Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows.
Get ready for a fright at the Film Society of Lincoln Center with the return of the annual horror fest Scary Movies. The 8th edition of the series, taking place October 31 – November 6, will bow Halloween evening with a screening of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows, followed by a vampire-themed party.
The hilarious Sundance hit centers on vampire roommates who try to get by in a modern world that’s not always hospitable to the undead. Werewolves also figure prominently in this year's Scary Movies lineup, with Jonas Alexander Arnby’s When Animals Dream, about a young woman grappling with the onset of her hereditary “condition,” and Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases, about an blind retirement-home resident (Nick Damici, who will be present for post-screening Q&A) contending with monster attacks that coincide with the full moon.
Additional selections include Among the Living, from dynamic French filmmaking duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (responsible for the genre classic Inside), and The Harvest, John McNaughton’s first horror film since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and his first film in 15 years, as well as two first-rate creature features, Jack Heller’s Dark Was the Night and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s Spring.
David Gregory’s Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau will be the first documentary ever screened in this series. Also on tap are Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer's Starry Eyes; Cub, Belgian filmmaker Jonas Govaerts's knockout feature debut in which Cub Scouts are stalked by an unseen threat; and two When Animals Attack offerings: Adam MacDonald’s brand-new Toronto hit Backcountry and Robert Clouse’s 1977 dogs-gone-wild treat The Pack, in a rare 35mm screening. Additional retrospective titles include William A. Fraker’s dreamy A Reflection of Fear, and, on closing night, a pair of ’80s gems: Dick Maas’s highly entertaining police-procedural/slasher mashup Amsterdamned and Gerald Kargl’s deeply disturbing serial-killer opus Angst. Both are rarely screened; neither will be easily forgotten.
Scary Movies is programmed by Film Comment's Laura Kern and Gavin Smith.
[Tickets are now on sale. Admission is $13 for General Public; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members. See more and save with the $99 All Access Pass (valid for one ticket to every screening in the series) or the 3+ film discount package starting at $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. Note: The All Access Pass is available for purchase exclusively online. Visit filmlinc.com for more information.]
Dick Maas' Amsterdamned.
Scary Movies films, descriptions, and schedule follow:
What We Do in the Shadows (Opening Night)
Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi, New Zealand, 2014, DCP, 86m
Kiwi collaborators Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement have double-handedly reinvented the worn-out mockumentary genre with What We Do in the Shadows, which they co-wrote, co-directed, and co-star in. It features four vampire roommates who reveal to us—or rather the camera crew that’s documenting them—the details of their nocturnal life. Ranging in age from 183 to 8,000, and in appearance from adorably youthful to Nosferatu-crusty, this endearingly unhip bunch squabble over household chores, go to clubs, struggle to keep up with the latest technology and fashion trends, and antagonize the local werewolves whenever their paths cross. But, don’t forget, they’re also fang-bearing fiends, and the film doesn’t shy away from carnage. Bloody, hilarious, and ultra-quotable, this brilliant horror-comedy that wins every festival audience award its eligible for demands repeat viewings. Following the screening, join us for a vampire-themed Halloween celebration! A Unison Films/Paladin release.
October 31, 8:00pm (followed by Halloween party)
Angst (Closing Night)
Gerald Kargl, Austria, 1983, 35mm, 83m
German with English subtitles
It’s said that “once a killer, always a killer.” And, indeed, for the unnamed psychopath at the center of Angst, 10 years of jail time for murder has done nothing to keep his demons at bay. The day he is released, he immediately feels the urge to kill again, and attempts to do just that with one of the first people he encounters. When that fails, he moves on to an isolated house, where a series of violent acts take place that are hard to watch but impossible to look away from. That’s partly because the killer, loosely based on real-life madman Werner Kniesek, is played by Erwin Leder with brilliant creepiness, and partly because the jarringly deglamorized violence is depicted with uncustomary realism. Angst might almost feel documentary-like if it weren’t so stylized—with stunning camerawork by Zbigniew Rybczynski, who also edited and co-wrote the script; score by one-time Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze; and direction by Gerald Kargl, who sadly never went on to make another film. Those with a cast-iron stomach and the necessary willpower can now see Angst on 35mm, and discover for themselves why Kargl’s film maudit, practically unseen in the U.S., has become a semi-legendary object well on its way to cult status, and why it’s been such a monumental inspiration for shock-cinema provocateur Gaspar Noé, who calls the film “one of the masterpieces of the decade.” A deeply disturbing yet spellbinding experience. (Warning: the film was banned in numerous countries and originally rated X.)
