Horrorfest not for the lame of heart

'Tis the season of flesh-eating ghouls, candy apples and razor blades and the latest installment in the "Saw" series.

Fortunately for you, I have not watched a single "Saw" movie and won't be writing about one here.

However, I did endure six or so fright films at this year's Killer Valley Horror Film Festival held last Friday at Land Mine Studios on Fir Street. And since you weren't there I served as your eyes and ears, sitting passively as images of cannibalism, rat torture, castration and go-go dancing flickered across the screen.

The festival is the brainchild of Medford's Randy Granstrom, who worked on a short film that premiered this year. Granstrom seems serious about films and such, but his lack of pretension is refreshing among creative types. Especially film geeks. They're the worst.

Granstrom said he works and worries late into the night planning and securing films for the festival. All the while his lovely wife lies silent in their cold, cold marriage bed. For this, I believe the community owes it to him to make the festival a success in the coming years.

The crowd was skimpy Friday, due partially to a misprint in the Mail Tribune which said the festival was held at 327 FIRST Street, not Fir Street. Granstrom welcomed me with open arms, though he did say the flub was akin to a railroad spike to the groin.

Below are a few films that struck a chord, with added commentary from this horror film fan.


The fest kicked off with this arty little film made in Ashland. Shot in black and white and captured on what appeared to be 8 mm film, "eRATicate" is the type of film Tim Burton cut his teeth on in college.

It tells the story of a young woman and her darling pet rats. The rodents are her only companions in a hard, cruel world where good men are in short supply. The film is silent with the dialogue provided by old-school placards out of the '20s.

In comes a lucky fella who captures the woman's heart, much to the chagrin of her rodent paramours. Of course, the boy turns out to be a heartless Cro-Mag who takes pleasure in seeing the rats suffer. The rats plot revenge. The rats then exact their revenge. The audience cheers.

As I said, the production values are good here. The 8 mm look takes us back to the days before digital, when first-time filmmakers chopped their work form reels upon reels of celluloid, praying they got the shots they needed before the money ran out.

The kiddies could watch "eRATicate" without too much psychological trauma in their later years. The film is posted on YouTube. Just type the title in the search bar and enjoy.


Things got nastier after "eRATicate." The Eugene-shot "Depraved" is a female revenge film cut from the cloth of David Cronenburg's "Rabid" and the '70s masterpiece of cathartic filth "I Spit on Your Grave."

"Depraved" is notable for its fractured structure, which leaves the audience confused as time shifts without warning. The film begins with a moody young woman — dyed black hair, hollow eyes — strapped to a wheelchair. How did she get there? Who is she?

Turns out a pack of brutal meatheads spend their days rounding up young women and selling them to local sadists to satiate their awful needs. This young woman manages to escape and is determined not to let her disability stop her from seeking vengeance.

And what vengeance it is, though we do not arrive at the payoff in a linear fashion. The film cuts between the young woman as a victim and the soulless killing machine she becomes after her flight.

We watch as she stalks her attackers one at a time. We have low camera shots of a man's feet passing before the camera followed by the squeaky wheels of our heroine's wheelchair. I didn't know whether I was meant to laugh or vomit and weep.

I'm not giving too much away by saying she achieves her goals, though the price revenge takes on the human soul is captured beautifully in the final image.

Zombies, zombies everywhere

The zombie film is popular among independent filmmakers. They are often cheap to make — just ask George Romero — and are usually effective when an ounce of care is taken when writing the script.

The horrorfest gave us three zombie films, two shorts and one full feature. Granstrom directed the shorts "Gog Bar" and its sequel "Gog Juice." The shorts are commercials of fictional "Gog" products, which are marketed in the time of zombie apocalypse.

The films use smash editing popular in commercials to show a world — in this case the streets of east Medford — overrun by the living dead. A terrified survivor, played by local actor Levi Anderson, spends the shorts running for his life until he discovers a Gog candy bar. The food is advertised to stave off zombie attack. He devours the bar hoping it will serve to dissuade the zombies from eating him.

Like Romero's zombie epics, the Gog commercials are parodies of corporate advertising and consumerism. Let's just say the effects Gog products have on the living human body are as unpleasant as living death.

Finally, we had "Zombie a Go Go" which starred a handful of locals I recognize from grocery stores and bars throughout Medford. Weird to see them in various stages of undress and slathered in cheesy makeup.

The look of "Go Go" resembles a young Jeffrey Dahmer's color book. It was shot with cartoonish backgrounds on a soundstage. The story features three unlucky go-go dancers dispatched to a party thrown by a voodoo witch doctor. Little do they know the party is really a resurrection coming out party for his dead wife. Things go crazy from there.

"Go Go" draws its inspiration from humorous zombie films such as "Shaun of the Dead" and "Fido." I can dig it, but my young experiences with zombie films have scarred me in such a way that I have trouble laughing my way through an undead flick. I blame my mother for allowing me to watch "Night of the Living Dead" when I was 7. She and her friend Peggy laughed at me as I hid behind the couch sobbing after the picture ended.

International flavor

The horrorfest went international this year with a cheerful little film titled "Langliena: Una Storia Macabra." I do not speak Italian, but if the title means "curious young man enters a creepy barn only to find a flesh-eating ghoul chained to a post surrounded by body parts hanging from meat hooks while said ghoul chants the words 'Feed me' over and over again causing the young man to flee in terror only to find the ghoul's keeper has tracked him to his home and soon he becomes a permanent resident of the creepy barn" then I would say it is an accurate description of the plot.

The real star of "Langliena" is the makeup artist, who is apparently well-respected in Italian horror circles. There's nothing cheesy about the ghoul. The director is smart to keep it partially hidden in the shadows, because the pieces of it we do see are nearly unbearable.

The Italians are adept horror mavens. They do well in achieving a balance between the explicit and the obscure. "Langliena" director Emiliano Ranzani could make waves if given an opportunity at a full-length feature.

As usual, the horrorfest was a mixed bag. Some were good. Some were bad. All were ugly. Film festivals are schizophrenic affairs, though I have always found at least one interesting film no matter what the venue. Organizers say you can see them for yourself in coming weeks at sidfilmz.com.

The Killer Valley Horror Film Festival may not be your idea of a good time, but I hope everyone can appreciate the efforts of local artists who take time from their families and day jobs to do something creative. Even if it involves brain eating.

Reach reporter Chris Conradat 776-4471

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