Maybe it’s because the real world has gotten scary enough, but most of the horror movies on display at the sixth-annual Screamfest contain at least as many yuks as they do yucks, with the tone set on opening night by David Arquette’s feature directorial debut The Tripper, in which a nut case with a Ronald Reagan fetish stalks and murders hippies at a rock concert. Conservatives may be appalled, or get vicarious thrills. Campy, gory kills are the raison d’être of both Hatchet, in which former Jason actor Kane Hodder once again plays an undead deformed dude who hates horny teens, and Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror, which sees the Doggfather selling his soul to the devil before offering up amusingly bloody tales of doomed taggers, slumlords and hip-hop stars. Even foreign movies are getting in on the act — Sweden’s Frostbiten is damn near artful in its over-the-top storyline about vampire pills, talking dogs and undead, shape-shifting Nazis; while the Irish film Isolation, not available at press time, involves killer mutant cow fetuses — who can resist that? If you haven’t yet caught John Gulager’s Feast, it’s screening in an uncut edition; don’t miss the monster fucking! Still, there’s more onscreen at Screamfest than just blood and guts. Scott Glosserman’s masterful Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon not only wittily deconstructs the slasher genre with a deftness that puts Scream to shame, it also offers one of the year’s best performances from Nathan Baesel as the eponymous Leslie, a charismatic horror villain demonstrating all the tricks of the trade to a morally conflicted documentary crew. On par with Baesel is Marc Senter in The Lost, a notably noncomedic gut-punch adapted from Jack Ketchum’s novel by director Chris Sivertson, who combines the sensibilities of ’70s horror and ’90s death-metal videos. Senter’s Ray Pye doesn’t have to be a supernatural bogeyman to creep you out; he’s just a slick, psychotic delinquent who gets the girls and once got away with murder. You don’t wanna know this guy, but you can’t take your eyes off him. Prefer eerier chills? Be sure and catch Shorts Program No. 2 — Danish filmmaker Benjamin Holmsteen’s Lille Lise is just what you need. (Mann Chinese 6; thru Oct. 22. www.screamfestla.com)
—Luke Y. Thompson
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