Okay, so there’s a Jewish film festival, a Queer film festival, a web festival, and some documentary festivals here and there, but there’s never any particular festival that celebrates the edginess and intensity of horror films or certain films that are so cool they make you freak out with excitement. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a horror film festival, unless The Haunted Saloon qualifies as one. Well, some of that got changed, thanks to the Vancouver Badass Film Festival, a festival with minimal selection of screenings happening only in the late afternoon/evening providing some of the most darkest and craziest films ever made. Shoutout to David Aboussafy for making this cool event happen, for about 5 years so far. Now here’s what happened.
Opening – Like all film festivals, there’s got to be an opening. I’ll say it right now, I’ve never attended an opening like this. Okay, sure, there was a cash bar and some free food which I will not go into detail about because I’m not a foodie (but Hollywood North Mealtime does sound like a good idea). But some time before the shows started, everyone was treated to an opening speech/show coordinated by Sean Covernton (playing one of his short film characters, Aleister Crane) and Shawna Mauchline (Gidget Gravedigger). Nothing says badass then those two being dressed up as Vampires and then putting on some horror plot-based magic tricks before a show. And if that wasn’t enough, they opened up the first screening as well by performing another trick involving a seance where Sean’s great great aunt Millicent possesses Sean and shows her mind-reading capabilities. Those two put on the most entertaining opening and the greatest magic show I have seen in years.
Polterheist – Nothing starts things off like a film about ghosts, our friends trying to connect from the 5th dimension (or wherever they are). Before that film started, everyone was treated to two short films. The first was Parlour Tricks, a period like film in grayscale featuring Sean’s character Aleister as he performed a seance with some guests in order to get in contact with a long lost family member. It was a mix between funny and ominous, I never thought I could get entertained from watching something of this subject. After that came Young Blood, which told the story of a car thief who managed to rob a place only to lose his car keys and take a different car with a little kid in it. He gets reprimanded by his partner in crime and anyone else involved which leads to a little silliness and goes further into a bloody mess. That short film was strange but interesting, and it even showed that sometimes, people can change their ways. Sometimes.
Now to move on to Polterheist. Tarik and his incompetent partner Boxy have one troublesome task to handle which is paying Tarik’s uncle a large fee, and finding the lost corpse of their old friend Frank. After hearing how a Psychic named Alice has helped the police with finding some dead bodies, the two men get her to assist in communicating with their deceased pal. After Frank manages to possess Alice’s body, the three go on a wild goose chase to find the missing money and it almost always goes out of hand. Director explained that this interesting combination of two plots (and maybe even two genres) was mostly based on incidents that happened in Bradford, a place where he grew up. The film is an interesting combination which comes off as both funny and even creepy, and it really excites the audience and gets them entertained at the same time.
Perfect Skin – Films that were made in the flesh? Look, I’m trying. Starting off this screening was a short film called Skin Deep showing the story of an elderly woman selling croissants who peels some of her exterior to show her beautiful interior. This short film was actually kind of disgusting messed up, but it did show an interesting story about women. The next short film was Red Moon, which was extremely short and showed a man trying to get things done in the evening. All while a red moon is in the sky. A simple but scary film.
Now Perfect Skin tells the story of a young woman named Katya who just got evicted from her home and now lives with a friend who lets her stay. While her friend is gone to meet up with her sick mother, Katya almost blows the rent money on drugs and alcohol only to get caught and captured by a friendly looking tattoo artist named Bob who traps her in his top secret dungeon and changes her to a woman to his liking using piercings and permanent ink. Truly a very twisted and frightening feature. Those effects looked so realistic it was crazy. It also makes me want to avoid tattoos even further. Aside from my clinical phobia of needles and my soviet-era viewpoint on body ink, now I’m afraid of potential mutilation from an insane old guy who looks like Christopher Walken.
World Shorts – Short films don’t just appear before the feature screenings, but also in small sections of their own. The World Shorts featured a wide variety of gruesome films, hilarious films, very very short films, but the majority of them were pretty much strange. Some of the most intense films included The Tattooist which showed what body art felt like, Ah Beanshi had a lot of red, and got extremely freaky with a wide variety of creepy characters, and Freak Dream was probably the craziest thing ever seen. However on the more funnier side was Johnny Colorado, an interesting short about a not-so average joe heading out to do a job interview. Piety was probably one of the more extreme ones featuring certain erm, specimens on screen. One person may have left in disgust. The film talks about a couple sex workers who are tasked with a job disposing the body of a friend’s lover. It was kind of a sad but silly ending. Luchador was a rather strange film telling the story about a Mexican boy who discovers the power of his family’s luchador mask helping him take out two alley thugs. Bonus Experiment told a great lesson in selection of women, proving to be good and funny and even sexy science. There’s lots more, but they’re all pretty well made and some even a bit too short to discuss.
A Mata Negra – Before the first feature of Day 2 screened, audience were treated to two short films. The first being Captured, a short film about a man who photographs a run down shack in the woods only for his phone to become possessed and then he and his girlfriend deal with a strange curse in the house. Pretty creepy if you ask me. Following that was Astray, an animated film about a girl who explores a mansion. It’s extremely ominous and there’s something very Addams Family about it. It’s pretty interesting.
