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DVD REVIEW: CELLULOID HORROR

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By Amy Seidman
If you’ve ever griped about the fault in the latest film festival you attended and thought “Why don’t I create my own? Why not? How hard can it be?” Well, my friend, prepare to have your eyes opened. Sit back, grab yourself a glass of your favorite plonk, and let this 88 minute documentary be your guide.
CELLULOID HORROR follows the trials and tribulations of now legendary writer Kier-La Janisse, the tireless organizer, founder and festival programmer (“and she’s one person!” exclaims a newscaster) of CineMuerte, Canada’s first International Horror Film Festival.

The horrors of Kier-La’s rocky upbringing cleverly coexist with scenes drawn from the films she has screened at the festival that sadly mirror her own life. So what drives this unflagging tough as nails woman? The answer: Anyone starting up a festival has to possess those qualities. You have to eat, sleep and breathe the task, and this film documents just that.

An interesting aspect of CELLULOID HORROR is the support Janisse receives from the founders of competing festivals. From their points of view, Kier-La is a director with an unwavering passion and knowledge of the genre. More than that, she is thick skinned and fully capable of absorbing the hits that taking on an endeavor as big as this one is. They offer assistance in any way possible instead of seeing her work as a threat to their own festivals. In addition to the help provided by other festival organizers along the road to bringing CineMuerte to life, she receives support from friends, volunteers, and her husband as well.

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By her own estimation, it costs about 25,000 dollars a year to run CineMuerte, so you may wonder how she funds it? My favorite of her funding tactics has to be the “Torture Garden, which tests a fan’s ability to sit through 12 hours of horror films that Kier-La describes as “truly fucked up.” Starting with a 20 dollar cover (which goes to funding the festival), the rate drops with each hour that you stay, and ends at 5 dollars if you survive that long. Her film selection is, in general, not for the faint of heart as proven by the woman who left crying or the man who LITERALLY fainted twice after watching Cannibal Holocaust.

Looking at the clips, the documentary can also read as a horror “greatest hits” package. If you are a fan of Udo Kier or Jean Rollin and need your fix, this film will cure what ails you. Udo Kier is truly Kier-La and the festival’s biggest cheerleader. Udo uses every press event as an opportunity to plug the fest and question why there is such a lack of support for it. From finding a place for Jean Rollin to get dialysis in Vancouver to separating http://healthsavy.com/product/nolvadex/ from her husband, this film is an inspiring and at times rocky ride.

Now, on to the bonus material…

The first and quite unique special feature of note is actually not in the film at all but in its packaging. Using the technology normally associated with singing birthday cards, just opening the DVD case for CELLULOID HORROR will freak you out when you are greeted by Udo Kier’s voice saying ”Where is Kier-La? I’m going to kill her.” It certainly scared the shit out of me when I first opened it, and had the same impact when I pranked the super-stoned couch surfer crashing in my apartment. It’s a great promotional idea, and you too can amuse yourself by playing the game with unsuspecting friends. When your targets open the box act as if you don’t hear Udo Kier’s voice, and using your finest patronizing tone ask about what drugs they’re blasted on, and as a capper ask them to lie down while you get them water and they reflect on their mental state.

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Next is director Ashley Fester’s commentary. Among many anecdotes about the construction of the film, she thoughtfully discusses the accompanying music by Max Mueller that sets the background ambience for the film rather than dominating it. Fester touches on the lengthy process of getting the rights to use clips in the film which was of particular interest to me inasmuch as the film is loaded with them. She also uses the opportunity to thank the unsung heros of the film and all those that made it possible.

Additionally, there are Q&A’s for “Squirm” and with Udo Kier, deleted scenes and plenty of footage not included in the film. Real bang for your buck with this one.

While CELLULOID HORROR is a great tribute to Kier-La and to CineMuerte, it also provides a great resource for films you may not have seen. So if you’re dreaming about your own movie festival, and mimicking a small business start-up like the CineMuerte festival truly was? Well, then, stop daydreaming and prepare to put yourself deep in debt, risk alienating your friends and family, and all for the love of exposing people to films they may otherwise not be able to see. With a little luck you may, just MAY make it in the film fest business.

A final word: Check out this doc, and when you get a chance take a walk off the beaten path of Hollywood blockbusters, and recognize your local film fest by honoring it with your presence. And while you’re at it, how about offering a glass of the aforementioned plonk to a stressed-out organizer. As much as we all love horror flicks, it’s a tough racket.

Go to www.BreedProductions.com to order CELLULOID HORROR today.

DELIRIUM Review 9/10

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