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The Housecore Horror Film Festival was the Horror Event of 2013. If you disagree you simply were not there. This event which was brought together by the combined talents of true crime author Corey Mitchell and Down frontman Philip H. Anselmo. The festival brought the worlds of extreme horror cinema, and extreme heavy metal together for 3 glorious days and 1 evening in Austin, TX. The festival was initially known as ground zero for Goblin's American tour as the group had only announced one date, at this festival before announcing further dates around the country.
At the festival I met people who came from around the world to be at this show, from Australia to Massachusetts people flocked to central Texas to take part in this soon to be iconic blend of horror and heavy metal. I, on the other hand just head to drive twenty minutes from South Austin, so on the first full day of the festival that's what I did. So after a quick breakfast taco, and getting my press passes, I made it over to Antone's for the screening of I Drink Your Blood, and arrive sadly, just as the credits are about to roll on this classic rabid hippie horror epic.
Unfortunately, this left me with some down time in my schedule, and this is the one minor complaint I had with the festival. There were a few issues with schedule there were moments where multiple things I wanted to do were running at the same time, or ending after something else was starting. Other times, there was only a signing with a band or artist that I had no interest in, and so there was an hour of just wandering, but in this case that's what I did. For this hour it was interesting, as I got to see folks like Ruggero Deodato and Jorg Buttgereit arrive, and in Ruggero's case setup his booth to hock his Cannibal Holocaust related wares.
After that was over I went over to the "Zombie Room", which appears to have been a converted Zumba Gym for a screening of Lucio Fulci's late period splatterfest Cat in the Brain (Nightmare Concert), I had initially suspected that Cat in the Brain being a Grindhouse Releasing title that it would be a 35mm projection, but was to find out that anything screened in that particular room was from a digital source, and this was screened from the Grindhouse DVD. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see Fulci's 8 1/2 in a room full of like minded horror fans, and even a few who apparently didn't know who they were getting into (I sat next to a person who was uncomfortable with the level of grue on display the entire running time).
For those unfamiliar Cat in the Brain finds Fulci in the midst of making another of his famous horror films. However, the pressure is mounting on him, and he is slowly losing his mind, a killer is on the loose, and he is visualizing violent death wherever he goes, and he begins to wonder if he is the killer. The film takes footage from some of Fulci's other films from the period (and I believe one film that isn't his own), and creates a bizarre psychotronic cinema cocktail that has to be seen to be believed. I have plans to revisit a few of his later films in the future, but at this point in my mind this is Fulci's last truly great film.
After Cat in the Brain I checked the schedule, and noticed that nothing of interest was happening until 3 (35mm projection of Cannibal Ferox), so I went home had lunch, and fell asleep until sadly 3:30. After waking up, I got ready grabbed my wife and got back for the 6 o'Clock 35mm screeing of my all time favorite horror film (seriously you would have to fight me to keep me from this), Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND. The print was from Grindhouse Releasing, and it was extremely beat up, at one point in the film (when Emily runs out of the hotel with Dicky ahead of her) the print snapped, and we had to wait a few minutes for it's repair. Another time the frames started getting stuck, and showing duplicate images. These aren't complaints, of course, I've spent the last 15 years watching the Beyond on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray, and getting to see an honest organic film print was mind blowing to me.
The Beyond for those who have yet to experience it, is about a woman named Liza who inhabits a hotel that 60 years prior was the site of the execution of a warlock named Schweick, and also happens to be built over one of the seven gates to Hell. The film is pretty non-linear in it's plot structure, and the film tends to lead from one shocking and bizarrely orchestrated moment to the next creating a wonderful nightmare-dreamlike construct that is enhanced by Fulci's direction and sense of atmospherics, and Fabio Frizzi's unearthly score. The fact that this film was projected inside a tent (The "Grindhouse" Tent) as the sunset into night only enhanced the atmospherics of Fulci's 1981 creation.
I was supposed to have interviews set up with Goblin, Ruggero, and Jorg throughout the weekend, but not having confirmation of those I made my way to the signing with Jorg Buttgereit and Ruggero Deodato to get some of my merch signed only to find that it was pushed back an hour. Warbeast was playing at Antone's so rather than standing in line for a delayed signing, my wife and I decided to finally delve into some of Housecore's metal madness. Warbeast came on, and although I've never heard this band from the Housecore Records roster, I was immediately blown away by their modern thrash sensibilities.
After their set I made my way back to the signing room, and got Ruggero Deodato to sign my copies of Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and Cannibal Holocaust. He another journalist sitting with him that was unfamiliar with the former title, and explained it to him simply by saying in his thick Italian accent "Tarantino likes it." After this my wife and I made our way back to Antone's for what had to be the event of the evening, a live performance by Italian horror soundtrack masters, the legendary Goblin.
