2016 marks the third year for Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival, held at the Rosemont Muvico as a part of the Wizard World comic convention. Each year has hosted local premieres and brought guests with horror classics and new films alike, and this year is no different. The 2016 fest is running from August 18th to the 21st, and the lineup is possibly their best yet.
August 18th: DON’T BREATHE (USA, dir. Fede Alvarez, – Chicago Premiere) The opening film of this year’s fest was the Chicago premiere of Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to his EVIL DEAD remake, the home invasion thriller DON’T BREATHE. Campbell himself came out to give a suitably epic introduction for Alvarez, who just said a few words before the screening began with the promise of an extra special surprise after the credits.
Rocky (Jane Levy) has virtually made a career out of theft with her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and their friend Alex (Dylan Minnette). Money gets a line on a potential big score that Rocky could use to get her and her little sister out of Detroit and their strung-out mother’s home: a blind man (Stephen Lang) who may have hundreds of thousands of dollars squirreled away somewhere inside his isolated home. It seems like an easy job, but what they don’t know is that the Blind Man is former military, highly trained and extremely dangerous with or without his eyesight. Their plan rapidly goes sideways, the thieves are trapped inside the house, and the hunt is on.
I have to admit that I liked DON’T BREATHE considerably more on a second watch than the first time around. It’s a solid, tense thriller that has one absolutely jaw-dropping sequence — a basement chase shot completely in the dark with super low-light cameras — that very nearly makes the whole movie worth watching on its own. Levy is a compelling lead, and she and Lang give their characters more weight than they probably really need. What starts off as a straightforward thrill ride moves into some jarringly disturbing territory, though, and when the Blind Man’s motives are unveiled, the movie trades in a lot of its unpretentious exploitation charm for something sleazier. I still don’t think the film works quite as well once it starts explaining what exactly is going on, but that first hour is pretty fantastic.
Afterward Alvarez came out for a Q&A and was joined by surprise guest Stephen Lang. They took several questions from the audience, and were both very thoughtful and very funny.
NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (USA, dir. Fred Dekker, 30th anniversary screening) Fred Dekker’s first two features as a director — NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD — are two of my enduring favorite films. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dekker a few years ago at a drive-in event screening a 35mm print of THE MONSTER SQUAD, and that was really something of a dream come true for me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Dekker is as friendly as he is knowledgeable, and passionate about movies. It’s a treat just to hang out and listen to him talk.
So it was great news that the BCHFF was bringing him back to the Chicago area for a big-screen screening of NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (the director’s cut with the original ending, for anyone keeping score). This film is just tremendous fun to watch with a game crowd, and the BCHFF audience was the ideal group for such a screening. Afterward Dekker came out and did a Q&A and took some questions from the audience, which was extraordinarily gracious of him since the screening itself didn’t start until almost 10:30. The audience questions started well after midnight, but Dekker was as funny, sharp, and passionate as always. He also kindly stuck around for quite a while afterward for pictures and autographs with fans, which is always much appreciated. And so the third BCHFF kicked off in grand style!
Tomorrow’s screenings include the Chicago premiere of PET, the world premiere of SHOW YOURSELF, and retro screenings of ARMY OF DARKNESS (with Bruce Campbell and Doug Benson) and FROM BEYOND (with Barbara Crampton).
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