Transilvania Film Festival audiences have been savvy about off-beat films from bizarre quarters for many years, thoroughly appreciating the efforts of fest organizers, who scout out and embrace provocative work. This year, Czech Republic’s Shockproof Film Festival has been given carte-blanche by Transilvania to program its own selection of schlock gems.
The lineup surely ranks as highly as any in its embrace of film that is both cheap and offensive – and thoroughly relishing both qualities. Shockproof founder Petr Saroch, who has been screening “all forms of low-brow, bad taste, trash and fun outside of the realm of run-of-the-mill” for 14 years at Prague’s Kino Aero, says Transilvania crowds should expect the best of the worst this year.
Aside from sleaze classics such as José María Forqué’s extraterrestrial dictator flick “Nexus” (1994), William Castle’s parasite horror gimmick “The Tingler” (1959), “Trash Humpers” (2009) by Harmony Korine, and Anthony Hickox’s “Exodus to Shanghai” (2015), partly filmed in Romania, Shockproof is also bringing rare Czech genre pieces.
He and his team have chosen five B movies, which will screen with varying degrees of audience participation – including at least one live English over-dubbing that may or may not follow the Czech-language original soundtrack.
Each of the films pays homage to non-existent production values, appalling performances and scripts that barely qualify as first drafts, of course. But oddly enough, although Shockproof has established expertise on at least three decades of vintage Western low-budget exploitation flicks, they bring to Cluj this year a slate of all-Czech, more-or-less contemporary films.
Proving, sadly, the genre will never die, Saroch and company will grab live mics, embellishing the already weird storyline and dialogue of the titles, which fit in well with Shockproof’s mission of presenting “a fine selection of the most impressive, ludicrous, overlooked and bizarre in horror, extreme, action, gore, camp, B-, C- and even X-rated movies.”
Known in Czech as the Otrly divak – or Hardened Viewer fest – Shockproof has grown in popularity over the years even as it rejects any effort to try to redeem itself by claiming educational value. Indeed, says Saroch, audiences in Central and Eastern Europe, although their countries never experienced drive-ins or grindhouse culture, are already quite familiar with blood-splashed teen massacres and lurid women’s prison shower scenes.
“A lot of them were distributed on VHS in the 90s and through VHS piracy subculture in the 1980s,” he says, noting that popular titles such as John Waters’ flick “Multiple Maniacs,” Ed Wood’s “Glen or Glenda” and the former West Germany’s “Sensational Janine” have been doing the illicit circuit in the region for decades.
And, although Shockproof enjoys not just free interpretations of the dialogue but also low-tech screening technology, running from old VHS tapes to VCDs, they are bringing to Transilvania a rare chance to see such straight-to-video fare on proper cinema screens.
The Czech films included in Shockproof’s curated sleaze this year are: “Vaginator: Dawn of the Bitches,” a 2017 sex-pocalypse story by Robert Vrba; 2016 swamp critter short “Sour Breath” by Lukas Bulava; Jiri Kunst’s 2014 zombie short “Dobrota”; Milos Kamenik’s 2009 gay cannibalism short “Felch in Flat”; and the trailer parody “Caballero Ape” by Jan Votypka, teasing a supposedly upcoming ‘70s-style road carnage movie driven by a snarky, well-armed half-simian.
(Pictured: José María Forqué’s “Nexus”)