November 6, 9:00pm (followed by reception, with Viva Radio)
Among the Living
Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, France, 2014, DCP, 90m
French with English subtitles
The final installment in dynamic French shock duo Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s trilogy of American-inspired horror flicks, following 2007’s gloriously grotesque Inside and 2011’s creepy old-dark-house tale Livide (sadly shelved by its U.S. distributor). Stand by Me and The Hills Have Eyes are among the influences on this story of three 14-year-old boys who stumble across an abandoned movie backlot, where they witness events straight out of the most terrifying of horror movies, involving the remaining members of the unhinged family we meet in the film’s astounding opening: a father and the mutant son he’ll do anything to protect. The boys get away unharmed but neither cops nor parents believe their story. Yet in fear of their hideaway being uncovered, Dad sends his “monster child” to track down the boys in a pursuit so nerve-wracking and carnage-filled you just might forget to breathe.
November 4, 9:00pm
Dick Maas, The Netherlands, 1988, digital projection, 109m
Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin, and English with English subtitles
Somewhere in between frightening audiences with a lethal elevator in The Lift and a murderous Santa Claus in Saint, innovative Dutch writer-director Dick Maas made this delicious blend of police procedural and slasher film with a diver lurking beneath Amsterdam’s canals as the killer. While the scuba-masked psycho leaves a long trail of dismembered bodies behind him, single-father cop Eric (Huub Stapel) and his partner investigate, receiving a little help from John (Wim Zomer), an old friend who works for the river police, and museum guide/diving enthusiast Laura (Monique van de Ven) whom he meets on the job and falls for. Featuring top-notch kill scenes and extravagant action, plus some truly bad hair, outfits, and acting, the fast-paced, nasty, and blackly funny Amsterdamned is pure ’80s—meaning awesome—entertainment long out of circulation in the U.S.
November 6, 6:30pm
Adam MacDonald, Canada, 2014, DCP, 91m
In this tightly constructed survival story, a young couple’s romantic camping trip in a National Park goes from bad to worse—much worse. While city girl Jen (Missy Peregrym) seems more attached to her smartphone than to her semi-employed boyfriend Alex (Jeff Roop), she reluctantly goes along with his proposal to introduce her to the wonders of the wilderness he experienced as a kid after he assures her that he knows the forest like the back of his hand. Alex fancies himself as quite the outdoorsman, but after an ambiguous and quietly tense encounter with a tracker (Eric Balfour), he manages to get them both hopelessly lost—and that’s only the beginning of their problems. They’re running low on food and water, and in the night they realize they are not alone—and whatever’s out there is hungry. For those who get creeped out by the great outdoors, this gory, gut-wrenching shocker, featuring a knockout performance by Peregrym, is coming to get you.
November 3, 8:45pm
Jonas Govaerts, Belgium, 2014, DCP, 85m
Dutch and French with English subtitles
After a chilling prologue involving a terrified girl frantically trying to escape an unseen menace, we cut to a troop of preteen Cub Scouts and two capable twentysomething Scout Leaders (plus their cute female cook) heading into the woods for a summer camping trip. Will any of them be coming back? Twelve-year-old Sam (Maurice Luijten), a scrappy loner from an abusive family, starts investigating the whereabouts of Kai, a creature that lives in the woods—at least according to the campfire tale the scout leaders tell to scare the kids. The next morning the scouts awake to find various items have been stolen and suspicion falls on Sam. Wandering off into the woods, Sam thinks he finds proof that Kai is real, although there’s actually something far more cunning out there waiting for hapless victims to enter its forest lair—and in the time-honored tradition, nobody believes him until it’s too late. In his riveting, smart, and skillfully directed feature debut, Jonas Govaerts creates a nightmare of relentless feral horror with a truly shocking finale, and in the process goes to the head of the class among the next generation of horror directors.