Now onto the feature, A Mata Negra is an intense film. As an old man finally passes away, his adopted daughter decides to take care of things on her own and move out of the little village with a satchel of gold that she found. After nearly dying during a robbery, she starts indulging in rituals from a book she found, causing the locals to go on a witch hunt after her while she braves the elements and finds ways to get even with those who wronged her. This is one of those films that slowly gets disturbing, and frightens one through the crazy visuals that occur.
North American Shorts – Now to stick to content that isn’t worldwide. Some films were extremely freaky and frightening. Some films were kind of silly. For the extremely freaky and frightening, there was Tick which wasn’t about a big guy in a tight blue costume, but little girl running from agents on the intent of hunting down certain people in a year much further from now. Ave Maria had facts about the writer of the song and featured disturbing visuals of a masked cult torturing a man in a style that I’ve kind of witnessed myself. The longest and probably most edgiest of these was Five Minute Rush. Documenting the tale of a criminal sneaking undercover into his bosses’ drug stash, the film is nerve-racking as it shows scenes of torture, combat, and a lot of crazy plot that goes in different directions. The director explained that it was made as a pitch, it should only be some time before someone picks it up and turns it into a series. Now for the somewhat silly, nothing was more ridiculous and enjoyable than The Most Interesting Man in Show Business, a film about the life of a stunt double. Not just any stunt double, but one particular stunt double who executes his moves with ease AND is a chick magnet. One that actually went from frightening to humorous was My Monster, where a couple cope with a strange phenomenon of some kind of blood-hungry monster who ends up living there after getting what he wants. Things turn around in an awkward fashion on that one. Fun And Games was another good one which had people on edge when a little boy finds Daddy’s gun and plays with it flailing around the firearm causing people to freak out when it’s going to go off. One of everyone’s personal favourites was The Devil and I. Made by some close friends in Bad Cookie Productions, The Devil And I is a simple story about a lady who gets tense about her brother and his lover, until a talking dog comes by to offer his strange demonic help. It was really good to watch. I don’t see enough films like that these days.
Amazon Hot Box – Before I get into that one, I might as well bring up that the short film before that was 30th Night. 30th Night was a short film about an imprisoned woman who somehow turns into a furry beast. It’s a great blend of plots. It’s pretty much a horrorized version of those tv shows about women in prison. Now about Amazon Hot Box, I know Darren has done some coverage on the film. But let me give my perspective on the production. It’s an interesting film that shows bad girls getting taken far away to a prison on an exotic land. When one of the prison’s generals goes missing, it’s time for a new female face to take over the leadership duties at the female prison run by males. But that’s not the only tension going on as inmates seem to struggle with each other. Newcomer Penny finds herself feuding with longtime convict Val who has the reputation of having control over most of the girls forcing them to do sexual favours for her. Things don’t get any better when a female bounty hunter comes around to scope out one of the men working there. It was some crazy wild stuff and a great way to end the 2nd night.
Awards Show – While 2 of 3 days were at Vancity Theatre, the awards ceremony and final day was at Rio Theatre, which is much larger in size and has a few more suitable options. I wasn’t in full attendance for the whole day, but that’s because the two features of the day Knuckleball and The Hollow Child have been covered. So I’ll just go right into the awards ceremony and tell you how that one went. The awards ceremony consisted of a mixture of things that took turns on the stage. We had 7 films showcased between breaks for the first part. A common discussed film of that part was Ramshackle Blues which was all about a couple who robbed people for fun, only for the two to come across hard times. Bucket Heads was an interesting taste of something else, in a way as it was a Star Wars subject film, complete with costumes and scenery. Mad Santa gave a hilarious vibe showing a man dissatisfied with not getting a mall Santa job and getting revenge on the mall owner. That one gave me more joy than the holiday season itself (I don’t really like the holiday season). There’s quite a lot of shorts, about 14-16 but they were a majority of crazy good. Shuttlecock from Crazy 8’s actually managed to sneak itself in there. The event was hosted by Mister Nickel and Samantha Mack who wore some fine outfits and presented awards in very creative styles. Aside from awards, they also introduced different members of Caravan of Curiousities, which consisted of acts including snakes with strippers, and an orb juggling fellow named Burns the Dragon who lit up the show with some fire tricks. I could actually feel the heat of his impressive act. Now there is a good amount of awards, and while the cast/crew of Ramshackle Blues were constantly calling out their names as winners (despite only winning one), the most awards went to Polterheist which won Best Feature, Best Actress, and Best Writing. It definitely is a personal favourite of mine. And for the first time ever, came a new award called the Badass award to be given to the true owner of the title for the year. First ever was none other than David himself for starting up this particular festival. This was an incredible and amazing show.
A.M.I. – The Final film of the fest. A film that shows how dangerous a phone can be. One young lady gets her newest phone app set with some creepy stalking software and soon she becomes more than attached. She becomes psycho. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to give away too much or reuse one of my dead jokes. Let’s just say it was a good closer. And stay tuned for Shaun’s review on the film. VBAFF was pretty cool for year 5 and I’m hoping to see even more cool stuff next year.