Let's watch some trash

Damnationland features Tickle, one of seven horror and suspense films in the anthology.
Damnationland features Tickle, one of seven horror and suspense films in the anthology.PHOTO: SCUM CINEMA/DAMNATIONLAND

There is a trash gap in Singapore and one group hopes to fill it.

"Trash" cinema - a broad category that includes low-budget horror, action movies and thrillers - is almost non-existent here, says Mr Anthony Chiam.

At cinemas and festivals, film fans find just two kinds of entertainment: Mass appeal movies or high-brow art movies.

Mr Chiam says: "We enjoy crazier, B-grade horror and exploitation stuff. That is not available here."

The 42-year-old co-founded the Society for Cult and Underground Movies, shortened to Scum, with his pal, Mr Herman Ho, 39.

After a few years mulling over the idea of a trash film appreciation society, the two friends held the first Scum screening in 2013.

On its blog, the connoisseurs of cult cinema say they want to focus on "the bizarre and the weird in reel life, from horror to humour... nothing is taboo."

They have kept their word: Their events, held every other month or so, have included screenings of titles such as the Hong Kong martial arts flick Riki-Oh (1991), noteworthy for its over-the-top violence, as well as an obscure slice of Mexican cheesiness, Santo And The Blue Demon Vs Dracula And The Wolf Man (1973), in which wrestlers fight monsters.

After two years of well-received screenings, most of them funded by donations, the group has reached a goal with its first film festival, ScumScope, timed for Halloween.

"Holding a festival is a milestone that we had in mind when we started," says Mr Chiam, who prefers to state "media professional" as his full- time job.

ScumScope's three-event roster kicked off last week with a screening of Dark Star (2014), a documentary on Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who designed the toothy extra-terrestrial and its vessel in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).

On Friday, there is a doublebill of two classic works of weirdness, Basketcase (1982), a bodyhorror work, and Without Warning (1980), about an alien invasion of Earth.

ScumScope closes next Thursday with Damnationland, an anthology of seven short horror and suspense films made by film-makers from Maine in the United States.

Each year since 2010, a new Damnationland collection has been produced and screened in theatres in Maine during the Halloween period. The title is a play on Maine's official slogan, Vacationland.

Mr Eddy Bolz, 36, co-founder of the project, spoke to Life on the telephone from his home in Portland, Maine's largest city.

"Every year, we ask different film-makers to participate, including artists outside the horror genre, so we get something unique," he says. Directors' budgets are gathered from ticket sales and Internet crowdfunding.

Last year's compilation to be screened here will be the first time the films have been exhibited outside the United States, says Mr Bolz.

He cites the short film Sui Generis (Latin for "in a category of its own") as an example of the wide scope found in the collection. In it, a woman wakes up convinced she is not who people around her say she is. She has to determine if she has lost her mind or if there is a conspiracy.

"It's not horror, but it has suspense and good storytelling," he says.

John Lui

• Films of the ScumScope festival will be screened at The Arts House Screening Room and The Projector.

Till Oct 29. Tickets from $10. Go to scumcinema.com for schedule and to book

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Let's watch some trash'. Print Edition | Subscribe