Kool Kat of the Week: Dayna Noffke, Local Independent Filmmaker and Retro-tastic Gal Joins the Killer Cast and Crew of the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 18th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Andrew Shearer of Gonzoriffic

Dayna Noffke, lover of all things retro, Jill of all trades and local filmmaker (ThrillRide Pictures), joins the gore-tastic ranks of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL (WIHFF) brought to you by Festival Directors Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (“Rainy Season”) and Samantha Kolesnik (“I Baked Him A Cake”). The festival invades Peachtree City promising a weekend filled to the bloody brim with kickass independent women filmmakers, creators and horror film enthusiasts. You won’t want to miss the horrorific lineup of shorts and feature-length films, panels, vendors and special guests including Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Amanda Wyss (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET/BETTER OFF DEAD), Marianne Maddalena (SCREAM), Lynn Lowry (CAT PEOPLE/THE CRAZIES), Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) and more! Noffke has been given the excruciating task, yet a highly rewarding opportunity to get a sneak peek at the talent before it’s unleashed on the unsuspecting masses, as a WIHFF film judge. Competitor’s films for the film competition will screen throughout the festival weekend (Friday, September 22, 12:00 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.; Saturday, September 23, 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, September 24, 12:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.;  Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City; Tickets $45 day pass ($55 at door) / $125 full fest pass ($140 at door); and $200 VIP Fest Pass (includes all speakers, workshops, films and special events including the Thursday night VIP party); Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)! Kick off this season of horror and make your way to the WIHFF, take a walk down the “Dead Carpet,” and experience a weekend full of killer cinema!

Noffke’s film career began in 2008 when she was cast as an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II (2009). She’s been churning out what she calls “backyard no/low budget” short films ever since, while working part-time as a set dec-buyer/dresser (V/H/S VIRAL, THE VAULT) and working towards directing full-time, with no end in sight. Since 2009, Noffke’s made ten short films including “Safety First” (2009); “Mouse” (2012); “Picnic” (2012); “Recompense” (2014); “Under the Bed” (2015); with her latest being “Teaser,” which wrapped this past week. She’s also written three feature film scripts, which have done well in the screenplay contest circuit, prompting her to take the next step to produce a feature-length film in the near future. As a filmmaker who has had some pretty amazing life experiences (researched Mantled Howler monkeys in Nicaragua; took Gross Anatomy and dissected a human body, just to name a few), Noffke seems to be a perfect choice to judge some of the best independent horror films coming our way this year.

ATLRetro caught up with Dayna to chat about the Women in Horror Film Festival, what inspired her to dive head first into the film industry, her favorite horror movies as a kid, and rooting for kickass final girls. While you’re taking a stroll through our little Q&A, why not take a peek at a couple trailers for some of her short films here.

ATLRetro: How exciting to be a part of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL! Can you tell our readers how you got involved and a little about your role as film judge?

Dayna Noffke: It is exciting! We’re fortunate to have so many amazing film events in Atlanta and this is a wonderful addition. When I heard about the festival, I knew I wanted to be involved but I wasn’t certain that I would have a new film finished in time to submit for this year. I submitted to the organizers’ call for judges and before I knew it, I had a queue full of fantastic film work to review.

What’s it like to judge films of women who have dedicated their creativity and professional lives to the horror genre?

​It’s an honor to be entrusted with these films. I have been in the role of judge for a few different festivals now and I always take it very seriously. I know what it’s like to be on the other side — to have your work put out there for review, and I try to remember that and give each film my full attention and consideration. All of these filmmakers have my respect, because getting any film finished requires Herculean amounts of persistence and hard work. I greatly enjoyed judging, discovering new talents and seeing the evolution of those creators with whose work I am familiar.

We see that you’ve been involved in filmmaking since about 2008, when you were an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II. What was it about that particular film production that made you want to make movies?

Photo by Andrew Shearer

​The experience of being an extra on that film gave me two things. First I was given the ability to see the filmmaking process and the roles on set, including watching a director who really enjoys his work. ​And secondly, I had a great freaking time on set. I felt very at home. It was a light bulb moment for me. All my life, I’d been struggling and bouncing through trying out different artistic disciplines with none of it ever “clicking.” Here it was. I got it. Prior to that experience, it wasn’t in my frame of reference to think of making films as something that I (and my friends) could do. Sure, I realized in an abstract sense that people were making them, but I hadn’t seen it up close and it was a separate world that I’d never experienced. Watching RZ direct that film changed my perspective, so yes – in a strange, roundabout way, Rob Zombie is responsible for my leap into the film world.

