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I SURVIVED 'THE GAUNTLET': A Bad-Ass Film Festival Event

I spent this past Saturday at Penn State Behrend competing against an auditorium full of movie going warriors to prove that my abominable viking strength could out do them all in The Gauntlet. Hosted by the Bad-Ass Film Festival, The Gauntlet consisted of thirty five of the most Bad-Ass films, shown over fourteen hours.

If you viewed every minute of every film and survived, you would be considered to be a true champion and would be asked to defend your title at the next Gauntlet. I, my friends, ran The Gauntlet and survived.

The films were mostly indie shorts peppered with feature films like High Noon, D.O.A. and Dredd. The films were broken into two hour blocks, each categorized by genre. Prepare yourself as I share with you some of the highlights of The Gauntlet!

"Action Park"
Action Park is a docu-short created for Daily Motion that chronicles the ups and downs of the New Jersey theme park "Action Park". Created with the idea that amusement parks lack a certain amount of adventure and unpredictability, Action Park has rides that would let it's visitors control their own excitement, which resulted in injuries, lawsuits, deaths and generations of memories that in no way could ever be generated in the helicopter-mom, P.C. America that we live in today. You will never believe the kind of wack-a-do rides that Action Park had.

This doc. made me wish that I could have visited Action Park just once before it closed, for obvious reasons. You can watch Action Park in it's entirety, WATCH IT HERE!

"Alone in the Wilderness"
Alone in the Wilderness on the other hand is tame compared to it's predecessor, but that doesn't mean it is any less bad-ass! This doc. was filmed in the late '60's and is about Dick Proenneke, a man in his 50's who made the trek to the base of the Aleutian Peninsula where he would test himself by living in almost total isolation for an entire year. Dick carried with him food staples, a rifle, a fishing rod and simple wood working tool that he used to build a log cabin, outhouse, supply bunker and garden.

Alone in the Wilderness is a first hand account of what it would be like to say, "Fuck all this! I'm moving somewhere you'll never be able to find me. Ha Ha Ha!". Not only did Dick build his home from scratch, he grew and hunted his own food & even defended himself against a bear. He was totally self reliant. Not only did he survive the year in the wilderness, but he ended up living in his log cabin for thirty-five years. Dick Proenneke is Bad-Ass!

While some of Dick's narration is corny at times, Alone in the Wilderness is 100% interesting especially if shows like Survivor Man and Naked & Afraid tickle your fancy. The scenic snow capped mountains is breathtaking, and Dick even cuts loose a few one-liners; "the tide of the river is unpredictable, just like a woman". Check this movie out, WATCH IT HERE!

Malaria was the true standout film of this block. It is about a mercenary hired to track down and kill Death itself. The story is standard Western tough-guy stuff, but what makes it so good is how it was made.

Malaria is a multi-media film that is part animation, part performance art. Each movement and camera angle is a separate story board frame with dialogue boxes, similar to a comic book. As the action unfolds the filmmaker, or person laying down the drawn panels, ads emotion to the panels adding to the scene. For example, shaking the image of a hand holding a six-shooter in order to make the hand tremble with fear. All of that might not sound like much, but check it out for yourself and I'm sure you will appreciate it's unquestionable Bad-Assness. WATCH IT HERE!

"Truth in Journalism"
The Fight
This block consisted of action packed shorts. The two that stood out to me were both made by Adi Shankar Brand. A young filmmaker bent on correcting the mistakes of the early Marvel films, unofficially of course.

Truth in Journalism, which is designed to look like a mock-umentary chronicling the comings and goings of one Eddie Brock, aka Venom. When this film started I didn't know it had anything to do with Marvel Comics or the Venom character. It's tale is told as a film crew follows him around as he investigates the murders of New York City. I hope I didn't ruin any surprises but you should check it out if you haven't seen it before. It's Bad-Ass. WATCH IT HERE!

"Dirty Laundry"
The Fight
Dirty Laundry was one of the only films that I had previously seen. This one follows Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, through an everyday visit to the laundromat. Things get a little crazy when a small time thug starts pushing around Frank's neighbors. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that it ends with a bottle of Jack that is nothing short of Bad-Ass. WATCH IT HERE!

Dredd was the single film from this block. We here at Slaughter Film are big fans of Dredd. Check out what we had to say about it during one of our podcasts, LISTEN TO IT HERE!.

Tunnels is a film by Dave Thompson and is about a crypto-zoologist traveling through some urban tunnels in a quest for an subterranean creature. It's short and sweet but unfortunately I couldn't find this one online. If you get a chance, check it out. Tunnels possesses Nosferatu like Bad-Assness.

To compensate for the lack of Tunnels, check out Mathilda, another great short from the fest. It's about a young girl and her mother living in a haunted house, or is it? WATCH IT HERE!.

"The Final Moments of Karl Brant"
The Final Moments of Karl Brant stars the great Paul Reubens and is about a man who transports his consciousness into a digital format as he is murdered. His body dies but his mind lives on in an invention oh his own creation. Things get complicated when the police confiscate this device with it's living ghost for evidence in the murder investigation.

