DED On: Film Festival Returns For Its Seventh Year

Written by Erin Fraser

While Halloween is still a week away, it’s never too early to start getting in to the ghoulish spirit of things; after all, why reserve all the fun for one evening a year? And there’s no better way to get in the mood than with some horror movies. Luckily, the annual DEDfest film festival is running at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre (8712 109 Street) October 21st to 26th. This year’s festival promises four evenings and two full days of horror mayhem. With 17 feature films scheduled, DEDfest promises to deliver plenty of shocks and thrills.  

I sat down with organizer Kevin Martin at his DVD shop, The Lobby (Bsmt, 10815 Whyte Avenue), who reminisced about past festivals and excitedly shared with me what this year’s has in store.

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Erin Elizabeth Fraser: So, Kevin—DEDFest. What is DEDfest?

Kevin Martin: DEDfest is, to quote [co-organizer] Derek Clayton, “Edmonton’s one and only international genre cult film festival” that is generally a mish-mash of horror movies, sci-fi, Asian cinema, and just independent gems that maybe would not have the opportunity to play in movie theatres in this city. There is a lot more out there than the Hollywood mainstream studio stuff, so it’s up to people like us to grab these movies and say, “you know what, our city deserves to see these films.” And not on video on demand or TV—no, they deserve to see them with a big movie-loving crowd. To me, it doesn’t matter how advanced technology is and how easy these movies are to obtain on a computer, nothing beats the theatre experience with a crowd. We do our best to keep this thing going.

EEF: When did DEDfest start and what has been the evolution?

KM: Well, this would be technically the seventh DEDfest. The whole thing started—it all comes back to my video store—it started as a one-day movie marathon with a guy named Matt Acosta who was a customer here and an aspiring filmmaker at the time. He said, “why don’t we just see if there is interest to do something like this and get a one day marathon?” We picked random old movies, Ichi The Killer and Evil Dead 2, and it was twenty bucks. It started at around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon and went till 2:00 in the morning. It was a good crowd in the daytime. It got to a point where it was around 2:00 in the morning and there was maybe five people left in the theatre and we were like “just go home, we’re tired too.” Overall it was an interesting experiment and the idea came that if we planned it out better and maybe tried to get some movies that hadn’t come out yet for the following year, [we could] make it an event.

In 2008, it was still called Deadmonton at the time; we attempted that, and that’s when Derek came on board. I think our big movie that year was the North American premiere of My Name Is Bruce, which was such a coup for us.

EEF: I remember that night.

KM: It was the late show on the Saturday and then we peppered the rest of the schedule around it with retro screenings of Night Of The Creeps and Phantasm.

EEF: Wasn’t that the same year as Tokyo Gore Police and Wicked Lake?

KM: That was interesting; that was when we first realized doing this whole film festival stuff—your first year doing it, when you approach these companies, they’re like “who are you guys?” This is new to us, our first year, and we really wanted Tokyo Gore and they’re like “Well alright, we’ll give you Tokyo Gore but you have to take Wicked Lake.” So we learned about bartering. No offence to Wicked Lake, some people liked it, but there is a reason why they piggybacked it on top of Tokyo Gore.

EEF: That is a very classic Hollywood move.

The cool thing about always going to DEDfest, or any film festival for that matter [is that] it’s not like going to a regular Cineplex Odeon movie, because this crowd that you see at The Lobby, these are your peers, they’re there for you.

KM: Yeah. Honestly, it was a fairly successful year, it went really well, and that’s when we were located downtown in the Citadel building, which only fit around 218 people, so it looked like a good crowd. After that, Matt Acosta left, so it was just me and Derek and we decided to switch the name because Deadmonton wasn’t working out and there was too much confusion because there is another Deadmonton as well. It’s gone on from there. You forget how long you’ve been doing it, but I look back and I have fond memories.  I think my personal favourite was 2009 when we were still downtown, and I think about it more than ever this year because in 2009 we showed the Mo Bothers’ Macabre and this year we’re showing the Mo Brothers’ Killers. We showed Dead Snow back in 2009 and this year we’re showing Dead Snow 2.

EEF: What can audiences expect from this year’s festival?

KM: I always tell our first-time audiences, they may have heard of it but never attended—the number one question I get is, “Kev, I’ve never been and I really don’t know if I can convince any of my friends to come with me.” I’m like, “You know what? Come by yourself.” I always tell them it’s a multi-day event. The cool thing about always going to DEDfest, or any film festival for that matter [is that] it’s not like going to a regular Cineplex Odeon movie, because this crowd that you see at The Lobby, these are your peers, they’re there for you. So as the days go on, you will mingle with these people because you have something in common immediately. It’s a party atmosphere.

EEF: There’s beer.

KM: There is beer. It’s funny because when we schedule our movies we have the 7:00, the 9:00, and the late show. I mentally schedule them—OK, anything with subtitles that might need focusing we’ll do that at 7:00, and then as the evening goes on I always take into account the alcohol consumption. As we get later in the night, [I] make sure it’s more fun and festive movies. We only have one late show this year, because DEDfest is a little bit later than usual—we are running at the same time as the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is always a huge favourite at the Garneau, [and] we’re cool with that. Our late show this year is our good buddies’, Astron 6. We have shown Father’s Day and Manborg in the past; their new movie is The Editor. I’m ridiculously looking forward to this movie.

EEF: This is the first time you’ve done kid’s programming.

