The Second Annual St. Louis Film Festival runs October 18-October 22
The second annual Hysteria Fest kicks off this Wednesday, October 18th, at Arkadin. This year, along with playing the best films currently on the festival circuit, is going to be a retrospective of the French Extremity Movement, as the festival ends with a 15-year anniversary screening of the film Martyrs.
Some of the highlights of the festival includes The Once and Future Smash, which screens both Thursday and Friday nights at 8pm, on a double bill with the film-within-a-film End Zone 2. The Once and Future Smash is a clever and hilarious mockumentary that playfully dissects the conventions of horror cinema while providing a delightful glimpse into the intertwined journeys of two aging actors. With tongues firmly in cheek, these two thespians claim to be the notorious killer in the fictional film, End Zone 2, and their antics are pure comedy gold.
This mockumentary manages to be both funny and reverent, striking a balance between parody and homage. The comedic chemistry between the two leads is undeniable.
The film doesn’t just rely on humor, though; it pays homage to the horror genre with great affection. It’s an affectionate wink at the horror conventions we’ve come to love, all while maintaining a deep respect for the genre.
The Once and Future Smash is a refreshing take on the mockumentary format, offering a window into the quirky world of two actors who refuse to let age hinder their quest for notoriety and fame. If you’re a fan of horror, comedy, or simply enjoy films that challenge the boundaries of both, this one is definitely worth a watch. It’s a genuinely hilarious and reverent look at the eccentricities of both the horror genre and the indomitable spirit of those who dare to chase their dreams.
Again, The Once and Future Smash and End Zone 2 both screen October 19th and 20th at 8pm. On Thursday, October 19th at 6pm is the Australian horror film Bliss of Evil. Bliss of Evil is a cinematic time capsule, a nostalgic throwback to the gritty and tumultuous era of the 90s, but it’s also an examination of the times that delves deep into the darkness that lurked beneath the surface. This Australian film masterfully combines a sense of nostalgia with a brutally honest critique of the era’s toxic behaviors and the destructive forces at play.
The movie is, at its core, a chamber piece that locks its audience in a tight and suffocating space, much like the characters within its narrative. The unrelenting, gritty violence that permeates the film serves as a stark reminder of the brutal realities of the ’90s, and the filmmakers pull no punches in portraying the nastiness of the times.
However, Bliss of Evil doesn’t merely dwell on violence for shock value. It astutely weaves the nastiness into the fabric of the characters and their actions, making it an integral part of the narrative. It highlights the destructive impact of toxic masculinity, a theme that feels disturbingly relevant today.
Bliss of Evil is a confronting and immersive cinematic experience, an unapologetic exploration of the ugliness that lingers beneath the veneer of nostalgia. It compels the audience to reflect on the past and, in doing so, holds up a mirror to the present, leaving viewers haunted by the realization that the toxicity it portrays is not merely a relic of history but a stark commentary on the enduring consequences of certain behaviors and attitudes.
At 6pm on Friday October 20th is the shorts block titled “Slashers and Stalkers”, highlighting the best slasher films and creepy films about stalking violence currently on the festival circuit.
Then on Saturday, October 21st starts the big weekend. On the backlot will be the first annual Hysteria Fest Flea Market. Inside the theater, the day kicks off with the anthology film Worst Laid Plans. Worst Laid Plans is a delightful cinematic journey that takes viewers on an anthology rollercoaster, offering a collection of stories that span a spectrum of emotions. The film is a testament to the power of storytelling, masterfully weaving together a diverse array of narratives that are equally strong, creating an eclectic yet cohesive experience.
Each entry in this anthology is a gem of its own. What’s truly remarkable is the film’s ability to transition seamlessly between moments of hilarity of horror and gravitas.
In Worst Laid Plans, it’s not just the sum of its parts but the individual parts themselves that make the whole film a standout. This anthology is a celebration of storytelling’s potential to entertain, inspire, and provoke thought, and it’s a must-see for those who appreciate the rich tapestry of life’s many moments, both lighthearted and profound.
At 2pm is the feature animated film The Weird Kidz. The Weird Kidz immerses its audience in a world of eerie and haunting beauty. This film possesses a unique and captivating style that enhances the atmospheric sense of being lost in the remote, mountainous backwoods. It’s a thrilling blend of Amblin-like adventure, the mischievous charm of Beavis and Butthead, and the spine-tingling allure of a classic creature feature.
From the very beginning, The Weird Kidz envelops viewers in its distinctive animation style, and it’s immediately clear that this film is no ordinary animated adventure. The animation and sense of humor perfectly complements the story’s mountainous setting.
The film’s narrative weaves an irresistible tapestry of adventure and misadventure. It follows the exploits of a group of misfit kids, akin to the lovable scoundrels of Amblin classics, who find themselves in a world that’s both strange and terrifying.
