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FANGRRL Goes to the Ladies of the Night Double Feature by Lisa Ciurro
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FANGRRL Goes to the Ladies of the Night Double Feature Riddle me this, fanboys and girls:
Q. What is this recipe for?
1 cup short film Alarum
2 cups feature film Savaged
125+ film fans, filmmakers and film freaks
3/4 cup movie trailers
1/3 cup bizarre-o 70s Blaxploitation/splatter horror/erotica puppet porn
4 Tbsp. Debbie Rochon
2 Tbsp. Krista Grotte
3 tsp. Hare Krishna Zombie from Dawn of the Dead
Stir ingredients together until well-blended. Sprinkle liberally with event coordinator Rick Danford and co-hosts Joel Wynkoop and Nicole Fiore as needed. Add splash of free DVDs and T-shirts for trivia contest winners.
Bake in darkened movie theater for three hours until done. Let cool before applying topping.
30+ very hungry people looking for a restaurant that could seat a group that large
2 cup laughs
1/2 cup silly photos
Mix ingredients well until most of the people have become friends. Spread thoroughly over main dish.
Serve on a Saturday night at the University of South Florida. Leftovers can be easily served on various blogs, websites and MySpace pages.
A. The great time I had at the Ladies of the Night double feature this past Saturday night. (But you already know that because of the title of this column, didn't you?)
After about 45 minutes of driving aimlessly around the USF campus and texting/calling everyone I thought might be able to tell me where the particular building was, I walked into a dark, packed movie theater. The short film Alarum (directed by Rick Danford, starring Krista Grotte) was on the screen.
Alarum is a very personal story of the effects of sexual and physical abuse, presented as a psychological thriller with a few humorous bits thrown in to break the tension. Krista Grotte’s character was abused earlier in life and is now in the midst of a full-blown nervous breakdown. Local go-to crazy-guy character actor Joel Wynkoop played Grotte’s jealous and manipulative alarm clock. (I told you she was having a nervous breakdown.) The film included too many gratuitous shots of Grotte’s barely-clothed body, although all the men in the audience will disagree with that, I’m sure.
Alarum had one of the oddest endings I’ve ever seen. [See update at the bottom of the page.] It’s not giving anything away to say that there was what appeared to be the final scene; then a Bible verse (unfortunately containing a misspelling that I hope will be corrected) appeared on screen; then several important-but-difficult-to-read facts about sexual and physical abuse were presented; then there was a music video, of sorts; followed by more of the movie. The guy sitting next to me had brought his hands together several times preparing to clap at the end of the movie, only to keep realizing that what looked like the end of the movie really wasn’t. Since I missed the beginning of the movie, I don’t know if the music video bit was bookending an earlier scene or had some other meaning that I missed.
Next up was the film Savaged (directed by Jason Liquori, starring Debbie Rochon). To sum up the film in five words: Wow, that woman can act! I wasn’t expecting that, to be honest, so I was pleasantly surprised. And it’s a good thing that Rochon gives a strong performance, because she’s in almost every scene of Savaged. She plays a woman who has just escaped an abusive relationship and is house- and dog-sitting for some friends of her mother’s. Her boyfriend may or may not be stalking her, there may or may not be a killer bear running amok in the neighborhood, the dog may or may not be killed by the bear or have killed the bear himself or actually be the bear…I don’t want to give anything away, although you’ll figure it out for yourself early on in the film.
Savaged is an odd mix of successful and unsuccessful elements. Creative camera work keeps the confined location from feeling confining, but the odd lighting and day/night continuity issues are jarring. (Unless there was subtext to Rochon’s character’s ability to read in the dark that I missed.) Rochon’s nuanced and talented performance made the other, reasonably-adequate actors seem stiff and unpolished by comparison. The idea of portraying psychological terror without showing lots of violence and gore is refreshing and intriguing, but only if the script is tight enough to attract and sustain viewers’ interest.
After all the movies and trailers had screened, Rick Danford announced that he was going to screen a preview of the controversial upcoming movie Black Devil Doll, along with some sneak preview footage that the movie’s director had sent to him especially for this event. Danford said that even if you’re not easily offended, this clip would offend you.
He was right about that. The Black Devil Doll preview was rude, crude and lewd, but funny in that shocking-I-can’t-believe-they-just-did-that kind of way. The lead character — the Black Devil Doll himself — is a foul-mouthed, jive-talkin’, murderous, lecherous puppet with an Afro and an attitude. It’s 70s Blaxploitation, splatter horror and erotica mixed together with Team America puppetry. THEN the special sneak preview footage played…five minutes of puppet p0rn that I hope my subconscious mind creates a split personality to deal with, because I don’t want to have that stuff in my head the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, I'm not able to describe any of the movie trailers that were screened that night. Since I arrived late, I missed several (who knows how many?) previews. The few trailers that I did see were screened immediately prior to the Black Devil Doll scenes and the aforementioned trauma seems to have wiped them from my mind.
