The spirit of the films on display is supposed to invoke the trashy grindhouse and drive-in films of yore; hence the name: The Virtual Drive-In. Although I wouldn’t say that the three films previewed at the Virtual Drive-In panel are stylistic schlock along the lines of, say, Machete, I would say they are all intriguing little horror films. Two are currently making the festival circuit, and one opens in theaters on the 7th of September. One of them even seemed like a new classic in the making.
I’ll take you through these three Comic Con exclusive sneak peeks, complete with trailers and, in some cases, a few minutes of footage. As is my wont, I will also offer a brief editorial on each. The three films previewed were as follows:
Dave Parker’s Coldwater. Starring Ivan Djurovic and cult film standby James Duval (from May, Donnie Darko, and The Doom Generation. A quote: “Making a film for Gregg Araki will mess you up for life.”), Coldwater looks to be a rather intense little home invasion flick which may or may not have some supernatural elements. Duval plays the creepy invader, and Djurovic is the hapless everyman who must defend his home. There is some found footage (which is always kind of a gimmick), and footage of bleeding souls who may or may not be ghosts; I couldn’t rightly tell. Coldwater could go either way for me; it could be a dreamy and chewy noble effort, or it could prove to strike hot like last year’s Grave Encounters, which was previewed at the 2011 Comic Con, and which garnered a positive review in the pages of CraveOnline. Dave Parker was in attendance with Djurovic and Duval, and they were all very serious about this film. They feel it is an intense film that should not be joked about. They also indicated that the film was largely improvised. Too few films have that approach.
Charles de Lauzirika’s Crave. Crave, I must assure you, has nothing to do with CraveOnline. De Lauzirika, one of the preeminent producers of DVDs and Blu-Rays (indeed, he spoke at the Blu-Ray-makers’ panel earlier in the day). When not producing DVDs, however, he trekked to destitute areas of Detroit, and filmed this little horror flick with Ron Perlman and Josh Lawson. Lawson plays a photojournalist who seems to become incensed with the violence of the world around him, and begins to envision himself – Walter Mitty-style – as an ultra-violent vigilante. But this is not pretty vigilantism. This is closer to Paul Kersey from Death Wish, or even Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, than it is to Batman. De Lauzirika said that he was using Crave to raise money for an even more elaborate and expensive feature film based on a story by Philip K. Dick. So even if Crave isn’t your bag, if you pay to see it, you’ll be helping to support a Dickian sci-fi story. We could use some more of those.
Jamie Bradshaw’s Branded. This film looks to be like one of the films of the year. A bonkers combination of They Live, Inception, and some drug-inspired anime, Branded seems to be about a vast conspiracy of alien (?) beings who appear to be drinking the will of humans, which they are sapping with inter-dimensional machines, all fueled by… advertising. Bradshaw did state clearly that his film, shot in Russia with an unnamed compatriot, was about the evils of advertising, and how corporate branding is harming our very humanness, but he was intentionally coy about the plot or the specifics. He was allowed by Roadside Attractions, the studio that will release Branded in theaters on the 8th of September, to cut his own trailer, and he was very glad indeed. Finally, he said, a trailer that whets your appetite, but doesn’t give away anything important. The audience seemed the most worked up about Branded, and I, for one, can’t wait to see it. A conspiracy of evil beings who are using advertising to sap our wills? Why aren’t stories like this told more often? Oh yeah. ‘Cause studios are branding you. I was lamenting recently that we haven’t had subversive sci-fi films like They Live too often anymore. Branded may be it.