis and other practitioners of "torture porn"?

"I don't think that's what I was trying to say with Herschell getting the award this year," Hein said. "I just think the man's time is due. Here's a guy that was making gore films 10 years before Romero was making Night of the Living Dead. Here's a guy who had the balls to put this stuff on film before anybody was thinking of it. The horror fans -- I'm a major horror fan myself -- are not going to look at it as, 'This guy's a pornographer, this guy's just trying to make a buck.' Which is what a lot of film professors would say." Indeed, location notwithstanding, class is definitely not in session.

The New York City Horror Film Festival runs Oct. 24 - 28 at Cantor Film Center; the opening night party will be hosted at Don Hill's tonight at 7. Visit the festival's Web site for ticket and program information.

Posted at October 24, 2007 11:38 AM

Comments (1)

Jeez, Lewis has done everything to say that he's all about exploitation for exploitation's sake. I mean, how much more explicit can he get than in quotes like this:

"I see filmmaking as a business and pity anyone who regards it as an art form."

He had no illusions about the notion that his films were exploitation at its pinnacle. It's not just textbook-thumping professors: he was in it for the money and shocking folks was the way to do it.

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