It was once thought that horror films were made by and generally made for a male audience. Of course we adamantly disagree, as horror is definitely right down our alley, especially pre-21st century horror. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the genre and why it keeps drawing you in deeper and deeper, as your own filmmaking career continues to grow?

The million dollar question. Why? Why are we so drawn to this darkness? I am actually a pretty light-hearted person. I consider myself lucky to have a great life that’s full of adventure and joy – which makes it perhaps even more of a puzzle. For me, I guess it is twofold. First of all, there’s the thrill. There is nothing like that feeling of being at the top of the clicking roller coaster hill or just before the corner in the haunted house – the anticipation, wanting to scream and laugh and run all at the same time. Monsters are fun, they’re fantasy, but most importantly, they’re an escape. Second, I am fascinated with human beings and that translates into a desire to understand them. While I certainly don’t empathize with people who are able to do horrible things to other people, I want to ‘get it.’ I want to know what makes them tick. Why do these things happen? I want to find sense and make something out of the chaos. I love writing about the survivors. I’m in awe of kickass final girls.

You’ve been employed in several roles in the film industry, including set decorator-buyer, writer, director, producer, etc. Is there any particular role you prefer over the others and why?

One of my favorite things about film is the collaborative nature of the art form. Working in different departments has given me an appreciation for the importance of the different aspects of filmmaking and a better view of the process holistically. I’ve been working professionally, for the past four-something years, as a set decoration buyer. I enjoy the work and it’s helped to develop my design eye, which has translated into better visuals in my own filmmaking. But ultimately, I want to write and direct. I want to be out there telling stories. I’m currently working on making that jump from set dec to being full time on my own projects. As for producing, I have done a lot of that on my projects out of necessity and while it’s a good learning experience, it’s not where my talents lie. I had a great producer, Chris Ethridge, on my most recent short, “Teaser,” and he was a lifesaver. I’m glad to hand that part over to people who are better-suited to the task.

Who are your favorite female horror directors and why are they your favorite? Were there any female role models in the horror genre that particularly inspired you growing up?

“Teaser” Cast & Crew, Photo by Ed Selby

I wasn’t really a monster kid. I was a kid who loved just about everything having to do with stories and pretending – from dolls to Grease to Star Wars – and also happened to be into all kinds of movies. I did always love the final girls who made it to the end of the horror movies — Nancy and Alice and Laurie, particularly. My list of favorite female directors is a long one! Not only are there the big ones, like Mary Harron – whose AMERICAN PSYCHO is a vision of absolute, all-out abandon – but there’s a huge list of indie filmmakers who are making waves in both short and feature length formats. Jen and Sylvia Soska, Karen Kusama, Izzie Lee, Jill Sixx, Lynne Hansen, Tonjia Atomic — the list goes on and on. What they all have in common is guts. They’re all out there taking chances and getting their stories told however they can. Their art is gorgeous and brave. I’m also a huge fan of the actors who make directing such a great job. I have been honored to work with Madeline Brumby (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE), Katherine English and burlesque star Lola LeSoleil among others.

What would you say was your gateway drug/film that enticed you into the land of horror films?

The first real horror film I remember seeing is SILENT SCREAM. I recall that shortly after, my brother and I went on a FRIDAY THE 13TH and JAWS watching spree. I’d set the alarm to get up and watch films on Cinemax in the middle of the night. MY BLOODY VALENTINE also figures prominently into my childhood. ​

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Just five? I love reading, music and films, so I’m always on a tear. There are two books that I cannot recommend highly enough. DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollack is a jaw-droopingly dark and poetic trip into the Southern Gothic. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m also reading THE WITCHES: SUSPICION, BETRAYAL AND HYSTERIA IN 1692 SALEM by Stacy Schiff. It’s full of great information but not particularly academic, a more human approach to the Salem Witch trials story. As for films, Karen Kusama‘s feature film, THE INVITATION, is incredible. I’ve re-watched it a few times. It’s got a very tight, effective story and a killer cast. I will also add to the list of people singing the endless praises of Jordan Peele‘s GET OUT. It’s just that good! Since it’s September, I’m in heavy rotation on monster bop/classic Halloween music. I’m enjoying my new birthday present – Waxwork‘s limited edition MY BLOODY VALENTINE LP with score and music from the film.

