The Austin Chronicle

Death Becomes Her

Kier-la Janisse unleashes Cinemuerte on poor, innocent Austin

By Shawn Badgley, October 24, 2003, Screens

When the Alamo Drafthouse hired Vancouver scenester / writer / cinephile / organizer Kier-La Janisse as a programmer earlier this year, the ever-expanding movie-theatre enterprise -- and the ever-expanding urban enterprise that is Austin -- got more than a movie geek to plan out showtimes, bring in special guests, and hatch events alternately hilarious and horrifying. They -- and we -- got a mover, a shaker, a deal-maker, as well as the founder of the CineMuerte International Fantastic Film Festival. In the midst of the Vancouver-based festival's fifth anniversary -- it has since spread to San Francisco and into the merchandising game, while Janisse has taken a leave of absence to live and work in Austin, both at the Alamo and on various books (female neurosis in European horror films, the Italian Decamerotic wave of the early Seventies -- you know, that kind of thing) and board games (All the Colours of Darkness, a gruesome Trivial Pursuit-inspired challenge) -- the Alamo is hosting "The Best of CineMuerte," a five-day sampling of what Janisse refers to simply as "weirdass" moviemaking. We got her to elaborate on that a bit -- while also giving us her take on each screening -- as the craze closes in. "I started this festival inadvertently; I used to have these massive horror parties in my basement that were basically like the 100 Best Kills! series going on right now at the Alamo. Very nihilistic stuff, but fun in large groups of people," says Janisse, who used her student loan to rent a theatre and pay for the first year of the independent festival. "[It] consisted of solely 16 millimeter and video. The next year I moved to a bigger venue; got 35 millimeter prints from places as disparate as Japan, Finland, and France; some special guests; and the rest is history. ... Overall, it's been a whirlwind five years, and the Alamo is the perfect place to end up." Now, Ms. Janisse, you have some explaining to do.

Soft for Digging (Oct. 27, 7pm): "A stunning mood piece in which an old hermit witnesses the murder of a small child in the woods. It's structured almost like a Victorian novel, with expository chapter headings and an almost total lack of dialogue."

Zero Day (Oct. 27, 9:45pm): "This chilling Columbine-inspired film (the debut of director Ben Coccio) hosts the most dead-on characterizations I've seen in a while. The nonprofessional cast includes the real-life parents of two teenagers who go on an inexplicable killing spree after an intense preparation period in which they assemble an arsenal of weapons, homemade and otherwise."

Who Can Kill a Child? (Oct. 28, 9:45pm): "One of the most respected and influential of Spanish horror films, made during the post-Franco horror boom of the 1970s. A man and his pregnant wife get stranded on a small island overrun with irrationally violent children."

All the Colors of Darkness (Oct. 29, 12mid): "Sergio Martino's supernatural giallo, a uniquely Italian murder-mystery, sees the classic cast of sex bomb Edwige Fenech, suave George Hilton, and the creepy Ivan Rassimov together again in this hallucinatory film about a woman who joins a satanic cult. Also the name of the horror-trivia board game I created."

Singapore Sling (Oct. 30, 9:45pm): "Ultratwisted version of Otto Preminger's Laura. A man looking for his lost love ends up at the isolated house of a team of incestual lesbian psychopaths. Features the most beautiful deep-focus black-and-white cinematography you've ever seen, plus a good dose of erotic vomiting."

Naked Blood (Oct. 30, 12mid): "One of the few strictly horror outings of renowned Japanese porn director Hisayasu Sato, Naked Blood is about a young scientist who invents the ultimate painkiller, only to discover that its users become unrepentant sadomasochists! Weird and gory."

Cutting Moments (Oct. 30, around 12mid): "Very disturbing short film about a despondent housewife (Nica Ray, daughter of Nicholas Ray) who performs the ultimate sacrifice when she realizes that her husband has been molesting their son."

Night Warning (Oct. 31, 12mid): "One of the standout forgotten horror films of the 1980s, starring Susan Tyrrell (Cry-Baby), in her most over-the-top performance as the possessive aunt of the half-witted Jimmy McNichol, and Bo Svenson (Kill Bill) as the homophobic cop. One of the few overtly pro-gay horror flicks out there."

All shows take place at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado). Tickets are available at the door or at For prices and more information, visit the Web site or call 476-1320.

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