The Final Moments of Karl Brant is classic thought provoking science fiction. Will human beings ever exist digitally? If so, would it really be living? If our personality and memories are stored on a hard drive, what is to stop someone from "cloning" a person intellectually. The best kind of Sci-Fi asks hard questions. This, combined with Pee-Wee makes The Final Moments of Karl Brant totally Bad-Ass. WATCH IT HERE!

Abe is what you get when One Hour Photo and I Robot have a baby. Abe is about a robot who was designed to love, but he doesn't possess the ability to understand love, or how to cope with those who don't reciprocate his love. He can't help himself as he kidnaps pretty young women who he falls in love with and then must "fix" them when they aren't happy about it. Abe reaches a Bad-Ass level of creepy, and that's why you should check it out. WATCH IT HERE!

"We Are What We Are"
We Are What We Are was also the only film in it's block and is of the horror persuasion. The screening at The Gauntlet was one of just a few that this film has had so far including this years Cannes Film Festival. I feel privileged for having seen it.

We Are What We Are is about one of those families who are a little too religious to be normal, if you know what I mean and I think you do. When the mother passes away, the family, father, son and two daughters, try to pick up the slack and get along without her. The oldest daughter takes up the responsibilities of the mother and by carrying out a secret tradition the family has been keeping alive since they settled in the area over a under years ago.

This is a slow burner, but pays off in the end. It is very well made and well acted with plenty of suspense and surprises. This flick is brand new and I'd rather not give too much away but I do recommend it. WATCH TRAILER HERE!

"This is How You Die"
This is How You Die is an anthology of sorts, about a vending machine that can accurately predict how people will die. But the Devil is in the details. I don't think I'll spoil much by explaining the first story.

A young woman stops at the machine as she jogs. She puts in a quarter and inserts her finger. The machine draws a drop of blood, runs some sort of test, then spits out a card that reads "OLD AGE". Relieved to know that death is far off, she crosses the street when from out of nowhere a car runs her over. The camera pans up to revel the driver happen to be suffering from a case of the "OLD AGE". Like I said, the Devil is in the details. WATCH IT HERE!

"Dave vs Death"
Dave vs Death parodies the film The Seventh Seal when Dave, who is recently deceased, talks Death into gambling for his soul with a game of chess. If Dave wins, he gets his life back. But if Death wins, Dave says dead and for every chess piece taken by Death, a friend/family member of Dave also dies. I won't say too much more about this one, as it comes with a twist. But know this, it's pretty Bad-Ass. WATCH IT HERE!

"Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki"
WTF Was That?
Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki is a martial arts film [based on a manga] about Riki-Oh, a young man who has been locked away in a maximum security prison. His crime was murder. Riki was avenging the death of his love who was forced to use drugs against her will by a drug lord after witnessing his drug operation.

Now in prison, Riki sees how unfairly the other prisoners are treated and even catches wind that the warden has been using the prison to grow opium. The very drug responsible for the dead of his girlfriend. Riki takes it upon himself to bring the wicked warden and his super powered kung-fu henchmen to their knees.

Everything I just said about this movie is true, however, my description doesn't let on how fucking bat-shit out of this fucking world The Story of Riki really is. It's like Bruce Lee was transported into the world of Troll 2, and super-imposed onto Big Trouble in Little China or something. Just when your brain takes a moment to figure out what you just saw, two or three other fucked up, crazy things are already going on. At one point things got so ridiculous that I said to myself "Oh fuck it!", and I began to riff the movie there in the auditorium for everyone to enjoy. The Story of Riki is wild and fun, but you've gotta see it for yourself.

Also, there are two versions available, a DVD version that has an English dub and a subtitled version that is available on Netflix. The subtitled one is fine, but the dubbed version is better AND you can WATCH IT HERE on YouTube.

"Bad Motherfucker"
Bad Motherfucker is actually a music video of the band Biting Elbows. It is about a spy who has had a high-tech transportation device stolen from him and now he must get it back. The entire short is a first-person view of the spy running across rooftops in hot pursuit, car chases, fist fight and shooting baddies with AK-47s. It puts the viewer right in the fight making them feel as Bad-Ass as this music video is. WATCH IT HERE!

"Spy vs Guy"
Spy vs Guy is about a young spy in training who lost a very important electronic quarter during the Cold War. The quarter itself was a Soviet device, a beckon, that when activated is targeted by a Russian nuke. The spy mistakenly used it to purchase a soda-pop from a vending machine.

Now, present day, we see that the spy has spent his entire career trying to correct his mistake. He learns that the quarter has found it's way into the pocket of a pizza delivery boy. He must use cloak and dagger spy tactics and gadgets to get it back without blowing his secret spy cover. Every one of the spies plans are foiled by circumstance in a very Spy vs Spy sorta way. This short is a lot of fun, WATCH IT HERE!

That my friends was The Gauntlet. It's always fun having the opportunity to view indie films, especially short films. Often they are better than the feature films. When I was younger I always tried to catch shows like Exposure [Sci-Fi Channel] and Cartoon Sushi [Mtv] as often as I could. These shows made me want to make my own films which I didn't do as often as I would have liked, Oh well.

The Gauntlet was a lot of fun, and I made some friends. I can't wait for the next one.