Night of the Living Dorks

On Sunday at Fantastic Fest, I felt like I'd traveled backwards in time, to the days of Weird Science and Corey Feldman vehicles. It was surprising not to see any jelly bracelets or parachute pants in the audience.

I missed the first showing of Night of the Living Dorks, so I was determined to see it on Sunday. Other festival attendees had nothing but good things to say about the movie. There were a lot of hints about stapler jokes. I even thought the title was amusing (the German title is Die Nacht der Lebenden Loser, which translates into "Night of the Living Losers") and promised a funny horror film, which is just the kind of horror film I like.

I was not disappointed. Night of the Living Dorks was even funnier than I hoped it might be. We were prepared for the movie with trailers for Return of the Living Dead and better yet, Evil Dead 2, as well as a silly, cartoonishly gory short called Forklift Driver Klaus.  
But as for Night of the Living Dorks: Imagine that George A. Romero had directed American Pie, except in German. Or perhaps you should imagine John Hughes directing Re-Animator. Remember how Shaun of the Dead was billed as "a romantic comedy ... with zombies"? Well, Night of the Living Dorks is a teen sex comedy ... with zombies. The movie has all the standard plot elements: the guy who wants to win the rich blonde girl while his longtime friend the Goth girl watches sadly; the guy who wants to have sex with his teacher; the parents who leave for vacation and make their son promise not to have any parties at the house; the nerdy loser guy who transforms as the movie progresses. There's even a Michael Jackson-style dance number. For a minute I wondered if Tom Cruise would show up in underwear and glasses, or at least Curtis Armstrong.

My one regret was that this particular screening was rather sparsely attended. This movie would have truly blossomed with a big lively audience, perhaps at a midnight screening. I hope one of the local theaters decides to bring it back as a midnight movie; I think that with some good word-of-mouth (and perhaps better subtitling) it might do very well.

I can't find any information on Night of the Living Dorks getting distribution in the U.S.—it's only played at a few film festivals in this country. At the least, I hope it becomes available on DVD, at which time I plan to host a movie night to inflict this delightful comedy on all my friends.

I returned to Fantastic Fest late in the evening for one of the last shows of the festival: The Birthday, about which I'd heard mixed reviews. I knew that The Birthday was shot in Spain by a Spanish director, but in English, and it starred Corey Feldman, and it was described as "a Lovecraftian comedy." If you dangle the word "comedy" in front of me when discussing a horror movie, I'm there.

Director Eugenio Mira introduced the film. He explained that he is a huge fan of The Goonies and that The Birthday is a tribute to it and to similar Eighties films. I have to confess that I have never made it all the way through The Goonies. At the time, it looked like a little-boy movie to me and I was never interested enough to change my mind.

The Birthday was preceded by a short from Japan called OH! Mikey that didn't work for me. Department-store mannequins from the 1950s exchanging bizarre conversations? Internet humor.

The Alamo showed a couple of trailers for old Corey Feldman movies to get us in the mood. I didn't know Meatballs 4 even existed, nor have I ever seen Dream a Little Dream. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of Feldman movies I've ever seen. If The Birthday is full of sly references to his films, I missed them.

The Birthday is a very strange movie indeed. It will certainly achieve cult-film notoriety. If no one told you it was supposed to be a horror film, you would never know from the first 30 minutes. Corey Feldman's character, who is allegedly modeled after Jerry Lewis, reminded me more of Milton, Stephen Root's character in Office Space, but dressed for an Eighties prom. He has one of those nagging girlfriends whom I have seen entirely too much of in films lately. She bosses him all around her dad's birthday party. But little by little, you can see that something is amiss, even if you can't quite tell what. What's in the huge crate that the waiters are lugging into the kitchen? Why is it so cold in the party room? What's behind the allusions to a funeral, to a family history of cancer, to medical experimentation?

Not that you find out the answers to all of these questions, and in fact, the movie ends in an unresolved way. It may be ambiguous but I found it pretty funny. It was a very good way to end the four-day Fantastic Fest.

Overall, I found Fantastic Fest to be a success. If anything went horribly wrong, I missed it entirely. I look forward to seeing the festival in Austin again next year. If you want to read about some of the films I didn't get a chance to see, I recommend the following sites:
  • Matt Dentler's Blog, since he was one of the Fantastic Fest programmers and has some interesting insider info (also a few good photos)
  • Cinema Strikes Back, which includes tons of photos, and seems to have covered every aspect of the festival including the pulchritude of the Alamo waitstaff
  • Chris at Blue Glow, who saw many more movies than I did
If you know about any other Fantastic Fest reports, please post the URLs in the comments.