Beyond Fest Recaps

OCTOBER 12, 2021


After last year's (kind of awesome) drive-in incarnation of Beyond Fest, the boys were back in theaters for 2021 - just not their usual theater. The usual home base, The Egyptian, is still being remodeled after being sold to Netflix (who promises there will be no major change in programming), so the fest spread itself out to three theaters in the area: the American Legion (right near the Egyptian), the Los Feliz 3 (a couple miles away) and the Aero (wayyyyyyyyy further away). This allowed them to keep the festival up to standards, programming wise, but also meant making hard decisions with what to see. Usually you could just go back and forth at the Egyptian between its two theaters, but now, if you wanted to see something at the Aero and then something at the Los Feliz, you had to fight traffic and possible schedule delays to make it there on time.

On the flipside, they actually did account for that, giving a decent amount of time between screenings (with ideal traffic, it should only take about a half hour so to go between the two major theaters*) but that also presented another issue: if you DID want to watch back to back programs at one theater, this meant a lot of downtime in between. Normally, this would just mean "Let's go grab a drink to kill time," but this is covid-era and doing such things causes hesitation. Long story short, I didn't see as much as I'd like, and had to make a lot of Sophie's Choices when it came to what I saw. I was really bummed about missing Starship Troopers in particular; such a great big screen experience but alas I just didn't want to make the long drive when I knew I'd probably end up dozing off.

Luckily, I enjoyed everything I saw! I kept it mostly to "new to me" titles; one exception was Collateral, which I had only seen at home when it first came to DVD and had been wanting to revisit ever since I moved to LA - just never got around to it. But it was worth my procrastination; it was like a whole new movie in theaters, as I never realized how funny it was when watching alone at home. The scene where Tom Cruise calls Jamie Foxx's boss out for being a jerk provoked thunderous laughter and applause, in particular. Plus, with each passing year I gain more appreciation for LA geography and, specifically, jokes about its traffic, so that whole "meet cute" with Jada Pinkett played better than it would have if I did give it another look x number of years ago when I was new to town.

But obviously I stuck to horror movies, and while I was hoping to write up a few full reviews I am just swamped this month with other work, trying to do fun stuff with my family, and keeping up with the movies as they come (I already lost my opportunity to catch a few things I missed at Fantastic Fest; they gave me access to some of it through a screener library and it expired before I got to really poke through it). So rather than hope for free time to give these full reviews and risk never getting it, here are mini-reviews for everything that I saw! Except for Halloween Kills of course; obviously I was gonna make sure I had time to ramble about my boy.

This played as a double feature with Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched, which featured it. Luckily I didn't retain whatever reveals the documentary may have given away; all I really knew was that it was an Australian folk horror film, something I haven't seen nearly enough of and thus was eager to check it out (I also may have arrived a few minutes early to see my WD&DB credits on the big screen again, because I am shameless). Like a lot of these films, it requires a bit of patience as it's basically all building toward something that won't happen until the very end (the title tells you what!), but what it lacked in action it more than made up for in both creepy vibes and the performance of Lou Brown as Peter, Alison's boyfriend. He's introduced as kind of an aloof/indifferent dumb blond boyfriend kind of guy, but when Alison's sinister family starts trying to isolate her from him (and everything else) he gets more proactive, and thus more awesome. He starts off as easy fodder but by the end you're almost rooting for him more than Allison; there's a sequence where he escapes would-be murderers that had the audience cheering for his actions. Add in a meanspirited ending (it's dark like most of these films are, but they add a button that makes it funny to jerks like me) and you have a perfectly good example of this kind of film, that requires patience that pays off for those who are willing to take the ride.