KM: Yeah, it’s a new thing for us. I’ll admit that it was Derek that thought of the idea. We knew that Kier-la Janisse, our good friend from Montreal, author of House Of Psychotic Women and a former DEDfest guest, she was curating these Saturday morning cartoon things for many festivals, including the Garneau itself there, so we asked her if she could put together a Halloween retro cartoon package, which she did. So, on the Saturday at 11:00 in the morning, we’re going to have—I don’t even know how to say this—a kid-friendly DEDfest event. That feels so odd. Everybody is welcome; I believe it’s pay by donation, because all of the money ends up going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, which is super cool. So kids can see some cartoons, we’ll try to have some Count Chocula there, unless it’s sold out, that stuff is going quick, but we have no idea what Kier-la has booked for us, which is kind of the fun part—there better be some Scooby-Doo.

It will be the oddest thing because it will be cereal and coffee and non-alcohol products, and then once that ends: “Thanks for coming out kids! Ok, back to the 18 and over mode, what are we showing next? We’re showing Elijah Wood and [former porn-star] Sasha Grey in Open Windows at 2:00 in the afternoon. Rock and roll, the party keeps going.”

EEF: There is also a documentary this year—Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley’s Island Of Dr. Moreau, which is something that has happened for the past couple now.

We’re going to go straight in from the Richard Stanley documentary to one of my favourite subgenres in the horror movie field and that is French horror movies. I have been waiting for Among The Living for a while.

KM: Yes. Now, this year’s doc I am super excited about. For every terrible Hollywood blockbuster or flop movie that was made in the past 20 years, something good can come out of it, and that is a documentary about what a disaster the movie was to make. This is one of those moments. Richard Stanley, for those of you who don’t know, was an amazing up and coming director in the 90s who made two incredible films: Hardware and Dust Devil. Then he was finally given the big opportunity by the studio system to make his dream project, The Island Of Dr. Moreau.  He had all of this cool conceptual art, he had it all set up, and then the money became a factor. They were shooting it in Australia…

EEF: With an amazing cast: Marlon Brando, Fairuza Balk, Val Kilmer.

KM: But not the cast that he wanted, though. Richard Stanley ended up getting fired from this movie ten days into production and John Frankenheimer ended up taking over, who was basically a gun for hire at that time. What this documentary will teach you is how to never really go against the Hollywood system; more importantly, either Marlon Brando was the craziest person in the world or he was just taking the piss out of the studio heads because he didn’t care and that Val Kilmer was hands down the biggest prick in Hollywood at the time. They make no bones about it, he had just come off of Batman, and his ego was worse than Iceman from Top Gun’s ego—it was just ridiculous. I don’t want to spoil the insanity that went on on-set—the documentary speaks for itself.

We’re going to go straight in from the Richard Stanley documentary to one of my favourite subgenres in the horror movie field and that is French horror movies. I have been waiting for Among The Living for a while. For those of you that don’t know, Among The Living is from the directing team that brought us Inside, which is one of my favourite French horror movies from the past ten years, up there with Martyrs and Frontier(s). What’s interesting about Among The Living is this is your typical French insane horror movie if Steven Spielberg was involved [in] making it, because the movie is from the point of view of three 12-year-old boys. Picture The Goonies if it [were] a hardcore horror movie. Very intense movie—man, that’s going to be great on the big screen. You know, I get giddy—I have seen a lot of these movies already, obviously, but to see them with a crowd on the big screen I get really excited.

EEF: You want to share them with people.

KM: Absolutely. Our closing movie is probably the most critically acclaimed horror movie of the year.

EEF: And directed by a woman!

KM: I knew you were going to bust that out. Yes, it was directed by a woman. So, The Babadook, the director’s name is Jennifer Kent and it is based off her short film. Now, I have not seen the movie yet, I want to see it with an audience for the first time, but I am assuming by the trailer and how stylistic it is that she was heavily interested by the German Expressionist films of Caligari, Nosferatu, just by the way the Babadook moves and how artistic the children’s book is. It looks like it’s going to be one of these “pin [dropping] in a theatre” kind of movies.

Friday, though, at 7:00—when you say this is Peter Jackson’s favourite movie of the year, you best listen up and go “hmm, maybe I should check this out.” Maybe he’s biased because it’s from New Zealand, that could be, but all the response that I have heard from every festival that Housebound has played at is that it is supposed to be one of the best horror comedies playing the festivals right now.

EEF: And Peter Jackson used to be the best director of horror comedy, so he would know.

KM: I love how we both agreed used to be, yes. So, Housebound is supposed to be amazing.

EEF: So how can Edmontonians enjoy these kinds of films all year round, because the festival only runs till Sunday October 26th?

KM: Oh well, I’m so glad you asked. I might also add, while the festival is set up in the lobby area of the Garneau Theatre, there will be a mini-version of my Lobby DVD shop. I am bringing a heavy amount of my inventory there so, as you watch these movies, feel free to add some more to your collection, because my display will be able to expose people to more of these movies. But for the rest of the year, you know Halloween is coming up, and after that Christmas is coming up—by the way, I ordered 30 copies of Dead Snow 2, street day release December 9th. It would make a great gift—come visit my store, it’s The Lobby DVD Shop. I’m pretty sure I am the only video store in the entire world below a daycare centre; until somebody can prove me wrong, I’m going to use that as my claim to fame. Come on in. If you’re new to these movies, don’t be shy—I love recommending a handful of movies. You take them home, you come back and tell me “these two recommendations were terrible, but I love these two, and these two are pretty solid,” and then I know your taste in movies.

Once the film festival is over, don’t be sad because, you know what, we’re DEDfest; we’re not like most film festivals. Every month we’ll bring you a movie. In fact, usually the November screening, November 14th, will be a movie that we tried to get for the film fest that we didn’t have enough time to get in.

EEF: It’s always the second Friday of every month?

KM:  Yeah, it’s always the second calendar Friday of every month at Metro Cinema.

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A full listing of films and ticket information can be found online at dedfest.com

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