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AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival October 30- November 7, 2009
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From AFI: horror ah ah...begins with zombie movie etiquette


By JON KORN, FPS Kodak Connect/Associate Programmer for AFI Online dailies

Before the film begins... I'd like to get something off my chest regarding zombie movie behavior etiquette: If you happen to be one of a handful of survivors on the run from relentless zombie attacks AND you happen to get bitten during an unfortunate zombie skirmish. Do everyone a favor -- just admit it. Yes, it's awkward and yes, they will have to shoot you in the head (have to kill the brain, after all), but seriously -- you're the one who was a little too slow or a little too curious or a little too greedy at the wrong moment. Think of it as the Golden Zombie Rule: Admit you got bit to the others as you would have them admit they got bit to you. There isn't going to be some miracle zombie virus cure. And you aren't going to kill yourself right before you "turn." You're just going to end up putting the bite down on some hapless dude or new survival buddy who got put on zombie lookout detail with you. And for that split second before all you can think about is how delicious human brains are -- you're going to feel really, really bad. Ð John Wildman

Let's face it -- mainstream cinema has pretty much given up on horror films as anything other than potential cash cows for the teen market. That which goes bump at the box office is valued over the sort of witty, genre-busting work that once served as the first step in the careers of many serious filmmakers. Cheap scares have their place, but the slate of horror movies and thrillers at AFI FEST 2007 offer up a rare, lasting dread that will haunt you for the year to come. And they do it with style. We didn't set out to give you nightmares when we put our program together, it's just a fun little side effect.

Before we can even address the state of modern genre cinema, AFI FEST 2007 presents two documentaries that explore the careers and artistic processes of some of the most accomplished outsider filmmakers in recent history. VAL LEWTON: MAN IN THE SHADOWS rediscovers director/producer Lewton's witty, economical thrillers for a new generation, while honoring his techniques in filmmaking. Trust me, your Netflix queue is about to get four films longer. SPINETINGLER: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY is a hilarious trip through the career of a true showman who treated film audiences to outrageous experiences. Castle thrilled and delighted moviegoers with buzzing seats, flying skeletons, luminescent ghosts and life insurance policies against "death by fright." Taken together, these two films document the impressive work done by two men to establish horror as a viable and infinitely creative genre.

Of course, there are young filmmakers out there who are finding exciting, new ways to tell scary stories. One of the most exciting new faces at AFI FEST is director Adam Wingard, whose debut feature POP SKULL will expand your definition of what a horror film can be while it blows your mind. Made with a group of friends on a miniscule budget, the film tells the story of a prescription drug addict through powerful performances and spastic visuals.

Just as impressive is Anders Morgenthaler's ECHO, which follows a fugitive policeman's descent into madness after kidnapping his son and fleeing to the Danish countryside. Eschewing mainstream horror's dependence on effects, ECHO finds ample fear inside its characters, reminding us all what true terror and desperation look like. AFI FEST 2007 also boasts a pair of twisted shorts that manage to find the humor in what might otherwise be truly awful situations. Australian director Nash Edgerton's SPIDER is a perfectly made morality tale that is somehow hilariously funny as well. Vicious and wonderful, it's guaranteed to make you jump just as often as it makes you laugh.

And then there is PSYCHO HILLBILLY CABIN MASSACRE!, which honors the delightful depravity of slasher-movies while also delivering a note-perfect parody. Director Robert Cosnahan's film is lewd, silly and covered in fake blood; in other words, it totally rules. Finding humor in horror is no easy task, but both of these filmmakers are able to do so without losing focus on their filmmaking.

As you can see, this is certainly a year filled with thrills and scares at AFI FEST. Even though we got started the day after Halloween, the remarkable creativity on display in these films is sure to impress, even as it scares your socks, or perhaps even your pants, off. From the classics to contemporary filmmakers, our slate of horror films is diverse enough to offer every festivalgoer what they are looking for, whether it be a lesson, a spook or a laugh. Just remember to keep telling yourself "it's only a movie, it's only a movie..."

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AFI FEST presented by Audi is the longest-running film festival in Los Angeles and one of the most influential film festivals in North America. Each year the Festival presents one of the world's most anticipated showcases of international film, demonstrating AFI's commitment to celebrating the art form.

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