What was your favorite horror film growing up?

As a child, JAWS all the way. My brother and I had a best friend who had a pool. We’d get the VHS and make a ‘movie theater’ with tickets, watch the film and then scare ourselves into a frenzy thinking that Jaws lived in the pool. I’ll also have to admit that we chased my brother around an awful lot as Jaws so… apologies on that front.  As a teenager, I really loved cheesy horror – things like MICROWAVE MASSACRE, TOOLBOX MURDERS and the like. ​I got hooked on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, EVIL DEAD and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE then, too, and that has definitely stuck. TCM is my favorite to this day.

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

While I hesitate to speak for every woman in the industry, I’ve certainly heard enough stories and had enough experiences to see that there are definitely barriers to being heard as female filmmakers. I have been put in incredibly uncomfortable positions at cons and film festivals, where I wanted to be involved in the film conversation but was compelled to speak up and/or leave because of the incredibly casual misogynistic and ugly talk about other women. All I could think was, “If they are saying this while I am standing right here, what are they saying about us when I’m NOT here?” I’ve been followed to my hotel room at night by creepy guys and on and on. These types of harassment are barriers to all women – not just filmmakers – feeling comfortable attending and enjoying film events and that sucks. I’m heartened to see a lot of men starting to speak out about this and standing up beside us to put an end to this kind of behavior. There are other problems, of course. Sadly, it’s a long list.

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Show up. Help other filmmakers with their projects and support them in their successes and challenges. Make movies whenever you can – it’s the only way to learn. Community makes the indie filmmaking world go round. Be relentless. The first time funding fell through for my feature, I was crushed. But I quickly realized that it’s probably going to happen a few dozen more times before that film gets made. Keep moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say.

As a filmmaker, and a film judge for the WIHFF, how does the competition look? Anything spectacularly horrorific and exciting you can tell us without giving too much away before the festival? Any particular film we should definitely check out?

​Hmmm. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to give away so I’m going to plead the fifth on this one. But trust me, the competition is FIERCE. You’re really going to enjoy this festival – it’s got everything from fun over-the-top gore to horror comedy and creature films to beautifully realized horror poetry.

What are you looking forward to most about the festival?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the filmmakers! I love catching up with the ones who I know and seeing what’s up next for them but I’m also excited to meet the creators of the films that I judged. There is so much talent out there. ​

And last but not least, what are you up to next? You’ve indicated that in 2018 you’ll be working on a feature-length project based on a screenplay you wrote. Can you tell us a little about that, and any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

“Teaser” still with Jim Stacy and Lola LeSoleil

I have several projects in the works right now. I’m forever writing screenplays – who knows where they will take you? I finally finished up my short film, “Under the Bed” last month. It’s a fun little creature film that stars my daughter and one of my best friends – so we had a great time making it. I’m busy entering it into festivals right now. We wrapped on my latest short, “Teaser” last weekend. It’s a very lush and poetic burlesque-themed short and my biggest production so far. We have a hard deadline for getting it through post, so you can expect to see it at festivals soon!​ I am slated to shoot another short film, “Shark: A Love Story” for a local production company sometime at the beginning of the year. That one has a lot of special FX — blood everywhere! It’s going to be crazy!

I also have three feature film scripts that have been bouncing around for a while but nothing solid on production yet. It’s my goal to shoot my psychological thriller, EIDOLON, in 2018. It’s a very sparse psychological/paranormal thriller — a re-imagining of the classic Victorian short horror story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” My feature script, GET CHINO! is a comedy/grind-house hybrid about five fan girls who kidnap their favorite action star in a bid to get him to star in their film. The screenplay has been chosen as an official selection at Oaxaca Film Festival this year and I’m looking forward to hearing some feedback on that one as well and maybe roll on it in the next few years.

