Sick of hearing about the crowds at Sundance or what Oscar has on his mind this year? It's time for films with a different, shall we say, slant to them. Stay up till you're bleary-eyed watching iguanas with painted-on fins at 3 a.m. See adaptations of classic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft's work -- the respectful ones and, of course, the schlocky ones. Chat with directors following the screenings (would you get this access at Cannes?). Face it: Our fair land is positively oozing with horror film fests. Here are three scream gems.
-- Catherine Arnold
WHERE: Norris University Center, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., 12 miles north of downtown Chicago.
WHEN: Jan. 28-29
THE SCENE: Diehard B-movie fans come from Florida, Arizona and elsewhere each year, and at least half of the usual 250 attendees bring coolers and watch this 24-hour marathon of bad movies from start to finish. Hooting, hollering and derisive remarks are encouraged. Initally called the "Twenty-(plus)-Hour B-Movie, Horror, and Science Fiction Festival," B-Fest began in 1981, showing such festival regulars as Ed Wood's 1959 "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and Nicholas Meyer's 1973 "Invasion of the Bee Girls," among others.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Plan 9 From Outer Space," an annual midnight feature, and Mike Jitlov's 1989 short "The Wizard of Speed and Time." Check the fest's Web site (see below) for the rest of the schedule.
INFO: Tickets are $20 at the door, $15 week of the festival in person at Norris University Center Box Office (www.norris.northwestern.edu). Tickets for Saturday only are $10 at the door. Details: 847-491-2301, www.b-fest.com.
* B MOVIE THEATER FILM FEST
WHERE: Palace Movie Theater, Syracuse, N.Y.
WHEN: April 8-14
THE SCENE: Founder Ron Bonk defines B-movies as those "whose entertainment and artistic value exceeds the limitations of their budget." You be the judge during his festival's 13 full-length features and 10-plus shorts. Directors will chat after the movies, and an awards ceremony for best B-movie movies, actors, etc., takes place on Sunday. Principal shows are at 7 and 9 each night; check the Web site below for schedule updates.
HIGHLIGHTS: In past years, such scream queens as Debbie Rochon from Timo Rose's 2004 "Lord of the Undead" and Jasi Cotton Lanier from Marc Fratto's 2003 "Strange Things Happen at Sundown" have appeared at the festival. Bonk says the directors of "Jane White Is Sick and Twisted" (2002) and "Blackwood Evil" (2000) reported to him that viewership and media exposure to the fest garnered them better distribution.
INFO: Tickets are $3 per movie, $5 per day or $15 for a week. Details: 315-652-3868, www.b-movie.com/hof/fest.html.
* H.P. LOVECRAFT FILM FESTIVAL
WHERE: Hollywood Theatre, Portland, Ore.
WHEN: Oct. 7-9
THE SCENE: Feeling that most commercial film versions of H.P. Lovecraft's works didn't do them justice, Portland resident Andrew Migliore started the festival in October 1996 to promote the classic horror writer through adaptations by student, amateur and professional filmmakers. The fest -- which runs 21/2 hours on Friday, 61/2 on Saturday and Sunday -- includes both campy and respectful adaptations of the writer's work. About 1,200 people attend the three-day event.
HIGHLIGHTS: Martin Campbell's 1991 "Cast a Deadly Spell," in which Fred Ward plays a hard-boiled detective up against zombie butlers and magic-wielding criminals. Shorts include the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's "Call of Cthulhu" (2005), about an underwater deity that floats through space and lands on Earth, affecting mankind's dreams for the worst.
INFO: Tickets are $10 for Friday, $12 each for Saturday and Sunday; weekend passes are $30. Details: www.hplfilmfestival.com.