And with those words, we bid a tearful and fond farewell to another Calgary International Film Festival. This weekend, the resident offspring and I took in our final two film festival offerings. And when all the popcorn had been crammed into our gullets and the lights came back up for the last time, we voted for our favourites of the festival. the RI chose Bomb It as her ultimate favourite, and while I loved it and thought it was excellent, I had to go with the film we saw today - Monster Camp.
But I am getting ahead of myself. You might want to hear about both films we saw this weekend:
A group of artists lure unsuspecting victims to a Hallowe'en party at an abandoned warehouse where they plan to murder them to stage the ultimate installation art. But all goes very very wrong, as these deranged artists prove to be very dumb criminals indeed.
Murder Party screened at the old Plaza Theatre in Kensington, which is the type of theatre that holds midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings. I love this theatre; the popcorn is still served in buckets, there are no cupholders at the seats, and it is a real retro film experience that you so rarely see anymore. Plus the producer and star of the film was in the audience and he gave a little intro and fielded questions after the screening.
I fully expected Murder Party to be to be a humorous flick, but I didn't expect it to be as silly as it was. And I mean that in a good way. It was hilarious; I expected it to be rather more precious than it was. It was a low budget but high quality production with tonnes of blood, just not necessarily where or from whom you would expect it.
I've never had the inclination to participate in Live Action Role-Playing and I still don't after seeing Monster Camp, but now I do understand what drives people to spend their weekends dressing in medieval costume, assuming elaborate roles and participating in long exhausting hours playing an uber-complicated game that follows a 200-page rulebook.
Monster Camp is a documentary that tells the story of the Seattle chapter of NERO players, who meet regularly at a 15 acre camp to spend the weekend trying not to get killed permanently. While it would have been so easy to scoff at these LARPers, Monster Camp is never condescending. In fact I came away with real affection for these people who spend most of their lives gaming.
This is a truly fascinating look at the highly regulated and almost painfully elaborate fantasy world of people for whom playing World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons is no longer a sufficient escape from reality. Ironically, staging these Monster Camp weekends is a huge undertaking in reality, from writing the ever-evolving plots, to organizing and assigning the roles, to providing the costumes to the non-character players whose roles constantly rotate, to refereeing the squabbles and conflicts that occur over the course of 48 hours.
I loved this film!
Monster Camp has already won some Audience Favourite awards at the 2007 Film Festival rounds. It's not hard to see why.
If you think this trailer looks fun, head to the website where you can determine what role you would play at Monster Camp (I'm some sort of pompous Scholarly Elf apparently - what about you?):