Zombies. Lake creatures. Amorphous killer aliens. These and more can be found at seventh-annual B Movie Celebration when it comes to the Hollywood Boulevard Cinema in Woodridge Illinois, from Sept. 25 to 27. Get ready for a weekend of artistry on the silver screen.
Yeah… artistry. Suspend your disbelief, skeptic.
B movies, in which the b does not stand for bad, are the “foundation of modern American cinema,” says Bill Dever, founder and coordinator of the celebration. The low-budget selections, which used to be commonplace as the first half of movie theatres’ double features, are where a number of well-known directors got their start.
Dever rifles off a list of familiar names – Francis Ford Coppola, Brian DePalma, Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman and Martin Scorsese – and emphasizes an early Corman/Scorsese vehicle, Boxcar Bertha, for its treatise on social and political liberation and retelling of the Christ story. All of that in a B movie – who would have guessed? Clearly a misunderstanding of what that B stands for still exists.
Dever explains that B movies’ freer form of cinematic speech allow for a higher form of artistic expression as there are often fewer studio constraints. B movies often have been a very strong medium for social subtext. In the classic Night of the Living Dead, for instance, director George Romero was able to offer profound commentary about the Vietnam War and racism in America.
“Beyond the gore, beyond the spectacle,” Dever says of Dawn of the Dead, “there really is social subtext about the dangers of consumerism in our society.” Death Race 2000, a film in which pedestrians become targets for drivers, discusses at its heart the erosion of the American cultural base. “Movies as a whole have been taken over by spectacle and shock, which at one time was the stock and trade of all B movies,” says Dever. Horror movies in which people, often teenagers, are terrorized, tortured, and murdered for seemingly no reason spring to mind. Maybe the ordinarily faint of heart can sit through a slasher flick — if the chainsaw-wielding maniac turns out to be a formerly mild-mannered and misunderstood accountant with a compelling reason to go on a killing spree.
If blood for the sake of blood isn’t your scene, try this offering from the B Movie folks: “Do you long for a zombie epic with inspired characters and complex storylines that will actually hold your interest between the requisite scenes of chunk-blowing gore?” Oh, B movies. You had us at epic.
The organic structure of B movies is based upon a process and tradition where the audience can take more ownership of the medium. Anyone can pick up a video camera, shoot footage, and call what they’ve done a movie. As Dever states, B movies should be the proving ground for young film artists: “There’s a huge amount of opportunity to define themselves, a lot of product will be produced, and at the end of the day, a few new talents will be left standing.”
Attendees can look forward to more than 68 films, including the ’50s horror/sci-fi flick The Giant Behemoth and the Jim Wynorski opus, Chopping Mall.
Enthusiasts can also partake in seminars, talk with filmmakers, learn how to raise money for and market their movies, get the skinny on audio production and attend a film bloggers panel, all in an informal atmosphere much like the films being celebrated.
Additionally, The Golden Cob Awards will once again be presented.Awards will go to rising B movie stars, directors, and, in the best category ever, scream queens.