Not to be confused with "just" Feast (the delightful monsters in a bar movie), THIS Feast concerns a politician who throws a dinner party, much to his trophy wife's chagrin. She hires someone to help, a local girl named Cadi who doesn't speak much and seems to love nature. Given the politician's plans to drill into the land, you don't have to be too smart to realize perhaps Cadi doesn't just plan to serve appetizers and help set the table. It's not a fast-paced film by any means, but it goes into very unexpected directions and racks up some impressive gore (plus a gorging scene that is more disgusting than any traditional kill moment), served alongside a welcome (if hazily defined) pro-environmental message. Also, there's a curious moment early on where you wonder what exactly Cadi is doing with a certain object, and then like, an hour later it pays off, prompting one of my favorite kind of audience moments: when everyone realizes what is happening at different times (proud to say I was among the first to laugh/squirm). If you like A24-style pacing, give this one a look when it arrives next month from IFC Midnight.

I'm always on the lookout for more action horror hybrids, and this 80 minute crackerjack paced flick scratched that itch for me. It's set during the real life Guinea-Bissau coup from 2003, so a little history lesson (read: quick scan of Wikipedia) might be in order to give a little more context for what our antiheroes are attempting an escape from, but "mercenaries hide out and run afoul of monsters" should still be enough for a genre fan to enjoy. There's a few good twists and some surprising humor, plus an excellent use of ASL (one character is deaf/mute and two others simply know it as if it were common, a nice little addition to the "be inclusive by just DOING IT" method I prefer) and a very unique (if - presumably due to the budget - underseen) monster. After two slower-paced films, it was nice to have something a little more exciting on my schedule, I must say.

I read up on this Taiwanese zombie (fine, "rage") film in Rue Morgue, plus heard a few things out of Fantastic Fest, that made me wonder if I should go out of my way to see it, as it sounded overly violent ("repulsive" was used, I believe) and rapey, things I have less and less interest in seeing as I get older. But then I remembered no one in my house ever leaves (thanks Covid!) so if I were to ever see it it would have to be in a theater with like minded viewers instead of at home, with the volume turned way down and perhaps having to apologize to my wife if she happened to walk by and see something awful.

Luckily, the people making those claims apparently haven't seen too many horror movies, as there's nothing here that a seasoned viewer hasn't seen in some form or other over the years, and while comparing assault or murder scenes is icky at best, I'll say that if you've seen the Human Centipede sequels, 28 Days Later, and literally any I Spit On Your Grave type film, you've seen much worse. Shot during - and directly inspired by - the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, I found it to be a pretty great backdrop for what turns out to be a pretty good zombie movie, using the "our two heroes are separated and go through a lot of crap to reunite" narrative that reminded me of the Train to Busan prequel Seoul Station, except in live action and with lots and lots of practical gore. Yes, it can be unpleasant at times, but given the angry circumstances that inspired it, who can blame the filmmakers for dialing such things up a notch? But focusing on that stuff, which amounts to maybe 30 seconds in the 95 minute film, is doing it a disservice; I'd be pretty pissed if the pearl-clutching had driven me away from something I turned out to enjoy quite a bit.

This is the one I had seen before, but like most, it was at home on streaming (HBO), and I wanted a big screen experience for two reasons. One is that it's a fairly long movie and so as you might have guessed I didn't get to watch it in one sitting there, which is never ideal but is also just how my life works when I am home - I need to physically leave the house in order to have the time to watch a movie without being interrupted (at least before like 9pm, but after that I'll just fall asleep anyway). The other is that it seemed to have a pretty good sound mix, something I can't quite grasp at home when, again, people are interrupting or sleeping (so, low volume), which is fine for my millionth viewing of Jaws or whatever but frustrating for a first time view. Add in a Q&A with director David Prior, and you have a recipe for a "Worth the drive to see something I can watch at home" excursion.

And it was even better a second time, as I also suspected. The end has a reveal that makes you rethink what you've seen along the way, so watching it with that knowledge, ALONG WITH the much improved presentation (little blue HBO Max rebuffering dots, how I did not miss you) made it an ideal experience. I know some folks say the opening sequence is too long, but I love it - it's like a short film prequel before the feature version with James Badge Dale (Chase!). Also, on the big screen I was able to notice the missing girl has the lyrics to Pearl Jam's "Daughter" in her library, which is pretty much the only pop culture reference in the entire film and would be classic rock to the character (born roughly seven years after that song came out), so I wish I was able to ask Prior about it but alas my raised hand was not seen. Prior's Q&A was also pretty great; he's an interesting guy and was being as candid as he could regarding the film's botched release (a victim of both covid and the merging of Fox with Disney, the latter company obviously not one to put out R rated horror films on the regular). If you haven't seen it yet, I highly encourage a viewing - this is gonna be a cult fave like Session 9 or something down the road, I suspect.

