The next feature had such a tantalizing premise that we swallowed our disappointment over Cannon Fodder and marched in to see it.
It was called Demon's Rook and the idea is that a young boy communes with demons until one takes him to the underworld, where he lives for a decade or more, only emerging as a confused, heavily bearded adult. And, as it turns out, leading a bunch of other demons up into our world, where they wreak havoc.
The other hook this had going for it was that all the effects were practical. The director, James Sizemore, was also the special effects chief and star of the film (with his wife Ashley Jo). The makeup is quite good, very old school '80s but lovingly done, and by itself sets this movie apart from other low budget flicks.
Which is why the movie itself is such a crushing disappointment, in its way far worse than Cannon Fodder, which didn't really have much promise.
The best parts of this movie were the stretches without any dialogue, and another long stretch where the dialogue is entirely in demon-ese (no subtitles).
Another amusing thing was how it hearkened back to '80s, '70s and (at points) even '60s horror flicks. It starts out squarely in the '80s, during that Creepshow-inspired wave of monster-oriented horror features, videos and TV shows. Then at other parts it evokes '70s cult-oriented flicks like The Devils' Rain. At one point, there's a virtual go-go dance with demons, a la '60s. And the ending is kinda '60s nihilistic and reminded me of, like, Manos or Dementia 13 or something from that ilk.
Apart from that, it's a complete and utter mess. It's said that it took over two years to make with all the consequent cast and crew issues that would occur when you make a movie over the course of two years, even if it's mostly with friends and family. At the same time, Mrs. Sizemore can be seen in videos from a year ago talking about how "principal photography" is about to begin, and the movie was first aired in March.
Both things are possible, of course. It might be that many of the scenes were filmed over the course of two years with little more purpose than "this will be cool" and an idea about demons terrorizing a rural community.
Anyway, it's a sort of depressing experience, precisely because there's some real talent involved, not just in the makeup (obviously) but Sizemore seems to have a real facility for the visual aspect of filmmaking. But this comes off as sort of special-effects porno: the non-SFX portions are just filler.
We were so bummed at the end, we gave up on the festival.