FESTIVAL PIVOTS FOR COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Drive-in horror flicks, genre-defying cult films highlight CUFF 2020
Horror movies and drive-ins have always been a potent mix. So it’s hardly surprising that the Calgary Underground Film Festival’s first experiment with drive-in events will feature three horror titles screened at Big Rock Brewery.
“It’s a late-night experience as well so it just seemed fitting to put these films in the mix,” says festival director Brenda Lieberman. “When you are watching things late at night, it’s fun to have that extra level of keeping you awake.”
Still, as befitting a festival that caters to genre connoisseurs, the three films represent a broad range of horror’s many flavours. Uncle Peckerhead is an American horror-comedy by Matthew John Lawrence about a touring band that hires a cannibal hillbilly as its roadie. Jay Baruchel’s Random Acts of Violence is an old-fashioned slasher flick while Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s Synchronic has a more cerebral sci-fi/horror bent.
Horror is just one of the genres or genre hybrids featured at CUFF 2020, which will otherwise take place online but still offer its usual sampling of underground and cult cinema. The festival, which was set to run in April but cancelled due to COVID -19, runs June 22 to 27 and will feature 22 films not currently streaming anywhere else.
The festival will open June 22 with a live, online presentation of the Sundance favourite Dinner In America, Adam Carter Rehmeier’s dark coming-of-age comedy that will feature a live Q&A with the director. That film will only be available on June 22 as a live event. But beginning June 23 at midnight, the entire lineup will be available on-demand until June 28 at 11:59 p.m.
There will be other Cuff-crowd favourites this year as well, including the June 23 return of the Found Footage Festival by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher. This newest edition, dubbed “Quarantine Classics,” will also feature a live Q&A with Pickett and Prueher after they showcase a treasure trove of typically bizarre VHS goodies, late-night infomercials and other stranger-than-fiction clips. The festival will also be offering an at-home version of Saturday Morning Allyou-can-eat Cereal Party, a CUFF favourite that will feature a lineup of cartoons from the ’60s through to the ’80s.
There will be a world premiere of Five Bucks at the Door: The Story of Crocks N Rolls. The documentary, by former FFWD writer and editor Kirsten Kosloski, chronicles the legacy of Thunder Bay’s premier live venues in the 1980s and 1990s. Kosloski will participate in a live Q&A on June 24.
Another music doc, This Film Should Not Exist, will also have its world premiere at CUFF in partnership with Sled Island. It tells the story of 1990s Scottish art-punkers the Country Teasers. Andrew J. Morgan and Nicholas Mummerdor’s documentary Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at Its Lowest & Best will also have its first screening. It is about the stranger-than-fiction subculture of “vanners,” who set up their own town in the late 1970s based around custom vans with shag carpets.
Other highlights include I Blame Society, a satiric “mockumentary” and debut film by American director-screenwriter
star Gillian Horvat, and I Used to Go Here, a relatively accessible comedy about a novelist who returns to her alma mater and finds herself entangled in the lives of a group of college students.
Random Acts of Violence, an old-fashioned slasher flick directed by Jay Baruchel, second from right, is part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival’s drive-in features.