This past weekend, the 11th annual Tromadance Film Festival took Asbury Park by storm. It was two days of pure independent art as plenty of folks experienced film, music and bowling, and much of it for free. Everyone who was there probably has their own Tromadance memories, and here are a few of mine.
First off, everybody probably wants to know about "The Human Centipede." A much-hyped medical horror film, the movie had its east coast premiere on Saturday evening as part of the Tromadance screenings at the ShowRoom in Asbury Park.
For those who haven't been following the buzz around this movie, it centers on a brilliant but mad surgeon (played by Dieter Laser) who decides to surgically connect unwilling victims via their gastric systems.
Sounds like shocking stuff, right? Well, it is. The line to get into the ShowRoom's screening of "The Human Centipede" went around the block and the theater had to turn folks away from the jam-packed event, but once the film started you could hear a pin drop in the room. It was that chilling.
While it would have been easy to tell the story of "The Human Centipede" as a work of cheap, shocking exploitation, writer/director Tom Six fills his film with undeniable production value: the film looks and sounds great, the performances, especially Laser's, are uniformly good and the gory stuff is executed in a surprisingly restrained way. This is a haunting, disturbing and unsettling film, but also a very good one.
The other feature-length screening that was part of Tromadance was "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead," co-written by, directed by and co-starring Troma Entertainment president and Tromadance founder Lloyd Kaufman. The film, which mixes comedy, horror and a handful of musical numbers, received its crowd-pleasing New Jersey premiere at Tromadance.
Following the film, Kaufman and I did a live Q&A on the ShowRoom stage that lasted for about an hour and went until about 1 a.m. It was a great time; among the conversation's highlights was Kaufman's revelation that the decision to incorporate musical numbers into "Poultrygeist" was partially inspired by Japanese director Takashi Miike's surreal horror-comedy "The Happiness of the Katakuris," which also featured musical numbers. (For more from Kaufman on "Poultrygeist," check out my interview with him about the film from 2008).
From the six-plus hours of film I watched on Saturday, there were plenty of other highlights: "Nemesis," a humorous Norwegian short about an aspiring superhero searching for his enemy, "Lazer Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove," a "Grindhouse"-style fake trailer that perfectly captures the cheap sci-fi/action vibe of the early-90s and "Dirty Martini," a documentary from director Iban Del Campo about New Jersey-raised, New York City-based burlesque performer Dirty Martini, all won me over.
The festivities wrapped up with a rocking after-party a few blocks away at the Asbury Lanes. Performers included the killer Philadelphia-based alt-rock band the Extraordinaires, Hipshots, Xylophone of Wrench and the lovely ladies of Bump ‘n' Grindhouse: B-Movie Burlesque. To check out plenty of awesome shots from this party, be sure to visit our Tromadance photo gallery.
All in all, I'd say Tromadance rocked. It injected plenty of independent spirit into already-booming downtown Asbury Park area, and Asbury Park seemed to be a great first-time host for the long-running festival. According to the Tromadance program, Kaufman and company will be bringing the festival back to town on April 15 and 16, 2011. For some, that weekend can't come soon enough.