October 31, 6:00pm
November 5, 9:15pm
Jonas Alexander Arnby's When Animals Dream.
Dark Was the Night
Jack Heller, USA, 2014, DCP, 94m
A refreshingly old-school monster movie, Jack Heller’s sophomore feature is character-driven, beautifully framed and shot (by Ryan Samul, Jim Mickle’s regular DP), and wholly entertaining. The main characters, sheriff Paul Shields (The Strain’s Kevin Durand—finally a leading man!) and his deputy, Donny Saunders (Lukas Haas), are likable and broody as befits their traumatic backstories—but their quiet, small-town lives are put to the test when an ancient creature, apparently driven out of its forest habitat by the activities of a logging company, begins preying on the local livestock as well as its human residents. The panicked townspeople must band together to battle the beast, and face their own demons in the process.
November 1, 6:00pm (followed by Q&A director Jack Heller and actor Kevin Durand)
John McNaughton, USA, 2013, DCP, 104m
In his first film in nearly 15 years, the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer harks back to the depravity that made his 1986 debut a horror milestone. But less based in reality, The Harvest is closer to a fairy tale from Grimm’s darkest corners. Maryann (an impressive Natasha Calis) moves in with her grandparents after she’s orphaned. Desperately lonely, the preteen sets out to befriend a neighboring deathly ill, bed-ridden boy (Charlie Tahan, also very good), despite the outright disapproval of his mother (Samantha Morton). Maryann’s persistence pays off, however, and during a series of secret visits she gradually uncovers some seriously sinister goings-on in the house… Morton as the boy’s overprotective surgeon mom is the stuff of great screen villainy—at once utterly monstrous and tragically desperate—so much so that she makes even frequent heavy Michael Shannon, as the more subdued dad, pale in comparison.
November 5, 7:00pm
Adrián García Bogliano, USA, DCP, 2014, 95m
The ever-reliable character actor Nick Damici (Cold in July, Dark Was the Night, also screening here) has never been so commanding as he is in Late Phases—in a rare lead role, playing quite older than his years as Ambrose, a hard-ass blind Vietnam vet who moves to a retirement home after the death of his wife. On his first day in his new “safe” haven, Ambrose finds a mysterious claw embedded in the wallpaper, and things go rapidly haywire from there. He’s mauled in a strange animal attack that leaves his friendly neighbor dead—and it turns out these attacks are a monthly occurrence, synchronized to the full moon… A thematic departure and the first English-language film for Mexico-based, Argentina-born director Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil), this satisfying chiller is not to be missed. An MPI/Dark Sky Films release.
November 1, 9:00pm (followed by Q&A with Nick Damici)
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau
David Gregory, UK/USA, 2014, DCP, 98m
If Apocalypse Now hadn’t already established that going into the jungle with Marlon Brando to make a movie is a bad idea, this off-the-charts outrageous story of the dysfunctional production of the 1996 horror-movie remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau settles things. Here’s the recipe for how not to make a movie about a tropical island where a mad scientist creates half-human half animal mutants: take one visionary, decidedly weird, and in-over-his-head South African filmmaker (Richard Stanley), one tyrannical Hollywood burn-out replacement director (John Frankenheimer), one egomaniacal star (Val Kilmer), one 300-pound certified acting genius (Brando), then toss in a crew losing their minds, stir slowly, and voilà: an epic cinematic travesty for the ages. There’s hilarious first-hand testimony from cast members Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, and Rob Morrow plus assorted salty Australian production personnel, but with Frankenheimer and Brando dead and Kilmer not returning phone calls, the true star of the film is Richard Stanley himself, who tells all with admirable composure. Folks, you can’t make up this stuff up.
November 3, 6:30pm
Robert Clouse, USA, 1977, 35mm, 95m
“Last summer they were pets. Now they are predators.” So goes the tagline for this vintage title from the When Animals Attack pantheon, brought to you by the director of Enter the Dragon. Led by a vicious mongrel, dogs abandoned by summer vacationers form a ravenous pack of man-eaters that terrorizes the island community’s few permanent residents in search of a square meal. Seventies tough-guy icon Joe Don Baker plays the marine biologist who rallies the surviving inhabitants and a luckless fishing party of bankers and holes up to prepare for a siege by Man’s Not So Best Friend. Robert Clouse assembles a strong supporting cast (R.G Armstrong, Richard B. Schull, and Bibi Besch) but you’ll have to see for yourself which ones end up as dog food. Set on an island that’s curiously devoid of telephones, The Pack was shot in Bodega Bay, making it an unmistakable four-legged homage to The Birds. Call it Enter the Canine.