Goblin took the state with a ballerina in black dancing her way around the stage. The first half of their set was compromised of Goblin originals (as in non-soundtrack related cuts). These moments regardless of the association had the audience going, and for me it felt like a release seeing Goblin live after all these years of being convinced that I would never be afforded the opportunity. The last half of their set would be compromised of their most famous soundtrack cuts. They would start with cuts from Dawn of the Dead for what seemed like a ten minute long extended jam of that films most well known musical elements before going into the theme from Tenebre, Suspiria, and finally closing with Deep Red.
And that was also the end of my Day 1.
With all the excitement of the first Day I could barely sleep, I woke up early, and got back to the fest just in time to catch to grab a breakfast taco, coffee, and make it to the grindhouse tent for S.F. Brownrigg's hicksploitation classic Scum of the Earth (a.k.a. Poor White Trash II). This is a film that Grindhouse Releasing has been circulating on 35mm for years while threatening a much anticipated home video release. However, until this moment I had not seen it, and this was quite the way to acclimate myself to the film, and found myself taken in by the films grim and gritty charms regardless of the early hour.
The film follows a young woman named Helen (Norma Moore) who was come out to a cabin in the woods for a honeymoon with her husband Paul. Someone, however, has a different plan in mind for the two of them, and when Paul goes to retrieve his cigarettes from the car as they are unpacking finds himself on the sharp end of an axe. In an attempt to escape with her life, Helen runs into the nearby woods, and eventually runs into Otis Pickett, a big burly backwoods fella who takes Helen back to his family and their home. Unfortunately for Helen the Pickett's home might provide more danger, than the axe murderer in the woods.
Scum of the Earth is a real sleazy, unrestrained film that is fairly intense at times, and humorous at others. It certainly helped seeing it in a beat up 35mm print in what amounted to a giant tent with a relatively small group of people with the wind occasionally allowing the flaps to come up and the sun to trickle in reminding the viewers that we were essentially watching these sleazy cinematic morsels in a strip mall parking lot.
After Scum of the Earth ended I had about an hour to kill before the next screening I wanted to attend, so I found myself wandering around during setup again. There were signings going on, but no one that I was particularly interested in meeting, so I found myself getting a refill of my coffee, and walking around when I noticed that Ruggero Deodato (director of Cannibal Holocaust, and the Barbarians) and Gerretta Gerretta (co-star of Demons, Rats: Nights of Terror) were setting up their respective merchandise booths. Not knowing if I was going to get the Ruggero interview I requested through legitimate means, I asked the maestro himself if he would do an interview with me for Fang of Joy, which he agreed to. 10 minutes later with the translation expertise of Geretta herself, I was living in some weird EuroCult fans dream come true, as Rosemary from Demons was translating from Italian the words being spoken to me by the director of House on the Edge of the Park..
After a few thanks yous (and a signature on my AB DVD of Demons), I left to go to one another fest highlight, Leif Jonker's Darkness: The Heavy Metal Cut. This was the world premiere screening of this particular cut of the film which restores the music from the locals heavy metal musicians whose music initially was peppered throughout the feature upon initial release. The film was released a number of years ago by the now defunct Barrel Entertainment in a new edit called the Vampire Version, which will good removed these songs which certainly added to the atmosphere of the film.
For those unfamiliar with Darkness, and I assume their might be a few of you out there that have not caught up with low budget vampire ditty. The film was shot by Jonker on 8mm during the early 90's around his Wichita, Kansas hometown. The film is a raw, uncompromising vampire film with little plot aside from enough to get the story going, and a good deal of explicit and fun violence that should keep any real fan of the genre entertained throughout the films running time.
The film takes place roughly over 24 hours in a Kansas town that has been besieged by a vampire that is turning the population into vampires. These aren't simple bloodsucking vampires, they are violent motherfuckers that will descend upon a victim and team him/her limb from limb to get the sustenance it needs to survive. A small group of survivors lead by the lone survivor of the original attack attempt to fight back the vampire masses, and take down the master vampire.
Darkness like many (but not all films) in the fest was preceded by a short film in this case Jovanka Vuckovic's recent short The Guest, which in it's extremely short running time (under 2 minutes) manages to scare, disturb, and entrance the viewer with scenes of both horror and horrific beauty. If you get the chance to see this film at a festival screening it's worth making it early to catch it.
After Darkness ended, I made my way over to Antone's for a bit of metal where a spawn of GWAR were setting up. A band known as a Band of Orcs were on the stage and were a lot of fun dressed up as something out of Dungeons and Dragons, and engaging in a bit of on stage violence the band played a good brand of death metal that showed there was talent underneath the stage show, and it was a seriously good time for such a short festival set.