All photos courtesy of Dayna Noffke and used with permission.

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back onto the Pavement! The World Famous Drive-Invasion Hits Turner Field!

Posted on: Sep 4th, 2014 By:

driveinvasion2014The World Famous Drive-Invasion 2014; Turner Field Green Lot (521 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312); Saturday, September 6; Gates open @ 10 a.m.; Admission $25 per person with car or $12.50 walk-up/no car ($26 through Ticketmaster).

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

You can’t keep some things down. When it turned out that the conversion to studio-controlled digital projectors made it impossible for the Starlight Drive-In to continue hosting the annual Drive-Invasion, things looked bleak for a while. But thanks to the tireless efforts of some of Atlanta’s finest, Drive-Invasion has found a new home: Turner Field. They’ll be setting up in Turner Field’s Green Lot and among the attractions you will find a 1000-foot grilling area, Jim Stacy’s Food Truck Midway (serving up a wide array of local culinary delights curated by Pallookaville’s own Mr. Stacy), the Silverscreen Gasoline Car Show (featuring the Discovery Channel CAFÉ RACER host and custom car celebrity, Atlanta’s own Bryan Fuller), an artists’ market, a kids’ play zone and two music stages.

Music-wise, you can expect an ear-filling variety of bands designed for maximum enjoyment before the sun goes down. You want some retro surf-rock action? Step right up and enjoy the sounds of Mystery Men?, Andrew & the Disapyramids (featuring ATLRetro Kool Kat Joshua Longino), and a tribute to the legendary Penetrators. You need some country-fried tastiness? Move it on over to the honky-tonkin’ tunes of Ghost Riders Car Club (featuring Kool Kat Spike Fullerton) and Cletis & His City Cousins (featuring Kool Kat Cletis Reid) . In the mood for some frenzied beat action? Get in the garage with The Brimstones, Rocket 350 and Jimmy & the Teasers. And for straight-up adrenaline-pumping rock and roll, blast off to Bigfoot (featuring Kool Kat Jett Bryant), Dusty Booze & the Baby Haters, Gargantua and The Biters.

But all that is prelude. They call this Drive-Invasion for a reason: drive-in movies. And they’re celebrating the end of the summer with a trio of beach party horror flicks that will keep the mood rocking until the last frame unspools across the screen: THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, JAWS and MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND.

hpb001THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964); Dir. Del Tenney; Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon and Allan Laurel; Trailer here.

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH answers the question “why only have one Creature from the Black Lagoon, when you can have a whole gang of them?” It tells a story old as time: when radioactive waste is dumped into the ocean, it creates a whole mess of monsters who then rise from the depths to kill innocent teens. It’s then up to young Hank and concerned father Dr. Gavin to find a way to stop the rampaging amphibious creatures. Imagine if HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1996) came out in 1964, and replace the gore and nudity with dancing and stomping beach music (provided by the Del-Aires, with half of their songs and all of the film’s score written by future porn legend Zebedy Colt!). HORROR zips along breezily thanks to director Del Tenney’s sure hand, and thanks to him keeping his tongue firmly planted in cheek. It’s not quite a send-up, but more a lighthearted take on teen horror and beach party flicks, much like INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957).

jaws-posterJAWS (1975); Dir. Steven Spielberg; Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw; based on a novel by Peter Benchley; john oath Trailer here.

Then there’s JAWS. What can one say about this movie? When I was a tyke, it was so effective that even this unabashed horror movie fanatic—as committed then as I am today—believed that there were sharks hiding under my bed. (And yes, I fully grasped the logical problem in that scenario.) JAWS established Steven Spielberg as a Big-Time Director after years of working in TV and smaller-budgeted films like THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974). It also singlehandedly created the modern summer “blockbuster” phenomenon (and simultaneously marked the end of the “New Hollywood” period of the late 1960s and early ‘70s), and its style and craftsmanship has exerted a lasting influence far beyond its immediate impact. It is, in many ways, a nearly perfect movie. Pitch-perfect performances from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw are wed to dialogue so fresh that it’s still being quoted, imitated and parodied nearly 40 years after the film’s release. Add to that Spielberg’s precise direction, one of John Williams’ best scores and Verna Field’s expert editing, which work together to create an escalating tension that reaches peaks high enough to make you completely ignore the badly malfunctioning mechanical shark.

mad_doctor_of_blood_island_poster_01MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (1968); Dir. Eddie Romero and Gerardo de Leon; Starring John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn and Ronald Remy; Trailer (featuring narration from the legendary Brother Theodore) here.

