In a perfect world, it would be easier to enjoy the opportunity of watching short films on the big screen. With the exception of the American Cinemathequeâ€™s popular annual screening series of the yearâ€™s Academy Award-nominated shorts, even these films - despite the distinct honor of being deemed Oscar-worthy - would more than likely never be shared with a theatrical audience. Fighting the good fight are festivals both large and small, popping up nationally in exclusive dedication to the short film art form - at our local level, most notably the LA Shorts Fest. And fortunately, whereas the genre still gets little love from the mainstream feature-film awards circuit, horror shorts fests are alive and kicking, ranging from Shriekfest to Screamfest to the Carnage Film Festival.
Winner of this yearâ€™s Phoenix Fear Film Festival award for Best Short, John Conwayâ€™s Blockhead is precisely the kind of film that, while enjoyable enough on television, warrants experiencing on the big screen. Bloody, claustrophobic, and relentlessly gory, itâ€™s the kind of creep-out made more palpable in the company of a shrieking audience, blinding their eyes and turning their heads at the Grand Guignol terrors that await one female victim after another in Conwayâ€™s disturbing vision.
Allan Wells plays Dave, a seemingly mild-mannered but charming bookstore owner that catches the eye of a group of girlfriends out for a good time (havenâ€™t they learned by now?). Though the setup, and Wellsâ€™ acting, suggest a sociopath-slasher yarn in the spirit of American Psycho, what Dave has lurking in the basement of his bookstore is far, far worse. Shuffling about in his underwear is Daveâ€™s deformed brother John, a slow-moving and limping man-beast suffering from a condition where, after a life working with concrete, he seems to have been infected by it, crusting over and literally turning into stone. Heâ€™d be a pathetic creature, if not for the fact that his deformity is matched by a murderous rage - one by one, he inflicts horrendous tortures on the women who stumble upon his lair, a practice seemingly condoned by his doting brother.
As with most shorts, there really isnâ€™t a journey to be taken. This is a short story, a vision of a nightmarish world with no hope; itâ€™s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre minus the opening drive through Texas, The Pit and the Pendulum minus the poetry and prolonged foreboding. Conway, who also edited and scored Eben McGarrâ€™s Sick Girl, one of our favorite independent horror films of the decade, has a clear love and appreciation for horror, and whatâ€™s more, at its most elemental - mood, sound, lighting, gore, atmosphere. The film is flawed slightly by some sub-par acting from the would-be victims, but this is a small criticism, and it is more than compensated for by the filmâ€™s look and gut-churning gore. Conwayâ€™s eye for detail is clear, and he establishes himself here as someone who will no-doubt have a lot to contribute to modern horror.
April 26, 2010
BLOCKHEAD REVIEW 2
Filled with bloody set pieces, reminiscent of both Roger Cormanâ€™s Poe pictures of the 60â€²s and the current Hostel torture porn craze, director/writer John Francis Conwayâ€™s Blockhead is a moody and sexy, Lovecraftian look at brotherly love and modern dating.
Magnetic bookstore owner Dave has no trouble getting the ladies but it isnâ€™t until they meet his older brother, John, in the bloody basement of his literary haven that the true fun begins. When a carefree waitress and her curious friends invade Daveâ€™s world, though, Daveâ€™s loving yet murderous attentions for his addled sibling may be altered forever.
Revolving around Donnie Faughtâ€™s truly exemplary work as encrusted, ambling John, director Conway also induces a casual yet nervy performance from Alan Wells as Dave and some vibrant and fun work from Marlo Dellâ€™Antonio and Whitney Ullom (among others) as potential victims.
Ending on a bit of a â€˜whatâ€™s it all about, Alfieâ€™ note, Blockhead is ultimately a nice blend of the dust corrupted tomes of horror and the bright and stabbing new wave of scare makers leaving one with a strong desire to clutch a volume of Shakespeareâ€™s murderous best in one hand while tweeting about the overall viewing experience with the other.
Blockhead looks good! Freaky, bloody and brutal!
Coming off a win at the Phoenix Fear Film Festival, Blockhead is gaining steam and will be hitting up the festival circuit this year. It just won Best Short at the Fear Film Festival and im sure that wont be the only award for this one. Check out the synopsis and the trailer below.
We will keep you updated with any news from Blockhead!
John, an old mason who suffers from a disease after years of working with concrete, is locked up in the family bookstore. His younger brother Dave, who takes care of John and the bookstore, moonlights as an accomplice to Johnâ€™s murderous habit.
April 23, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR JOHN CONWAY (Blockhead)
John Francis Conway is the director behind the short film Blockhead (2010), which is about two brothers one of whom lures attractive single women to the basement of their book store for the terminally and mentally ill brother to kill. We had the chance to ask John a few questions about this film. Here is what he had to say.
So who is John Francis Conway and what is he all about?
I am a video editor that loves to make horror films. I grew up in Florida, where I would shoot comedy skits, and experimental videos with my hi-8 tape recorder, with the help of my friends and family. I had an Uncle who had a great stash of Euro horror flicks. I grew up watching Argento, Bava, and Fulci films, just to name a few. As a filmmaker I want to have a hand in getting people back into the splatter flicks. I feel there is a real void between the filmmakers and fans, hopefully this newer generation of horror filmmakers can turn it around and gain the trust back from horror fans.
You just finished up a short film entitled Blockhead (2010). Can you please tell us about this film?
Blockhead is the tale of man overcome by silicosis, which has eaten his body alive. He lives and works in the basement of a family run bookstore. His disease has made him an animal that thrives on blood supplied by his brother. His charming brother lures girls back to the bookstore with false intention of a night of pleasure only to be thrown in the care of his sick brothers blood lust.
What was the inspiration behind Blockhead?
A couple friends and I had planned on writing an anthology, in which we would write a short and incorporate it into the feature. Blockhead is the only one that survived the idea.
Why did you choose to make a gory, torture film when audiences are becoming fatigued with this type of film?
First of all, no one was physically tortured in Blockhead. Sure the victims were tortured mentally, but not once did our protagonist slowly kill or torture his victims. "Hostel" or the "Saw" franchises are torture films. I consider Blockhead more of a splatter film. I don't think people are tired of gore, I think horror fans are tired of the same nonsense we see in every other new film. Fans, myself included, want new monsters, new slashers, just all around new ideas.
What was that, that was wrapped around that guy's (John) foot?
In between killing his victims, 'John' continues to work with concrete. His routine continues after silicosis has set in, and just like silicosis, it has taken him over, literally. That is concrete caked on his leg.
Most of the cast is either half naked or being tortured in the film. How did you get your actors to commit to this?
Well they weren't naked, so to them that was a plus. I think that horror was fairly new to most of the actors, and it was something they have been interested in. They dug the script and they jumped on board.
When and where can people catch Blockhead?
You guys can check out the site to catch up on all screenings and festivals. http://www.blockheadthefilm.com/
Are you continuing on with shorts or are you moving on to features?
I have another short, that I wrote, that's in pre production now. It's more of a ghost story and also the only lasting out of another attempt of a horror anthology. I love short films, I think it's a great way for a filmmaker to showcase their work. As far as features, I have a couple of scripts that I'm working on now, and am hopeful to get them started early next year.
So what's next for you?
With only weekends off I spend most of time strengthening my craft. I have another horror short in the works now, and should be ready to go come 2011's festival circuit.
Any final comments?
Thanks for having interest in me and my short film. A lot of very creative people, who I now consider friends, spent a lot of painstaking time with this film. People will always seek entertainment, go out and make your films. It's easier than you'd think.