Midnight Mania: Creepy

Midnight Mania: Creepy
Starting out more funny than creepy, this year's selection is a mixed bag tonally and thematically. The Legend of Beaver Dam takes the pseudo-found footage approach, with text stating that nine campers and their counsellor canoed out to Beaver Dam, but only one returned. Commencing with a heavy breathing POV cam for some faux-tension, the mouth breather is quickly revealed to be the campers' resident target of scorn. Sean Cullen makes an appearance as the verbally abusive camp counsellor and his merciless assholism to the boy while telling a campfire tale about the murderous Stumpy Sam inspires a break with reality. Cheesy metal riffs flare up, transforming the proceedings into a geek revenge rock opera. Gore flies, but we're spared the depiction of kids being graphically dismembered.

Taking a turn towards legitimate horror is The Circular Glance. This Spanish production starts with close-ups of sizzling meat as a mother prepares lunch for her kids before the family heads to the beach. Expectations are toyed with as the children discuss decomposition after finding a grave in a rock outcropping. The threat turns out to be awaiting them back at the picnic spot, where sinister men have grabbed and bound the children's parents. A chase follows, and it's fairly menacing, until a dues ex machina reveals this to be a heavy-handed PETA morality play parallel. From there it's uncomfortably graphic and preachy, which is the point, but the mirrored situational logic doesn't fully pass muster. It's the cinematic equivalent of shouting, "meat is murder" into the faces of random passer-bys. I don't need to see a bovine tear to understand that a bolt to the brain sucks, no matter the species.

The first and most exciting cult celebrity to make an appearance in the Creepy collection is Anthony Head, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the somber, mysterious and well-shot Ella. Increased attention on cinematography and the gravitas of the veteran thespian go along way towards making this tale of a man dealing with horror in the family stand out from the pack.

Adder's Bite, inspired by Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, dials the pretension up to 11. Opening with the quote, "Destroyer of morals: my story is immoral," before squatting in nihilistic darkness while Michael Giacchino-style ascending string bends swell, this darkness took so long to break that it seemed possible the void would be the entirety of content. Instead, meandering Tool video imagery rears its ugly penis head. Literally. Purposefully confounding imagery shows a circle of penis-headed creatures licking a figure covered in black slime with what look like extended urethral tubes. A pixelated bald man sneaks up on them and his head is transformed into a Venus flytrap-looking plant that sprouts a funky tentacle to get in on the slime-slurping fun. To further confuse, or suggest a tenuous nefarious connection, all of this is taking place behind the walls of a children's swimming pool.

Continuing the trend of obtuse narrative and sloppy imagery is the occasionally appealing All Flowers In Time. Extensive redundant production credits immediately mar the opening, but the hook of a woman who thinks her red eye in photographs is a sign of demonic possession rekindles interest. Continual redundancies and an unclear timeline threaten to sink that potential, until a brief scene of Chloe Sevigny teaching her son how to make demon faces tie it all together.

Brazilian guilt-horror Ninjas is easily the most accomplished, focused and affecting submission of the bunch. An evangelical preacher does his thing, preying on people who only feel holy when being yelled at. Sitting quietly in the back is a man who actually sees bloody, naked Jesus standing before him, the handle of a gun pushing out through a gaping wound in his rib cage. Flashing back, we see the man as a police officer, chasing a suspect down a dark alley. Gunfire ensues and when returning fire, the policeman mortally wounds a young boy who had wandered into the way. His partner covers the accident up, but the man is consumed by guilt. Remorse manifesting as an apparition, he begins seeing the dead boy's body everywhere, which takes its toll on his family. To "cure" him of his visions, his cop buddies take him out to go "ninja," forcing him to engage in acts so horrendous that he couldn't possibly be bothered by his previous mistake anymore. Because being haunted by only one ghost is the problem. Chilling stuff.