And Monster Fest is a go! With several weeks of build up, tonight's hugely anticipated 40th anniversary screening of THE EXORCIST was a brilliant way to get things started. After a brief moment of panic when the Eastern Freeway came to a stand-still we eventually made it to Cinema Nova with plenty of time to spare. Nova's bar/lounge area was roped off and closed for the meet 'n greet with the festival's special guest LINDA BLAIR. I've never been the type of person to ogle over celebrities and while it's wonderful to listen to them address an audience, I'm not a huge fan of kissing-ass or lining up for their attention. While waiting in the foyer I recognised a lot of familiar faces and managed a few brief conversations. It was great to meet some of you and it was very fucking weird (in a good way) to have some people approach me as "hey, you're that Fake Shemp guy". Sorry to the faces I saw and never spoke to. There's a whole week left and I'm sure we'll get the chance.
7PM arrived and it was time to file into Cinema 1. The seats were allocated and lucky for us, we ended up almost exactly where we would have chosen. As the cinema filled up Mr Neil Foley (or Pappa Monster as some call him) came in and spoke to the audience. Always the charmer, he thanked everyone for coming and supporting the festival. And then without further delay he introduced one of Melbourne's most respected film journalists, Paul Harris followed by the star herself MS LINDA BLAIR. They were greeted by a round of applause and an elation of cheers. LINDA picked up the microphone and started talking.... and talking.
No doubt a seasoned pro at festival and convention screenings, she spoke about making the film and the impact it has had on her life. Clearly a sermon she has delivered to thousands before, she gave insight into her psyche as a 13 year old child as well as other film experiences and what-not. She was lovely and energetic and despite the fact that she would have told the same stories hundreds of times previously, she spoke with genuine enthusiasm. She never gave the impression that she was sick of talking about THE EXORCIST and it was a real treat to hear her talk in person. How many people can say that they've had LINDA BLAIR introduce THE EXORCIST to them?? Amazing! Poor Paul Harris barely got a word in and eventually LINDA was forced to wrap it up. Again, her energy was delightful.
And then the lights dimmed. The movie started and this is where my rant begins...
What the hell is wrong with people? I assumed that everyone had paid their money to come and see THE EXORCIST on the big screen but clearly that was not the case. Instead we endured 2 hours of irritation and aggravation. Mobile phones went off during the film - people talked during the film - assholes Facebooked during the film - and we counted at least 40 (probably more) people walking in and out of the film. People laughed at images and dialogue, which should have been disturbing and unsettling. People seemed to find great amusement from a 12 year old girl masturbating with a crucifix while telling a priest to fuck her... hmm. The power of the film was totally lost with so many distractions coming from all directions. The guy next to me was drinking wine and kept burping his rancid filthy fucking breath all over me. The guy next to him kept pin-pointing moments of the film verbally - "oh here comes an iconic shot" - "here comes the spider walk" etc. Oh shut the fuck up dude!
I have seen THE EXORCIST more times than I can recall but tonight I had brought along my girlfriend because she had never seen it before and wanted to wait for Monster Fest instead of watching the blu-ray at home. Sadly for her, her concentration was constantly broken from all of the twats around us. Her first time seeing THE EXORCIST was nowhere near as impacting as it should have been. Funnily enough I have encountered similar audiences before and for some weird-ass reason they all seem to be at festivals. Only a few months ago I felt the same frustration during the world premier of PATRICK. Is it wrong to assume that festival-goers ought to be film lovers? Have people forgotten how to watch movies?
But I digress. I feel the need to rant but I don't want it to detract from Monster Fest. It was nevertheless a great night and a fantastic way to kick off the festival. After the final credits rolled LINDA came back into the cinema for another meet n greet. For a reasonable fee people could have photos taken with her and get autographs (all money to her foundation). Impressively she was also happy to stick around and engage in conversation with anyone and everyone, freely without charge. She hugged and talked and made people's night. She was down to Earth and approachable and a fantastic get by the Monster folks.
I briefly caught Monster's Grant Hardie on our way out and he made a valid point by suggesting that a lot of people probably came to see LINDA BLAIR, rather than the film itself. True enough but still poor form to shit all over the cinema's ambience. Having said that I am REVVED UP and raring to go for the rest of the festival. Tomorrow night is the "OFFICIAL" opening night with the roller-derby slasher flick MURDERDROME. I'm uber excited to see it and reckon the atmosphere will be buzzing. Stay tuned for that one!
MONSTER FEST has begun. Let the depravity ensue... FEED YOUR BEAST!