The evening was jam-packed with catching up with old friends and making new ones, including my finally meeting online friends in person for the first time. Giving a list of names makes me feel like Miss Frances on Romper Room with her Magic Mirror ("I see Tommy and Suzie...") but here goes: I talked to event coordinator Rick Danford of Enigma Films, Greg Rivera of Relic Films, Alarum's Krista Grotte, Joe Davison of Pop Gun Pictures, actor Walter Medina (Reel Premonition), B-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon, crazy fanboy Andy Lalino of Film Ranch and his better half Sandy, Andrew Allen of Film Ranch and his wife Valerie, Jason Liquori of Hocus Focus Productions and his wife Nancy, actor and evening's co-host Joel Wynkoop and his better half Cathy, Rodrick Colbert from USF's University Film & Video Association, actress and evening co-host Nicole Fiore, Steven Shea of Abyssmal Entertainment, "Tex Massacre" a.k.a. Tim from Bloody-Disgusting.com, Mike Christopher, who played the Hare Krishna zombie in Dawn of the Dead, and probably a lot of other people who are now mad at me because I forgot to include their names in this list.
Throughout the night I had heard murmurs about the “Hare Krishna zombie guy” but I never heard enough to say more than “Huh?” During his closing remarks, co-host Wynkoop pointed out that Mike Christopher, who played the Hare Krishna zombie in Dawn of the Dead, was in the audience. (Coincidentally, he was sitting in front of me, which means that I have several great photos of the top of his head in the foreground, with Wynkoop and Fiore on stage in the background.) So that’s what those murmurs were about.
I felt kinda bad for Christopher, with everyone calling him the Hare Krishna zombie guy, because surely being pigeonholed and remembered solely for one small role many years ago would be annoying, right? Wrong. Christopher had a table set up in the lobby in the “special guests” section – which I had missed earlier in the evening because of my late arrival – where he could sign autographs and pose with fans. The dude has totally embraced his inner zombie and is having a blast with it. (His business cards read “Hare Krishna Zombie a.k.a. Mike Christopher” and his MySpace page is www.myspace.com/hkzombie). HKZ told me that he moved to the Bay area in the mid 90s. He’s just recently started doing the convention circuit and is having a lot of fun. HKZ is old-school chivalrous (refreshing, but rare) and exudes a quiet joy that I’m attributing to Buddhism, which is listed as his religious preference on his MySpace page.
After it was over, a group of about 30 of us formed a ragtag, fugitive fleet and set off on a lonely quest for a shining restaurant known as Perkins. We made a pit stop at Bennigan's first, where we overwhelmed the 13-year-old server and baffled the entire Bennigan's staff, who had apparently never had that many people in their restaurant at one time. During our wait -- both at Bennigan's and Perkins -- Debbie Rochon entertained herself and all of us by posing for photos. (This is me being paranoid! This is us studying the menu very intently! Here are my boobs! Here are my boobs on someone's head! This is me rockin' out! This is us rockin' out! Here I am being sleepy! This is my movie star pose! This is me flipping off Tom from MySpace!) Rochon was hilarious and an absolute delight, and I was tickled to death when I was able to sit at her table at Perkins. (And we went to the ladies' room together, 'cause you know we women always go in pairs!) I picked up a few bits of gossip and local filmmaker news (and Debbie Rochon's personal email address!), but if I told you, I'd have to kill you.
The Ladies of the Night double feature was a lot of fun, for many reasons, and I'm really glad I went. It was worth this ole lady staying up WAY past her bedtime for.
[Correction 6:06 p.m. 6/12/08 -- I goofed up the name of local filmmaker Greg Rivera's film studio/production company. It's Relic Films, not whatever nonsensical name I originally listed. Sorry about that!]
[Update 7:01 p.m. 6/12/08 -- Krista Grotte just informed me that "The video in Alarum was the work of Magdalen Graal, The message of the video corresponded with Alarum and was meant to go with the stats, which yes were difficult to see on the projection screen. However, we added that video as a FEATURE on the DVD, not a song in the movie ALARUM. That was for the premiere." I appreciate the update. See, people, when you're late to an event, you miss all sorts of good stuff and interesting announcements. Thanks again, Krista.]
"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.
Riddle me this, fanboys and girls: