The 2005 CrashFest Halloween Crash Bash – 2005
by Andrew Dowd
“Tonight is about celebrating independent filmmaking here in Chicago. But it’s also about just getting together and having a good time.”
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These words, spoken by Crashfest founder (and Film Monthly contributor) Gary Schultz, pretty accurately summed up the mood and spirit of the 6th annual Halloween Crash Bash. A costume party and short film festival rolled into one, the event has always been a laid-back but lively affair, and this year was no exception. Several hundred partygoers and film fans flocked to Chicago’s Spin Club, where the Bash was held as an official after party to the Halsted Street Parade on Halloween night. Diverse and energetic, it was the enthusiastic crowd that truly gave this year’s festival its spark.
The theme of the night was the 1980s, so it was not surprising to see many Reagan-era icons dominating the dance floor. While Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper mingled by the bar, the music of Devo and Duran Duran pulsated from a number of television sets stationed throughout the club. If you could pretend that one attendee’s Velvet Revolver sweater was actually a Guns and Roses shirt and ignore the DVD quality images blazing across the screens, you might think you’d stepped through a time warp.
Continuing a Crashfest tradition, prizes were given out later in the evening for the best costumes. First and second places were awarded, with grand prize going to the aforementioned Mr. T impersonator (Best 80s Costume), a jolly green giant (Sexiest costume), and some sort of creepy witch or something (Scariest Costume). Anyone could enter, and decisions were made democratically through audience applause. The competition was representative of the fun and relaxed atmosphere of the evening.
With all the dancing and partying going on, it was easy to forget that the main purpose of the Bash was showcasing the work of independent filmmakers. At 9:00, the festival screenings began, kicking off with several explicit, uncut movie trailers for 80s horror films like Killer Klowns From Outer Space and The Toxic Avenger. The films that followed couldn’t quite live up to this great trailer reel, but those watching them didn’t seem to mind. Crashfest’s outings have a rare midnight screening vibe to them, with audience participation not just encouraged but also practically required. Laughing and cheering on cue, the costumed masses kept the energy level high during the 90-minute program, which featured eight low-budget Halloween-appropriate shorts.
So how were the films? As in previous years, they ranged from good to okay to pretty terrible. Half of the shorts in competition were animated, including an unauthorized claymation bout between Ash of The Evil Dead trilogy and the Highlander that played like a lost episode of Celebrity Deathmatch. The Audience Award ultimately went to “Halloween Cliffhanger,” a crowd-pleasing anthology of three holiday-themed shorts from indie filmmaking collective Split Pillow. But the real cream of the crop was Bill Whirity’s slick “Zombie Island.” Though fairly derivative, in terms of its simplistic story line, the film benefited from absolutely gorgeous cinematography, great zombie make-up, and a strong sense of mood and pacing. It’s anyone’s guess why it didn’t win. The worst of the bunch was undoubtedly the last movie screened, “A Lesson In Pain.” A pointless exercise in extreme sadism and misogyny, it might have been offensive were it not so painfully inept. The film’s one redeeming quality: a moderately convincing decapitation by chainsaw. In a competition like this, such merit should not be ignored.
Whether you were there for the movies, the dancing, or the alcohol, Crash Bash was an evening to remember. Where else could you expect to see a thoroughly sloshed Captain Jack Sparrow canoodling with the Hamburglar while Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer blares menacingly in the background? It was quite the way to spend that wildest and spookiest of holidays, Halloween. Can’t wait for next year.
Andrew Dowd is a film critic and writer in Chicago.
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