As someone who doesn't particularly gravitate toward vampire movies, my main reason for wanting to see this was actually just the Q&A with Udo Kier, as he is always a riot and I'd happily attend him just talking without any movie at all. I also don't exactly jump at seeing anything with Andy Warhol's name on it, so it shouldn't be a surprise I never saw this before and wasn't expecting to enjoy it all that much. But man, I have rarely been happier to be wrong: this movie is WONDERFUL. Dracula (Kier) needs virgin blood because "tainted" blood from people who have enjoyed their life is making him sick, so he and his butler travel to another part of the country where there is a religious family with four proper daughters for him to choose from, with the cover story being he is seeking a wife and believes they are suitable. But as it turns out, two of the daughters are sexually active (with each other, even - hey-o!), complicating things as the Count grows weaker.

This could have been a melancholy, The Hunger kind of film about an aging vampire withering away, but instead it's just hilarious. Kier's frustrated outbursts kept me laughing throughout, as did the strange supporting cast's little tics and random asides; Roman Polanski even pops up as a bar drunk who challenges the Renfield type character to a game of "Do What I Do", a scene as pointless as it was amazing. Kier spoiled the best line in his intro, but no matter - in context it was still incredible, and I was kind of blown away by how much I enjoyed it. It might even be my favorite Dracula movie? Certainly the best "alt" version of the story (as for straight adaptations I'm still partial to the 1979 one).

In reality the same team (Kier and several other cast members, director Paul Morrissey, etc) made this one first, but it played second after Dracula, which was a wise choice from my POV since Dracula is the better film and I wouldn't have wanted to have my energy sapped a bit by this tonally similar but less frequently funny one. Like their later film, this is a sexed up, perversely funny take on a classic story (guess which one?), with Kier as the title character and the same actor (Arno Juerging) as his assistant. Their work here seemed to have inspired Rocky Horror Picture Show quite a bit, so that might make a good double feature one day. In turn, I wish I could verify for sure but I think the ending is inspired from, of all things, Bay of Blood! Both films have been restored (by Severin and Vinegar Syndrome, respectively) and I can't wait to revisit them down the road; just because it was so good for Dracula, and I ended up dozing for a bit in the middle of Frankenstein (per the Wiki synopsis I didn't miss anything of note) and also had to make a bathroom run, so I missed two brief chunks.

All in all, a terrific lineup for what has become my favorite LA fest, programming wise. The mix of repertory and newer stuff is always on point, the hosts are all lively and fun to listen to (with or without their T-shirt cannons), and I find it is very rare that I regret bothering to venture out for this or that evening as I do for some other festivals (both here and - perhaps moreso - other states where I start getting homesick on account of watching underwhelming stuff). Hopefully next year it can return to the Egyptian and I will be able to attend even more (though, that said, the Hollywood Legion is pretty nice and has a bar!), but kudos to them for pulling off all their usual shenanigans and programming without any noticeable handicaps due to the changed (and untested!) venues, which has been disastrous for other festivals in the past. Running these things smoothly relies on familiarity and shorthand, two things that are in low supply when you're doing everything in a different place, with different staff, etc (and during a pandemic, which hasn't ended in case you haven't heard!), so it's a testament to their organization skills and can-do attitude that there was literally no visible issues with anything they had to do adapt to for this incarnation. Even the lines moved super quick despite having to check for vaccine status! My hat is off to them, and see you again in 2022!

What say you?


  1. Thanks for the update, BC! That showing of F4F wasn't in 3D, by any chance? I've always heard it looked great in the process. Pretty sure you would've mentioned if it was, but just curious.


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