by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & After Dark Horror Fest & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ubtitled "Eight Films To Die For," these movies swung through a few theaters as a horror festival of sorts last autumn. Certainly eight relatively low-budget, earnest films can constitute a film festival, and the ratio of interesting movies to bad movies was about equal with any other film festival that caters more to art than commerce. But because these films are all horror movies, falling squarely within a low-rent genre, the films were dropped into multiplexes with their cushy seats, bigger screens and better access to the popcorn-munching masses that love splatter, gore and high tension.
Now that most of the festival's movies have made their way to DVD, they can be enjoyed as an at-home festival during the normally fright-free time of early cinematic summer. Glut on them all and debate whether the set-in-a-car Penny Dreadful is better than the set-in-a-horror-ride Dark Ride. Both use the conventions of claustrophobia, and enjoy the constrictions of a limited setting to unfold their stories and dish out their murders. But which one is done more artfully?
Or geek out over the horror-lineage of the best of the lot -- The Hamiltons. In the most interesting monster-movie update since After Dark, this movie centers on a family of young adults trying to live through a world of social services and suburbia after their parents' deaths. Is their strange behavior caused by their loss? What's in the box in their garage? And why do they have two girls chained up back there?
Unrest is the festival's entry in the squeamish category. This relatively thin ghost story, set in a medical school, is primarily enlivened by the use of real cadavers for set dressing. Equally upsetting for other viewers will be the extremely violent children in Wicked Little Things. (Though they sometimes looked like escaped extras from a school play with too much makeup and fruit punch smeared around their lips.)
Skip Reincarnation unless you're a fan of director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge), because it's television-grade Japanese horror that plays on all of Shimizu's trademark clich & eacute;s. (Wet, unsatisfied looking children...) And The Gravedancers is not worth watching unless you happen to be friends with one of the collegiate-grade actors trapped by the unsuspenseful script.