Let’s Go South and Enjoy Some (Cine)Excess

Cine-Excess is one of those places where you can spend your lunch break eating sandwiches and fresh fruit while speaking about moviemaking, crowdfunding and gatekeepers in the film industry with veteran horror directors such as Jeff Lieberman. That’s exactly what happened to me on 15 November, while I was waiting to present my paper at the VIII International Conference and Festival on Global Cult Film Traditions, directed by Xavier Mendik and hosted by the University of Brighton and The Duke’s at Komedia Cinema.

Cine-Excess header

Cine-Excess is a unique event where fans of horror and underground films can sneak into the theatre and enjoy screenings of cult films such as the 40th anniversary release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or attend many lectures on their beloved gems, ranging from 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis’ classic Two Thousand Maniacs!, to the new wave of French horror well represented by director Pascal Laugier (Martyrs anyone?)

In addition, you get the chance to receive live updates on the status of the crowdfunding campaign for Dario Argento’s The Sandman, starring the rock icon Iggy Pop. Indeed, one of the most interesting events of this edition was the industry panel on film financing in the digital age “Cult Crowdfunders: New Audiences, New Funders and the Cult Indie Scene”, chaired by Professor Gillian Youngs.

Early poster design for "The Sandman", by Paul Gerrard

Lieberman was there as a guest of honour as the festival ran a retrospective on his career. The mastermind behind cult horrors such as 1976 Squirm, featuring an invasion of killer worms, and 1977 Blue Sunshine, based on a series of LSD-related homicides, received a Lifetime Achievement Award on Friday 14.

Theatrical poster for "Blue Sunshine"

It was my second time at Cine-Excess. In 2012, when the conference was hosted at the Odeon Cinema in London, I took part in a panel addressing the media impact of Charles Manson. Back then I presented a paper titled Surfing With Charlie, focused on the remix and mashup videos of the convicted cult leader. The topic this year was the titillating “Are You Ready for the Country – Cult Cinema and Rural Excess” and my paper sounded very different: Italian Sexploitation in Rural Veneto. The Case of “The Agrestic Cinema Manifesto”.

Poster For "Vigasio Sexploitation" Vol. 1The title of my panel was “Deep River Savages: The Rural in Italian Cult Film”. Two of my colleagues were addressing one of the best internationally known cycles in Italian cinema, the so-called giallo film. Austin Fisher analysed the political background of the Italian hinterland, trying to locate the “rural giallo”, while Andreas Ehrenreich delved into the screenplay of Sergio Martino’s Torso.

Since I was interested in discovering what happened in the countryside after that successful era, to fulfil this year’s theme I scouted for the most bizarre audiovisual content shot in Italy within a rural setting. I came across what a Venetian filmmaker, Sebastiano Montresor, produced and directed under the label “Agrestic Cinema”: four films free to download as diptyches at Vigasio Sexploitation and Films to Smoke.

Quite surprisingly, the settings of these “audiovisual Frankensteins”, as he calls his corpus of films, were abandoned buildings and the countryside of Vigasio, not far from the small town where I was born, Nogara, in the Region of Veneto and Province of Verona. So the paradox of the whole thing was that I had to go to the most southern place in the UK to discover a different and eccentric view of the bucolic countryside where I grew up. Something that, when I was living there, I wasn’t even aware of.