Scary Good

Halloween, schmalloween. All of the Valley's ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night are booked up solid thanks to the First Annual International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, which plays host to an astounding galaxy of genre superstars -- especially for its first go-round.

Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) will be on hand to introduce Dance of the Dead, his contribution to Showtime's new series Masters of Horror. Lloyd Kaufman, Troma Entertainment's indie king, is attending. So is Peter Mayhew, Star Wars' mighty Chewbacca, who's been on the cover of every "swimsuit" issue of Wookiees Illustrated since 1977. Mayhew will introduce a series of unauthorized Star Wars fan shorts. "Chewbacca insists on a flea collar and having us remove the brown M&Ms. It's in the contract," says festival co-director Chris Lamont.

Just as exciting is a screening of Three Extremes, which is getting a lot of attention, especially because of the participation of Takashi Miike, one of the most discomfiting Asian filmmakers working today. "A lot of the films here, like one called Neighborhood Watch, are what I think of as more disturbing than entertaining," says Brian Pulido, the fest's other co-director and the creator of comicdom's Lady Death.

"There's a ghost movie, Boo, that is relentlessly scary," Pulido says. "And one of my favorites is The Dark Hours, where all the crafts are working perfectly, especially in the third act, when it all really hits. Very creepy. But there's a lot of smart science fiction as well, and some really brilliant shorts."

Last on the schedule, but far from least, is Feast, John Gulager's spook-o-rama that was the subject of HBO's final Project Greenlight. Audience reaction to Gulager's flick has been so strong that the newly formed Weinstein Company, ex-Miramax, is considering it for a January release.

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Henry Cabot Beck