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Get the willies all week with Horrorfest at Eastgate
Nationwide fright fest returns to Madison

I'll admit, like any die-hard horror fan or galloping grue-met, the gore-hound nesting deep within my subconscious still rumbles with delight any time a horror film that isn't part of the <i>Saw</i> franchise comes out in theaters.
I'll admit, like any die-hard horror fan or galloping grue-met, the gore-hound nesting deep within my subconscious still rumbles with delight any time a horror film that isn't part of the Saw franchise comes out in theaters.
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"Once upon a time, the audience hated the murderer, now it loves him! Is it the stories that have changed, or is it the world? And when the audience is holding his breath for the killer not to get caught, is this happening out of a sympathy for the criminal, or is it because it does not want the film to end?"
-- Dario Argento

"I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man."
-- Dario Argento

"In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man."
-- Alfred Hitchcock

I like these three quotes, because together they provide a general summation of what mainstream horror has typically become to American audiences, and I'll be at Eastgate watching this year's second annual After Dark Horrorfest -- or 8 Films to Die For, as it is often called -- with them in mind.

Why? Is it because I want to turn this preview into a highfalutin' faux-academic treatise on the horror film and its place in American society? No, not really, though I have been wondering as of late what drives me to consume horror movies like gut-munching zombies consume the entrails of victims who should be able to outrun them or to watch masked villains hacking 'n' slashing and slicing 'n' dicing their way through endless supplies of stock characters.

More likely, it's because last year's Horrorfest was such a let-down that I figured I needed to have something to ponder in case my decidedly lowered expectations are still too high for this year's offerings to sustain my interest.

Consequently, this preview isn't quite the snarling, roaring call-to-arms for fellow gore-hounds everywhere to attend the event I wish it could be. It's more like a cautionary warning that these films, like most horror films, probably look better than they'll actually be.

Granted, such a sweeping generalization could be made about any genre, and I'll admit, like any die-hard horror fan or galloping grue-met, the gore-hound nesting deep within my subconscious still rumbles with delight any time a horror film that isn't part of the Saw franchise comes out in theaters.

To their credit, Horrorfest's organizers did change their advertising strategy this time out. Last year, their campaign focused on how the films contained such extreme content and subject matter they were unfit for consumption by the general public.

"Each year," according to last year's trailer, "there are movies produced that are never seen by the public. Their content is considered too graphic, too disturbing and too shocking for general audiences." That's true, but for those of you who attended last year's event, you already know their trailer was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bunch of ill-informed, meandering waffle.

To be honest, had the same trailer been used this year I'd be calling bullshit on the entire production and recommending you use your weekend to do something else. However, this year's planners chose to highlight the definition of horror, calling it "a genre of motion pictures intended to thrill viewers by provoking fear or revulsion through the depiction of grotesque, violent or supernatural events." So, I'm interested to see how the line-up differs given the festival's broader scope.

By the looks of the web site, this year's festival offers a whole lot a creatures, cultists and cannibals. Killer hillbillies stalk nubile young women in Lake Dead. Flesh-eating Rovers stalk a ragtag group of adults (including Rachel Miner of last year's entry, Penny Dreadful and Rider Strong) hiding inside a hospital stronghold during the post-apocalyptic, Mad Max meets the Hills Have Eyes look-a-like Tooth and Nail.

Everyman characters struggle to keep their skull caps on and their brain juices safe during an outbreak of sorts in Mulberry St.. Rider Strong -- him again! -- gets kidnapped by Sean Astin and cultists in Borderland. A devilish creature is freed from its confines during an archaeological dig in the Feast-like Unearthed. With any luck the resolution of Nightmare Man will not be a simple, "She's been the killer the whole time" retread.

Crazy Eights (with Frank Whaley and Traci Lords) looks to be a psychological murder mystery involving repressed childhood trauma. And, finally, The Deaths of Ian Stone, perhaps the most ambitious film of the bunch, appears to combine Run Lola Run, Salvage and Quantum Leap.

After Dark Horrorfest will be playing at Marcus Eastgate Cinemas from Friday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 18. A schedule of the show times for the first week (Nov. 9-15) of screenings follows:

Friday, Nov. 09
Lake Dead: 10 a.m.
Mulberry St.: noon
Tooth and Nail: 2 p.m.
Nightmare Man: 4 p.m.
Unearthed: 6 p.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 8 p.m.
Borderland: 10 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 10
Crazy Eights: 10 a.m.
Unearthed: noon
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 2 p.m.
Borderland: 4 p.m.
Lake Dead: 6 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 8 p.m.
Tooth and Nail: 10 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 11
Tooth and Nail: 10 a.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: noon
Borderland: 2 p.m.
Lake Dead: 4 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 6 p.m.
Crazy Eights: 8 p.m.
Nightmare Man: 10 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 12
Unearthed: noon
Nightmare Man: 2 p.m.
Crazy Eights: 4 p.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 6 p.m.
Borderland: 8 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 10 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 13
Unearthed: noon
Nightmare Man: 2 p.m.
Crazy Eights: 4 p.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 6 p.m.
Borderland: 8 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 14
Unearthed: noon
Tooth and Nail: 2 p.m.
Lake Dead: 4 p.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 6 p.m.
Borderland: 8 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 10 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 15
Unearthed: noon
Tooth and Nail: 2 p.m.
Lake Dead: 4 p.m.
The Deaths of Ian Stone: 6 p.m.
Borderland: 8 p.m.
Mulberry St.: 10 p.m.


So here's hoping Horrorfest bucks this jaded horror fan's expectations and gives him something he's been looking for in Hollywood horror for quite some time now -- a surprise.


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