Yet, what truly sets The Weird Kidz apart is its spine-chilling creature feature element, this time of the giant insect variety. The Weird Kidz is a must-watch that will leave you both spellbound and on the edge of your seat.
At 4pm is “The Haunting and the Wild” block, highlighting the best short films dealing with the ghostly, the wild and the weird. This is an amazing block and all of the films are must-sees.
Then to 6pm is the feature film Plantasma. Plantasma is a truly unique Brooklyn indie horror gem that captures the essence of creative innovation during a time of quarantine. This film defies easy categorization, offering an experimental experience that seamlessly blends elements of body horror and a poignant exploration of loneliness, all while exuding the avant-garde spirit that makes it feel like a David Cronenberg-directed Tuneyards music video.
Set against the backdrop of isolation and confinement, Plantasma takes its audience on a surreal journey where the boundaries between the corporeal and the ethereal blur.
Plantasma is not a conventional horror film, nor is it an average quarantine project. It’s an experience that demands an open mind and a willingness to embrace the unconventional. It invites viewers to question the boundaries of reality and explore the depths of their own solitude. In a world filled with predictable cinema, Plantasma stands as a compelling and thought-provoking anomaly that leaves an indelible mark on the psyche long after the credits roll.
At 8pm is the Saturday closing night film, T-Blockers. T-Blockers is a proudly subversive film that transcends conventions, leaving a trail of transgressive storytelling in its wake. It stands as a bold and unapologetic entry in the realm of queer cinema, pushing boundaries and breaking down societal norms with the spirit of Gregg Araki’s most iconic works.
At its heart, T-Blockers unabashedly spotlights the trans and queer experience, offering a narrative that is as thought-provoking as it is emotionally resonant.
Imagine if Gregg Araki took the helm of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and you get a sense of the film’s subversive brilliance. The eeriness and paranoia of the classic sci-fi premise are cleverly transmuted into an allegory for the transgender experience and the societal pressures to conform.
The storytelling is as radical as it is captivating, subverting expectations at every turn. It masterfully interweaves moments of horror, surrealism, and tender human connection. The result is a film that evokes a rollercoaster of emotions, from shock and fear to laughter and profound empathy.
In a landscape of cinema that often plays it safe, T-Blockers is a provocative testament to the power of storytelling to challenge the status quo. It’s a rallying cry for self-acceptance and a vibrant celebration of the trans and queer community. It’s a cinematic revolution in the spirit of Araki, proving that storytelling can be both provocative and deeply humane, all while pushing the boundaries of cinematic expression.
Onto 12pm on Sunday is a shorts block titled “Viewer Discretion Advised”. This block is made of films that are of high-quality, yet some of them push the boundaries of acceptance and sensibilities. The block title is truly a warning for the films that’ll be played.
At 2pm is the “Animation and Agatha” block. This block consists of the best animated shorts currently on the festival circuit, plus the hour-long animated film Agatha. A haunting and enigmatic film that deals with an impending death and a girl who may be the cure.
Then at 4pm is the feature Blue Hour: The Disappearance of Nick Brandreth. Blue Hour: The Disappearance of Nick Brandreth is a cinematic enigma that manages to strike a remarkable balance between audacious storytelling and an unwavering commitment to its central premise. Imagine if Christopher Nolan were to put his signature twist on the Blair Witch Project, and you begin to grasp the exhilarating journey this film takes you on.
From the moment it begins, Blue Hour drags you into an intricate web of mystery and suspense, never loosening its grip on your attention. It takes a bold swing at narrative complexity, yet miraculously never loses sight of its central premise. The result is an experience that is as mind-bending as it is emotionally resonant.
The film’s central premise revolves around the enigmatic disappearance of Nick Brandreth, and the narrative is meticulously constructed to keep you guessing at every turn. As you unravel the layers of the story, you’ll find yourself caught in a labyrinth of uncertainty and intrigue, with each revelation pushing you further into the enigmatic depths of the tale.
What sets Blue Hour apart is its unwavering originality. In a world of formulaic storytelling, this film is a refreshing gust of originality, pushing the boundaries of the narrative to deliver an unforgettable experience. It’s a testament to the power of cinema to challenge our perceptions of reality and plunge us into a captivating journey of discovery.
Blue Hour: The Disappearance of Nick Brandreth is a brilliant fusion of complex storytelling, strong direction, and exceptional performances. It’s a wild and exhilarating swing at the unknown that keeps you captivated from start to finish. For those who appreciate the thrill of mind-bending mysteries and crave a highly original cinematic experience, this film is an absolute must-see.
At 6pm is an absolutely stellar shorts block called “Action and Gore”, highlighting some of the most violent horror films currently on the festival circuit, along with some horror films that blend with other genre, including action and westerns.
Then at 8pm, it all ends with the 15-year anniversary screening of the cult classic masterpiece – a film that is oftentimes called the most disturbing movie ever made – Martyrs.