Black Sheep -- By now you've probably already seen the infamous video of me interviewing a bunch of sheep (professional journalist that I am), plus I have an interview with director Jonathan King on the way, but for now let's just focus on the flick itself: It's a whole lot of wool-covered, splattery fun. Take the 'mad scientist' schtick from any of your favorite monster movies, transplant it into the pastoral loveliness of New Zealand's rolling hills, and gather about 2,000 really pissed-off ovines -- and you're still not even close to encapsulating the insanity of Black Sheep. Part Peter Jackson, part William Castle, and entirely entertaining from beginning to end, the flick mixes slapstick with splatter and the result is a midnight movie extraordinaire. Of course it also helps that Mr. King has an excellent cast and some superlative FX work from Weta Workshop. We don't know who'll be distributing Black Sheep stateside just yet, but odds are the gorehounds will have a ball with this lightning-paced piece of shear madness. Trapped Ashes -- Not very long ago, this horror anthology was at the very top of my "must-see" list -- and then I saw it. Yikes. You'd think that with the combined efforts of Joe Dante, Sean S. Cunningham, Ken Russell, Monte Hellman and John Gaeta, Trapped Ashes would end up as some sort of multi-story mini-classic. Alas, no. The stories are dry and flaccid, the actors seem bored and disinterested and the wrap-around section is irritating and irksome. Plus, it's all wrapped up with a bunch of "twist" endings that are as telegraphed as they are trite and tiresome. Basically the thing feels a lot like some "deleted episodes" of Tales from the Crypt/Darkside -- and I don't mean that in a good way. Easily the biggest disappointment of the fest.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane -- In my review I call it "The Last Picture Show meets Friday the 13th," although I'm now having some second thoughts about that designation. Regardless, this is a well-crafted, slyly sexy, and surprsingly intelligent throwback to the old-school slasher flicks of, say, 1981 - 1987. First-timers Jonathan Levine (director) and Jacob Forman (screenwriter) seem just as interested in deflating the stock teenage stereotypes as they are in mounting a simply slick slasher flick. And they readily succeed on both counts. Plus it's gory, funny, and full of beautiful young women. (OK, young guys, too.) The crowds up here really ate it up. Plus, Rocchi dug it as well, and he's not the ravenous splat-geek like I am. (Apparently "all the boys" also includes the Weinstein brothers, since they recently snatched the flick up for their Dimension genre division.)