It was at this point I took my leave, and went home for lunch. I returned a bit later for not only a highlight of the festival, but quite possibly a highlight of my theatrical viewing life. In the grindhouse tent on 35mm I was able to see with a crowd the wonder that is Juan Piquer Simon's masterpiece PIECES. I have seen Pieces on VHS and DVD, but never on 35mm, and certainly never with an audience. The audience for Pieces (which I did note included a few members of sludgecore masters Eyehategod), was an extremely appreciative one, the sort of audience that was quiet where need be, and laughed in all the right places. Basically, you could tell these were fans, and those that weren't when the film started were by the end.
Pieces for those who have not seen it, or need a refresher is sort of a giallo/slasher hybrid. The tagline for the film is "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre." That is a pretty good sumation of this film, which details the bloody series of chainsaw killings on a college campus, in which the killer keeps a body part from each of the killings in order to create a human puzzle. The immortal Christopher George (City of the Living Dead, Grizzly) plays a detective assigned to solve the case.
Pieces was preceded by a short film entitled Edward Lee's "The Bighead." It was a competently made short film that felt a little bit on the incomplete side. The acting was decent, but the overall look was like something off of the SyFy channel. A little research has shown that this short has made to help finance the feature film version of the novel on which it is based. Since the titular creature is only scene momentarily during the films running time, and the graphic highlight of the short is an unpleasant rape sequence it feels less of a violent monster feature, and more of a spawn of I Spit on your Grave.
It was after Pieces I met up with my wife/photographer, and started to hit the music side of the festival for the evening. We started with Whitechapel whose music I'd been familiar with for some time, and was excited to see, and they certainly did not disappoint with a truly ripping set of their patented deathcore. After Whitechapel we ran over to catch Jorg Buttgereit's Q and A and the beginning of Nekromantik 2, before heading back to the other side of the fest to catch The Melvins! I have been waiting close to 20 years to see the Melvins and although they only played a short festival length set of 8 songs (including a closing Butthole Surfers cover). They absolutely owned the festival, never really stopping to engage in any sort of banter, but absolutely crushing the audience by the time their set was complete.
After the Melvins left the stage, it was time for a band that I've seen almost more times than any other, the ultimate shock rockers GWAR. GWAR has recently released a new album the fantastic Battle Maximus, so their set drew heavily from that album while dropping in some classic GWAR tracks like the Salaminizer, and some more obscure GWAR ditties like Pre-Skool Prostitute from Carnival of Chaos, which was a largely unexpecte number. The story from Battle Maximus was essentially the one that played out on stage, as GWAR did battle with a creature obsessed with obtaining immortality by stealing Oderus' jizmoglobin, which increasingly grew to larger and larger proportions throughout the set.
After GWAR exhaustion finally hit, and I went home for the night. The next morning, I didn't wake up early enough to make a morning screening. I saw a text on my phone from Housecore PR stating I was scheduled for an interview with Jorg Buttgereit, so I did some quick prep, a cup of coffee, and got over to the fest to interview the director of Nekromanik. Buttgereit, proved to be a fun, and informative interview. I then made my way to the set for a long time favorite band PIG DESTROYER. My interview with Jorg seemed to end with just enough time for me to sneak into the back of Antone's for the start of their set, and even stuck in the back, they did not disappoint. I knew going into the show that this was to be Pig Destroyer's first set with a bass player, and it certainly added a thickness to their sound, it was interesting to hear some of their older songs with bass on them, and I can't wait to hear what they'll sound like on their future release with the added instrumentation.
My one complaint about the festival was the scheduling. No festival is ever perfect, and it seems at every festival you have to choose between two interesting things. However, at Housecore there were times during the first 2 days, and during the morning of the third day where there would be two awesome things happening simaltaneously, followed by a lull in time while a signing went on during that block. Toward the end of the third day the schedule went absolutely hay wire with TOO Much happening at the same time, and that's what is about to happen here.
I was unable to get any press time with Goblin, so my only chance of meeting the now formerly reunited group was at a signing that was being hosted, so I quickly ran over there, but was met with a line that was much longer than anticipated. Upon getting my Anchor Bay SE of Suspiria and Blue Underground Blu-ray of Deep Red signed by those legends of Italian horror composition, I made my way back to the Grindhouse tent for the start of Coffin Joe's This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse. One of the most exciting things about the Housecore Horror Film Festival going in, was the opportunity to see Coffin Joe in the flesh.
