“I’m ready to get bloody, bro,” Kenny said to no one in particular as host Adrianna Costa and judge Garry Marshall set this week’s six contenders off to work. This was moments after Costa and Marshall played the part of a two-headed Grim Reaper again by descending on the group of 12 remaining contestants to dispense with the loser of last week’s comedy shorts competition. As most viewers probably surmised, it was bye-bye David May, whose attempt at a sexy rom-com last week fell flatter than “Gigli” with the judges, and apparently, voters. On the other end of the scale, we found out that Will Bigham’s short “Nerve Endings” got the most votes.
As the six up for short-duty this week set off to work, Marshall gave them a few pointers: “Get characters, get pace and have a little gore,” he said, emphasizing little. Then we cut to a confessional clip of Shira-Lee Shalit admitting she never watches horror movies, which only made her stock go up, in our eyes.
Guest judge this week is “Hostel” meister Eli Roth (pictured above), who’s introduced by Adrianna as “the future of horror.”
First up for screening is Kenny Luby, but before that we get to see him on location sparring with his cinematographer, Jacek Laskus, as he completes “The Malibu Myth.”
“I’m so used to doing it in my own kamikaze style,” Kenny laments. “The pace of shots is so much slower than I’m used to.”
Laskus tells the camera that if he had one word to describe Kenny, it’d be “stubborn.”
The end result about a guy and girl who go up into the canyons of Malibu to investigate a number of strange disappearances among college students looks a little hokey to us but we’re already on record as not a horror aficionado.
Judge Carrie Fisher is in a good mood all night, and it shows in her comments. She notes to Kenny that “this is your most accessible film for me….Compared to your other stuff this was ‘Gone with the Wind.’”
Roth liked it a lot. “The most difficult thing to nail in horror is tone. You really nailed it,” though he allowed that the build up was better than the actual attack of the flesh-eating, blood-smeared college kids. Marshall said he thought Kenny’s “monsters were good.”
Sam Friedlander followed with “Ankle Biters,” which involved a nasty looking puppet character that chomps on an unsuspecting boy’s ankle. “There’s a fine line between cheesy-bad and scary-funny,” he said in the confessional clip from his set. “I need to be scary-funny.” Apparently scary-funny is in the eye of the beholder.
Fisher was enthusiastic. “I believed the puppet,” she said. Roth was critical of Friedlander’s decision to use the cliché spooky-narration at the beginning but overall allowed that he “did a nice job.” Marshall also was mostly upbeat.
Andrew Hunt came up third with “Midnight Snack,” involving a woman with a nagging appetite in the middle of the dark and stormy night. She gets a whiff of bad mayonnaise she’ll never forget, including an encounter with a “Bride of Chucky”-like deranged character that she stares down, no problem. It’s only mildly funny and not particularly scary.
Fisher called it “not so much horror as ’Rocky Horror’” but she liked it. Roth was more pointed, observing that “it’s very difficult to do comedy and horror serving two audiences….It played more like a ‘Got Milk’ commercial.”
Jason Epperson went an “Omen”-esque route with a short, “Eternal Waters,” that was all over the map, from a mother tortured by the drowning death of her son to a man walking through the house with a knife to a kid dripping water all over her hard wood floors. Much to our surprise, Roth criticized Jason’s decision to put his shapely blond star in a tight T-shirt and shorts. “It was hard to take her seriously as a mother,” Roth said. Fisher really liked it. Marshall had two words for Jason: “Sen-sational!”
Shira-Lee Shalit went for the psycho-thriller angle involving a young couple shopping for a house in “Open House.” The pregnant wife finds a spooky squatter in the empty nursery room. It didn’t really do the job, and the judges let her know.
“Hard to sell ghosts during the daytime,” Fisher said. “If I saw one during the daytime I might …offer it a soda.” Marshall complimented her for eschewing gore for cerebral chills, such as they were.
Last in line tonight was Mateen Kemet, who went for the gritty realism of racial profiling and a guy who keeps running into the wrong rotten-apple cops. He gets points for striving for social relevancy but it was confusing as hell with points of view shifting all over the place in “Profile.” Roth praised the performance of the lead actor, who gets beaten to a pulp by mean-ass cops, but reminded Mateen that POV is important or “we get disconnected.”
Mateen countered that he was trying to go for something that really happens to people, particularly black people, on a daily basis, to take “drama to a horror standpoint.” He started to go back and forth a bit with Roth, but perhaps remembering the realism of Marty Martin syndrome, wound up holding his tongue.
In between the final two contestants, Adrianna reminded viewers that next week’s episode will be on Monday, because of Fox’s telecast of baseball’s All-Star game in “On the Lot’s” regular Tuesday berth. And she informed that next week’s competition shorts will be based on the premise “when two worlds collide.”
In the closing poll of the judges, Fisher said her fave of the night was Andrew’s “Midnight Snack.” Roth voted for Kenny’s “Midnight Snack” and Marshall had kind words for Jason’s “Eternal Waters.”
(Group shot above, from left top row: Sam, Mateen, and Andrew. Bottom row, from left: Shira-Lee, Kenny and Jason.)