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Some of the most celebrated directors – like Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Peter Jackson - cut their teeth on horror films, says Dean Bertram, director of A Night of Horror Film Festival, which has grown to nine nights, reports Andrew L. Urban. It’s not a genre to be sniffed at..

There are few movie titles that bristle with more attitude than the 1978 cult horror classic, I Spit On Your Grave; the film is being resurrected for one night only as part of this year’s A Night of Horror Film Festival at Dendy Newton (March 31 – April 8), followed by a Q&A with the film’s maker, Meir Zarchi. In this bloody revenge film, revenge is not sweet.

The original poster informs us: “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition …… but no jury in America would ever convict her!” (The original and the 2010 remake [written by Zarchi, directed by Steven R. Monroe] are now available on DVD and Blu-ray.)

In its fifth year, A Night of Horror has grown into nine nights of horror, with 16 feature films and over 70 shorts, comprising supernatural chillers, monster movies, revenge flicks, zombie/vampire comedies, and even a documentary about horror fan culture, as well as a filmmaking forum plus a screenplay competition. Festival director Dean Bertram says the event began as a short film festival but “demand from both the public and from filmmakers around the world has driven its growth.”

Bertram thinks that some people denigrate horror films “perhaps because they only know some bad examples. 

"a genre where some of the great directors cut their teeth"

“There are bad horror films, just like in any genre, but it’s a genre where some of the great directors cut their teeth. My favourites are Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion.” He also mentions Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), Peter Jackson (Brain Dead) and Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho).

“Horror movies say something about human nature; they deal with darker aspects and make us look death in the face,” he says.

The Festival will open with the preview screening of The Tunnel. Directed by Filipino-Australian award winning director Carlo Ledesma and written and produced by Australian filmmakers Julian Harvey and Enzo Tedeschi. The Tunnel is the first Australian film produced with the budget ($135,000) raised online. It will open in cinemas later this year.

Another film in the Festival which is getting a general cinema release (playing now) is Australian shark thriller, The Reef, Andrew Traucki’s edgy story of a small group of pleasure sailors whose boat is upturned and disabled in shark infested waters off the Great Barrier Reef.

But if you think horror exclusively a boys’genre, try the illustratively titled Dead Hooker In A Trunk, written, directed and starring twin American sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska. “It’s every bit as gory and bloody as any made by men,” says Bertram. 

Ludlow, reminiscent of Polanski’s Repulsion, is also made by a woman, Stacie Ponder, the film follows a woman’s descent into terror and madness.

Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Campbell’s 7 minute short, Hike, and The Best of the Womb by Holly Bartter, feature in the shorts program.

"the abusive mother who defends her actions with twisted religious beliefs"

Women are usually portrayed as victims in horror films, but The Afflicted is based on a true story of incomprehensible abuse by an explosively violent mother of four children. Leslie Easterbrook (Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects) plays Maggie, the abusive mother who defends her actions with twisted religious beliefs. This screening of Jason Stoddard’s film is its international premiere.

Perhaps the most controversial film in the Festival is the world premiere of #12, by Renegade Films’ Jorje Krippe, a disturbingly realistic descent into the underground world of snuff filmmaking. Says Bertram: “This is a particularly effective example of ‘found footage’ filmmaking. Unlike some in this style, like The Blair Witch Project, it clearly sets out why the camera keeps rolling … it sets out to capture something horrifying and creates a foreboding atmosphere. But it feels much more gory than it really is.”

(First published in the Sun Herald.)

Published March 27, 2011

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March 31 – April 8, 2011, Dendy Newtown, Sydney

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