This ended up not happening. I ended up finding out through a member of the Blood Farmers that he ended up contracting yellow fever, from a vaccination that was required to leave Brazil. It was disappointing for sure, however, prints of his most iconic films were secured and projected and that was certainly a treat. It is just too bad Coffin Joe could not be there with us. This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is the direct follow up to the first Coffin Joe film At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. It follows soon after the events of that film with Joe having recovered from his injuries (and his supposed death), he now returns to his village in a further attempt to find the perfect woman to forward his lineage and spawn the perfect child.
Unfortunately, the screening of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse started at 6 PM, and a screening of one of my all-time favorite Italian horror films Lamberto Bava's Demons began at 7 PM, so with much difficulty I left the Coffin Joe screening and made my way to the Zombie Room for Demons. After a clever little short film entitled Don't Move which mixed some nice splatter with comedy Demons began. The film was introduced by Geretta Geretta who played Rosemary in the film, with an aside and minor Q and A with Claudio Simonetti. Aside from the short, and excellent introduction I began to regret my decision to leave Coffin Joe behind. I had suspected that the Zombie Room films I had seen including Cat in the Brain and Darkness were DVD projections, but when Demons began my suspicions were confirmed by a color palette that was identical to the Anchor Bay DVD. I know that the crew did not have a region free player for the Arrow Video Blu-ray at their disposal, and Synapse did not have a finished copy of their Blu-ray available to project, so without an available film print they did their best, but as important as this film is to me personally I found myself terribly disappointed.
After Demons ended I made my way to Emo's and one of the events I'd been most excited about the performance by Eyehategod. Eyehategod is a band I've been a fan of for probably 15 years since I got bored with Metallica and Megadeth albums, and decided to dig deeper into real metal music, instead of the mallcore (Korn, Limp Bizkit) stuff that was around at the time. Although, I've been a fan for so long I've never had a chance to see the band live, so when they were added to the Housecore Lineup I got very very excited. My hopes in seeing them, however, were quickly dashed when their drummer Joey LaCaze died of a respiratory ailment. I resigned myself to the fact that I was unlikely ever to see the band ever, as he was such an integral part of the band they were unlikely to continue on.
I was wrong.
Not only was their Housecore performance not canceled, it was not canceled in the most amazing way possible Dale Crover of the Melvins, and a huge influence on both Joey and Eyehategod as a whole stepped up as a drummer for this one single performance so the band could play the date, and to honor the memory of the late Mr. LaCaze. While I do feel a certain sting that I never got to see Eyehategod with their original drummer their performance on this night was spectacular, the band played highlights from all eras of it's career, and mid-set Dale spoke a few words about Joey that I have to say very nearly brought me to tears. The set concluded with a cover of the Melvins Easy As It Was. I could have left right then and been completely satisfied with the night.
However, even though exhaustion was hitting me like a motherfucker, I went back to the Grindhouse tent to catch Jorg Buttgereit's serial killer flick SCHRAMM. Schramm was preceded by a short film called Dissent. The director did a minor introduction where he basically stated the film was not a horror film, but more of an avant-garde film. This is an immediate way to get on this reviewers bad side. When the film began I did indeed note it's avant garde structure, but it was certainly horror in many ways, and certainly had much in common with certain non-linear horror films like Bava's Lisa and the Devil, and some of Jess Franco's 70's films. That being said while the film did have some nightmarish moments the film tried much to hard to be avant-garde in it's approach, and in the end appeared more like something you might catch on late night IFC in the early 2000's, and was much too long for the concept it was trying to execute.
After that 35 minutes of pain were up, Schramm began to a nearly full auditorium. The auditorium was not full at the end, in fact it looked like about 6 people were left. Whether this was due to the scheduling of other events or the film itself, I will leave it up to you, but I will say a couple who sat in front of me did leave in disgust much to my own personal amusement. Due to timing I left Schramm myself in the final few minutes in fear that I would miss Goblin's Suspiria set, after Dissent pushed Schramm much later than expected.
However, upon arrival into Emo's an award ceremony was wrapping up. After that Goblin setup, and took the stage. After a 5 minute false start the band ripped through a live scoring of Suspiria that had fans new and old in awe of both this Italian horror masterpiece, and the band that composed it playing their iconic score live from beginning to end.
By the end of Suspiria, I could barely stay on my feet, so I made my leave of the festival. The 2013 Housecore Horror Film Festival was the debut year for this mix of horror and metal in Austin, TX. There were certainly kinks in the festival, but it was an amazing weekend, and I hope that Corey Mitchell, Phil Anselmo, and the rest of the crew bring Housecore Horror back to Austin for 2014, because this has the potential of being one of the greatest yearly events in horror fandom.