It’s surprising that Lucifer himself hasn’t rolled up to Fantastic Fest in a black-and-red Ferrari at this point, considering this year’s festival has definitively proven that Satanists are the new witches are the new vampires are the new zombies. The occult theme came to its logical conclusion last night with the launch of Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia In The 1980s, a collection of essays on the many facets of the “Satanic Panic” of the era, from evangelical smear campaigns against Dungeons & Dragons to real-life cases like the infamous McMartin preschool trial. A fascinating multimedia presentation, including personal anecdotes from editor Kier-La Janisse and contributor Dave Canfield—who participated in exposes of several celebrity evangelists in the ’80s—and clips from contemporary media like the infamous 1988 Geraldo Rivera Show episode “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground” preceded the main event, a 35mm screening of 1981’s Evilspeak. Starring Clint Howard as a bullied cadet at a military boarding school, Evilspeak boasts a Satanic Apple II named E.S.T.E.B.A.N. and an absolutely bonkers climactic scene. An occult cult classic, Evilspeak was released on Blu-ray by Shout!Factory last year.
Unfortunately, that event turned out to be the best of the day, otherwise marked by foreign-language horror heavily influenced by previous, superior films. First up was Sensoria (C-) from Sweden, a haunted-house movie as generic as the faceless concrete apartment block where the story takes place. From the opening mirror scare to the water imagery to the long-haired, sad-faced little girl that our heroine should probably know is not what she appears to be, everything here has been done before, and better. These flaws are enhanced by the weak script, which over-explains certain aspects of the story while under-explaining others. Turkey’s Baskin (C) was marginally better, a blatant Clive Barker ripoff about five police officers who are called to provide backup at the scene of an abandoned police station. What they find there mines much of the same territory as Barker’s Hellraiser and Lord Of Illusions, both visually and thematically, under giallo-influenced colored lights. Barker diehards and fans of the Japanese ero-guro subgenre—it would have made a good Tartan Asia Extreme title back in the day—might enjoy Baskin as a VOD pick thanks to its visceral qualities, but there’s very little here that extreme-horror aficionados haven’t seen before.
The “ripoff” part of Remake, Remix, Rip-Off (B-), also from Turkey, is right there in the title. But considering its content, it’s also difficult not to compare the film—unfortunately rather unfavorably—to the work of documentarian Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films). The film starts off as a fairly straightforward documentary on the Turkish film industry, whose reputation as the Wild West of cinema came as a result of tight budgets, insane productivity—one actor says he’s done “between 500 and a thousand films” in his career—and a complete lack of copyright law, leading to filmic scenarios like a “Turkish Superman” fighting robots as the “Imperial March” plays in the background. That’s all very entertaining stuff, but Remake, Remix, Rip-Off stumbles by trying to do too much. Touching briefly on subjects like censorship and the imprisonment of dissident filmmakers has the counterproductive effect of making viewers feel kind of guilty for laughing at that Turkish E.T. clip earlier, a dissonance that ultimately lessens the impact of both the serious and sublimely silly aspects of the film.