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EVENT REPORT: SWEATSHOP at the NYC Horror Film Festival

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When the Hammer Falls... It’s Gonna Hurt



Marquee for the NYCHFF



 Imagine my surprise when X and I arrived at the Tribeca Cinema on Bowery Street in NYC, and it looked just like a bar.  No lit-up marquee, no ticket booth, nobody selling popcorn.  No throngs of horror fans at the ready for the NYC Horror Film Festival.  Just a glass door at a place called BLVD, a bunch of blue lighting and a lonely bartender scrubbing some glasses at the long bar.  Obviously we were at the wrong place.  After few phone calls and text messages, we were back on track.  Fortunately, I’m habitually early for everything, so even taking into account the walk between Penn Station and the Bowery, we had plenty of time to make our way back to the real Tribeca Cinema, which is on Canal and 6th.

Arriving at the right location, my second surprise hit:  my expectations of Tribeca Cinema were way off the mark.  What I thought would be a lush, cavernous theatre that would rival NYC’s greatest hotels in its opulence.  Hell, Robert DeNiro owns the place.  What I got was a nicely grungy little place, with a concession stand the size of a kitchen table and a theatre that was small, tight, and packed with raucous horror fans for the movie SWEATSHOP.

Tucked behind the hall to the theatres is a full-service bar, the cleanest looking part ofTed Geoghegan the cinema.  There, X and I found John Torrani, one of SWEATSHOP’s producers, and a  longtime friend of Icons of Fright.  Torrani was enjoying imbibing as another staunch Icons friend, Ted Geoghegan ran around wildly.  Ted co-wrote SWEATSHOP with the film’s director, Stacey Davidson, who was also in attendance.

The vibe, to put it plainly, was different.  People don’t usually carouse at a movie theatre, but there was much carousing before the film started.  As X and I are teetotalers, instead of drinking we made the rounds of the bar area.  A few people were promoting their wares, so I got some free t-shirts, and a free brain;  two of these people were promoting their low budget affair NIGHT OF THE LIVING HEADS, and as fate would have it, they live right around the corner from me.

As 7:30 rolled around, X and I entered the crammed theatre and sat first row..  Michael Hein, the NYCHFF’s promoter, acted as a stand-up comedian, dispersing information about the festival and giving out prizes, one of which I won;  how odd is it that my prize was a copy of THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE, which Mike Cucinotta and I had watched just four days prior?


A half-dozen of short films preceded SWEATSHOP.  Here’s the Fasso Fast Review of each:

“Detritus X-Mess”:  A one-minute, grim piece about how Christmas toys all get cast aside.  Playing decaying toys against a cheery Christmas poem and jingle was a wise choice.

“Death in Charge”:  A misnomer.  Death is actually klutzy and ends up babysitting a girl who wants to kill her mom.  The ending makes Death’s speech about the mother’s life irrelevant.  It also suffered from an uneven tone.

“Hunger”:  A confusing set of images where characters don’t exactly act logically.  The title led me to think cannibalism, but the payoff  doesn’t sell that well enough.

“Wheels of Death”:  Horror comedy that falls flat.  A rich, Irish girl kills a bicycle cop who keeps coming back.  I kept hearing “Thanks for the ride, lady!” but this short wasn’t even as ambitious as that segment of CREEPSHOW 2.  The piece tries to play off the humor in how the girl finds the incident as an annoyance.  But it just doesn’t work, as comedy or horror.

“The Sinkhole”:  One of my favorites of the shorts.  A salesman tries to close a deal over a piece of Pennsylvania land that’s full of sinkholes.  The seller turns out to be something different from what he seems.  I would’ve liked to see more of this, as the ending leaves it open for the rest of a film that would have some potential.

“Attackazoids, Deploy”:  I’ve never had such a fun time watching a piece of Communist propaganda.  This short made the most of its low budget, reveling in its bombastic cheapness.  It’s actually a sequel to an earlier short, and suggests more party line posturing to come.  The best I can say about this is that I now want to dig out the first installment, and I want to see the future episodes.

After “Attackazoids, Deploy” came SWEATSHOP, the main event of the evening.

SWEATSHOP PosterSWEATSHOP starts off with a shot of a naked, disoriented girl.  It becomes apparent that she’s in fear of something, and starts running.  Enter Officer Mike (played by Fangoria’s own Mike Gingold), who’s scared and a little too trigger happy. 

Following the credits, a bunch of oversexed, unlikable ravers arrive and start to set up for a one-night event.  As the worm turns, everybody’s screwing everybody else (both sexually and otherwise), and that’s even before the warehouse’s tenant arrives, the Beast.  This humongous guy carries around an anvil on a steel bar that’s been driven through it, and he’s not shy about using it.  He’s got some mutated minions with him, and once he gets going, the carnage does not stop.

With its dark locations, grungy attitude and over-the-top violence, SWEATSHOP plays directly to the HOSTEL crowd.  Fans of torture porn will love scenes of Beast cutting off fingers, smashing victims, roughly cutting off penises, and obliterating one character’s entire lower body with his makeshift hammer.  This film is all about bodily destruction, and on that end it pays off, as the fans around me cheered loudly every time a new raver met a ghastly end.  For those with queasy stomachs or who aren’t fans of torture porn, SWEATSHOP is likely not the horror film for you.  If however, you are strong of stomach and enjoy watching unkind characters become fodder, Davidson and Geoghegan know you’re their target audience, and deliver the bloody goods directly to you.

I’m glad I made it to Tribeca.  Though I never made it to 42nd Street when it was 42nd Street, I get a feeling that DeNiro’s theatre is about as close as I can come.  Being there to support good friends and their movie made for a fine time, and I wish SWEATSHOP every success in finding distribution.

--Phil Fasso

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    Phil, great review of a great night. I have to agree with you 100% on the shorts. The first few had their ups & downs, with more downs than ups, and THE SINKHOLE and ATTACKAZOIDS being the 2 best of the bunch.

    SWEATSHOP was a lot of fun as well. It had something for everyone, good gore, great effects, good laughs and hot chicks! I would certainly watch another screening of this movie!

    Someone should inform this "reviewer" not to quit his day job!

    Anonymous, comments like that don't help me to understand why I should keep my day job. I gave a fair and balanced review of the evening.

    I respect your right to an opinion, but you wrote that Wheels of Death "fell flat". In fact, it got plenty of laughs. Everyone I spoke to said they really enjoyed it. If you were fair and balanced, you would have acknowledged that in your review.

    I did, however, indicate that the reviews of the shorts were Fasso Fast reviews. Devoting only a few sentences to each, I couldn't give the crowd response for each short. AS for "Wheels of Death," it fell flat for me, and I'm the reviewer. So I stand by what I wrote.

    I will admit that I laughed a few times at WHEELS OF DEATH, but the ending just seemed to come out of nowhere. I was waiting for something else to happen. It seemed like the majority of the shorts were trying to rely to much on adding that aspect of comedy, and sometimes it doesn't work as well as others.

    I will admit that I laughed a few times at "Wheels of Death." It did however feel like it lacked something. I felt that the ending came out of nowhere and was waiting for something else to happen. A majority of the shorts were comedy, and there is a fine line in horror comedy that can either be really great or not so much. I felt that the shorts that put comedy in, relied too much on that aspect and they lost something. I know the people around me also seemed to want more from "Wheels" as there was a slight, "that's it" at the end.

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