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The 2004 EyeScream Film Festival

A review by Kyla Ward

EYESCREAM 2004
EYESCREAM 2004
EYESCREAM 2004
EYESCREAM 2004
Boo-oo-oo, ask any ghoul,
Halloween is coo-ool!

And with the third annual EyeScream Short Film Festival, it certainly is. Although the origin of the above song, played with sing-along graphics to warm up the audience, is probably best left a mystery.

I have attended every EyeScream so far, and it just keeps on getting better. This year the venue was the Chauvel cinema in Paddington, where a plentiful audience gathered, some in costume, others insisting they were simply in street wear. Our hostess for the evening, Vashti Hughes, did her best to get things moving promptly, but someone kept interrupting her by calling her mobile and asking, did she like scary movies? We got to see this impolite person at about the halfway point, when he pursued her around the cinema in mask and robe. There was some of that up on screen, of course, but death has many guises, ranging from a vampiric Buddhist monk to a pleasant-faced gentleman in a nightclub.

This year's 14 finalists made up a very strong field; possibly the best selection yet. Furthermore, for the first time this year there was a "Second Scoop" screening for the best of the rest the following Sunday, and the finalists themselves are to tour Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart. Details can be found on the EyeScream website.

This year, two things struck me overall. The first is just how widespread digital effects are becoming. I'm talking the kind that would once have been seen only in blockbuster movies or high budget episodes of "Buffy". The second was the presence of humour, or at least dark wit, in nearly every film. James Findlay's "ZZZZ", for instance, won the Audience Choice award with a lethally funny twist to a universal situation. "An Unwelcome Olympics Viewing Interruption" by Katie Byrne (who directed last year's "$150.00 Profit Margin") was simply hilarious, and won the UBS Media School Encouragment Award. And the stalker in Andrew Wholley's "The Grateful" wore a very well-known face...

"Interchange" by Michael Chrisoulakis won first prize. It would be dangerous to go into details, except that it was atmospheric, beautifully shot and edited -- and had the audience laughing yet again. You know the kind of laughter I mean, don't you? The feeling that you probably shouldn't be laughing at something like this.

I must also mention "The Fan" by Jamie Lewis. Now, although deranged fans are quite common in the horror genre, they don't often have rotating blades and plug into an electric outlet. I can't explain this one, I only know it worked.

Two animations made the finals this year, both involving little girls getting into serious trouble. Marta Tesoro's "The Top Shelf" had a grotesquely pretty cartoonish style, that suited its moral tale. Sally Gross's "Phizzog" won the Eat Carpet award, which includes screening on the program of that name. It was much more spectral and ambiguous, with jaw-dropping imagery and an atmospheric soundtrack.

That's the third thing I noticed overall. The mark of a professional production (as in, a crew who are really, truly on top of what they are doing) over the amateur is the sound. Although none of the finalists had actually bad sound, those that had good sound definitely stood out.

At last, with the prizes awarded and the Masked Killer finally bludgeoned to death, it was time to move across the road to the Paddington RSL for the post-screening party. Another of this year's innovations and a welcome one, with absinth cocktails, inflatable skeletons and jack o'lanterns, and a DJ who started with Alice Cooper's "Black Widow" and went on from there. All in all, EyeScream III was an excellent event and one that gives me a chilly little glow of hope for the future of horror in this country.

 

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