November 1, 2:00pm
Robert Clouse's The Pack.
A Reflection of Fear
William A. Fraker, USA, 1973, 35mm, 89m
Renowned cinematographer William A. Fraker, perhaps best known for Rosemary’s Baby, naturally hired one of the best—Laszlo Kovacs—to shoot his own film A Reflection of Fear, the second of his three features, and his only directorial venture into horror. Their collaboration resulted in a transfixing work with an unusual, dream-like look, as if filtered through fog, and a spectacularly cinematic setting: a sprawling desolate estate house where 16-year-old Marguerite (Sondra Locke) lives with her overbearing mother (Mary Ure). A severely troubled science geek whose closest confidantes are her creepy dolls, Marguerite desperately yearns for her absentee father (Robert Shaw), but when her wishes come true and he suddenly shows up with his girlfriend (Sally Kellerman), his presence throws the all-female household seriously off kilter. Things are not what they seem to be; and people soon start turning up dead. A Reflection of Fear is a genuinely unsettling Gothic psycho-thriller that relies mostly on sheer dread-filled atmosphere (in part because the film was notoriously censored to secure a PG rating) to slowly get under your skin—and stay there for a long time to come.
November 2, 4:00pm
Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, USA, 2014, DCP, 109m
Cementing the promise Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead showed with 2012’s Resolution, Spring is a bona fide original that invests its supernatural horrors with a genuinely romantic undertow. After his mother dies and he loses his job, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) impulsively jumps on the next flight to Europe to run away from his problems. He meets three British lads and travels with them to an Italian coastal village, and in this idyllic setting he is soon drawn to the charming and elusive Louise (Nadiar Hiker). Staying on after the Brits decamp, he waits every night to meet up with this woman and before long they are falling in love—but little does he know that she harbors a terrifying secret. Louise suffers from a mysterious affliction that causes her body to mutate and drives her to feed off whoever crosses her path. You may think you know what’s coming next, but what follows defies standard genre categories and, in the name of love, brings Evan face to face with monstrous primordial forces rooted in a realm that’s nothing short of mythic. A Drafthouse Films release.
November 2, 7:00pm
Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer, USA, DCP, 2014, 98m
A modern masterwork of body horror, Starry Eyes is a biting and increasingly gruesome depiction of the lengths people will go to in the name of success. Striving young actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) finds her life dramatically transformed when she tries out for the lead role in The Silver Scream, a film to be produced by a legitimate if not wholly reputable studio. The first audition, conducted by two intimidating weirdos, sends her tumbling into a dark and revealing place—and two further callbacks push her over the edge. As she descends into psychosis, Sarah begins to literally fall apart, and Essoe’s fearless performance (and her own first starring role to boot) fully engages you as her character violently disengages. An MPI/Dark Sky Films release.
November 2, 8:30pm
When Animals Dream
Jonas Alexander Arnby, Denmark, 2014, DCP, 84m
Danish with English subtitles
Being a teenage girl is traumatizing enough. Being a teenage girl who learns she is gradually transforming into a monster is way worse. Marie (promising newcomer Sonia Suhl) begins seeing signs that she’s inherited the werewolf curse from her mother, who’s practically a vegetable due to heavy sedation. Her father (Lars Mikkelsen) and the family doctor try to medicate Marie as well, but she refuses this safety measure, preferring to embrace the hairy beast she’s becoming. As small-town rumors swirl, she’s deemed a threat by her fish-factory co-workers—all of whom cast shun her, with the exception of Daniel (Jakob Oftebro), the extraordinarily loyal boy she’s fallen for. Both a melancholy coming-of-age film, and a tragedy-tinged tale of young love, When Animals Dream recalls Let the Right One In with its raw and moody feel, and its structure, built on slow character development and then topped off with a merciless unleashing of carnage and revenge. A RADiUS-TWC release.
November 4, 7:00pm