Rounding out the program is MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, probably the pinnacle of writer/producer/director Eddie Romero’s Philippine-lensed series of “Blood Island” movies. And while that may sound like a pretty small category for a film to qualify as “the best,” keep in mind that there are something like 10 of them (six in the series, and four tangentially related). In this entry, John Ashley—the co-star of multiple AIP “Beach Party” flicks—stars as a pathologist who turns up at Blood Island to study the health of the natives, only to find mysterious deaths linked to the appearance of what appears to be green blood. Throw in Angelique Pettyjohn, heaps of nudity and gore, some of the most ludicrous pseudo-science ever spouted in a movie script and a rampaging monster that must be seen to be believed, and you have what amounts to one of the most definitive drive-in movies ever created. While it may never be regarded as a cinematic classic, it is an experience that I wholeheartedly suggest you undertake. It’s not for nothing that Eddie Romero was named the National Artist of the Philippines in 2003.

And let me take this time to warn you: to survive your exposure to the energies of MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND and to ward off contagion in the days after Drive-Invasion, you must prepare yourself by taking the Oath of the Green Blood, which will ensure that you will never become a green-blooded monster. Vials of Doctor Lorca’s Green Blood Potion will be available to the first 1000 visitors who stop by the Drive-Invasion booth or Professor Morté’s Silver Scream Spookshow booth. Remember: stay safe. Protection is prevention.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Retro Review: Revisiting THE VISITOR, The Most Insane Non-Indie Horror Movie Ever Filmed in Atlanta

Posted on: Jul 12th, 2014 By:

Contraband Cinema presents THE VISITOR (1979); Dir. Michael J. Paradise; Starring John Huston, Paige Conner, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen; One Night Only, July 12 @7:00pm, Eyedrum; Tickets $7.00 at the door and actress Paige Conner will be attendance.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Early in THE VISITOR, an 8-year-old girl opens a wrapped present at her birthday party. Because we’ve been watching the movie, we know that the present contains a tacky statue of a bird, but now the girl inexplicably finds a gun. She grins, points it at partygoers, but then casually tosses it onto a table, which causes it to fire a slug into the back of another character, who then waits the length of a dramatic pause before collapsing to the ground. The entire incident goes from gift-giving to gunfire tragedy in less than 10 seconds.

The reaction among my friends watching the film in my living room was loud. “Wait, what?” “What the hell just happened?!” After a few moments and a few laughs, they calmed, awaiting the explanation that was sure to come.

But, of course, this is THE VISITOR we’re talking about. Explanations aren’t on its agenda, not when every second of screen time is another opportunity to smash a morsel of blazing, brain-melting insanity directly into the film. This is a movie in which legendary Hollywood director John Huston plays an “intergalactic warrior” matching wits with his greatest nemesis, a pre-tween telekinetic and her pet falcon. This is a movie in which director Sam Peckinpah plays an abortion doctor and Lance Henriksen an evil basketball team owner. This is a movie in which skating rinks and street food shops are the sites of supernatural murders. This is a movie in which the fate of the universe is decided in late-1970s Atlanta. But, above all, this is a movie that exists.

THE VISITOR fits loosely into the subgenre of supernatural child movies that bloomed in the wake of William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1973). Instead of a demon, little Katy Collins (Paige Conner) is under the sway of an evil intergalactic force named, of all things, Sateen, whose fractured soul is being reborn into children on Earth. I think. Honestly, the film is a tough to puzzle out, as if its heady ideas were being translated through some unfamiliar language which, in a literal sense, they were. The film was an Italian-American coproduction, written and directed by Italians and then translated into English for the sometimes-baffled American cast. But the film also routinely garbles cinematic language, connecting scenes and images that don’t make logical sense, dropping plot threads as soon as they’re introduced, and failing to explain, well, anything. In THE VISITOR, a guardian can tell a character that nothing bad will ever happen to her again about five nanoseconds before someone runs that character into a glass aquarium, and it’s not just OK, it’s expected. Anything less insane would belong to another movie.

