Saturday, August 28, 2010

Night of campy fun at AFI

Joshua Grannell (also known as San Francisco drag queen Peaches Christ) brought his debut feature film All About Evil to his home state of Maryland, to AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. Before the screening, the audience enjoyed a cabaret performance by Peaches, with singing, backup dancers dressed as classic movie monsters, jokes about the teabaggers coming to DC for the Glenn Beck rally, and a special appearance by John Waters regular Mink Stole, who also appears in All About Evil.
The film itself was a campy, over-the-top homage to slasher films, which delivered some genuine scares all its own. When Deborah (Natasha Lyonne) accidentally shows security footage of her killing her mother at her late father's dying movie theater, the short "film" becomes a hit, and she keeps going, filming real murders with a creepy cast of characters that includes a homeless man and a pair of evil twins just out of the insane asylum (the twins also made an appearance at the pre-screening show), and passing them off as movies. When teenage horror fan Steven (Thomas Dekker, who underplays his role in the sea of theatricality) discovers the truth, everyone is so deep under Deborah's spell that, when he issues a warning at a screening, the audience think it's part of the show. Of course, it's the "realism" of Deborah's films that keeps the audience coming back, combined with their theatricality. Deborah, a former wannabe actress, is now a local celebrity giving the performance of her life. Lyonne affects a Bette Davis-style vocal elocution, giving the sense of a continual performance. She, like her movies, is straddling a line between reality and theatre, just as Steven goes from a horror fan to the hero of his own slasher flick. The finale, without giving too much away, is something to behold, with frantic trapped theater-goers and a final showdown where Deborah makes a quite astute comment about the appeal of horror movies: "The audience is always secretly rooting for the killer." Yes, in horror, the killer is the star, the reason the audience comes back for sequels.

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