THE VISITOR is the fevered brainchild of Italian schlock producer Ovidio Assonitis. He was The Asylum of his day, grabbing any idea that had traction in the public and churning out his own low-cost replica. From THE EXORCIST he invented BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). From JAWS (1975) he developed TENTACLES (1977) (also starring Huston!). From PIRANHA (1978) came, well, PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981). Right away, however, something felt a bit different about THE VISITOR. The production had a whiff of class about it as Huston’s name and cachet attracted more big names to the cast, including the likes of Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters and Glenn Ford. Assonitis even shot scenes in Rome, Italy, before moving the production to the tax-friendly vistas of downtown Atlanta.

Paige Conner in THE VISITOR (1979). Drafthouse Films.

For locals the film not only exists as a virtual tour through a past version of the city—including looks at Underground Atlanta, The Omni and other retro locales—but as a dubious legacy for some of the Atlanta’s most famous figures. The credits reserve a special thanks for Mayor Maynard Jackson, who worked hard to bring the production to town, and the film owes memorable scenes and locations to the cavalier whims of Ted Turner. According to legend, Assonitis wagered the fate of the production on a Hawks game with Turner. If the Hawks won, the production would get access to Turner’s home as a shooting location free of charge. The Hawks did indeed win, and the production not only gained access to Turner’s home, but the Omni as well for a key scene in which the possessed little girl explodes a basketball with her mind. (Supposedly, eagle-eyed fans can spot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the scene as well as radio personalities Neal Boortz and Steve Somers. So there’s that.)

It’s unclear whether the city or Turner were grateful for the chance to contribute. THE VISITOR flopped miserably (and predictably) at the box office, perhaps because the world just wasn’t ready to see Franco Nero (DJANGO [1966]) as Jesus Christ or to see Lance Henriksen attacked by a ceramic switchblade bird. The film made a paltry amount of money at the box office, and that’s just counting the money they got to keep. In an interview on the film’s DVD, Henriksen talks about the film’s legendary badness and his embarrassment at a screening in New York when he heard audience members demanding their hard-earned money back. Henriksen’s opinion of the film represents the consensus at the time of its premiere, but time has a way of changing the story, and THE VISITOR’s story has changed.

The film’s first supporter was supposedly Huston himself, who immediately recognized something special hiding among the frames of the film and kept an elusive VHS of the movie near his deathbed. It took longer for audiences to catch on, but a few did, and a passionate cult helped the film become a regular at midnight screening and trendy repertory houses. Audiences came for the irony and stayed for the film’s unrivaled uniqueness. THE VISITOR doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compensates with mood. THE VISITOR has a dreamlike tone, cultivating something like madness out of its odd juxtapositions of tone and images, or of the powerful performances in service of a story that can’t be unraveled. The film appears assured and confident in the story it’s telling, leaving audiences wondering if the answers are in there after all, just waiting for a keystone piece of information to unlock them. Does it make sense that Henriksen’s evil, but certainly human, tycoon character needs to marry his girlfriend in order to create another wicked psychic child? Probably not, but Henriksen seems to believe it, so why shouldn’t we?

The big coup for THE VISITOR in its reassessment came earlier this year, when Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the trendsetting Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Austin, Texas, released a wonderful new Blu-Ray edition of the film, made with the kind of loving care and attention usually reserved for a Criterion Collection release of a prestige classic. It’s safe to say that more eyes have been on the film in the past year than in the past few decades, and the movie seems to be well on its way to a complete rehabilitation.

By this point in the article, you probably have an idea if THE VISITOR is for you. If it is, then I highly recommend seeing it as soon as possible, and Eyedrum, along with Contraband Cinema, are giving you the chance. Saturday night, July 12, the art gallery is hosting a screening of the film with actress Paige Conner in attendance. Alongside the film will be an art exhibit featuring “new and original pieces based on this unique film by a variety of local artists.” This is a special opportunity to experience a forgotten piece of Atlanta cinema history in the midst of its revival and rediscovery.

THE VISITOR, at long last, has arrived.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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