Housecore Horror Fest III: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
A little over a year ago the future of the Housecore Horror Festival (shortened from Housecore Horror Film Festival) seemed, at best, uncertain. Mere hours after the second festival had ended co-founder and friend Corey Mitchell suffered a heart attack and passed away. It was hard to imagine the festival operating without him because he seemed like such an integral force. According to his assistant, a man who goes by Machine, Corey left plenty of notes and ideas after his passing. This, combined with learning from past mistakes at the festival and the hiring of Maryland Deathfest co-founder Ryan Taylor (!) has led to this incarnation of the festival being the biggest and best yet. So how about you live vicariously through my experiences below?
Quite frankly, I only went to the kickoff party to see Black Breath and skipped everything else so I’m going to get right along to day 1. The day kicked off with a choice between watching Lucio Fulci’s Zombie or Dead and Buried, a movie I had never heard of. Since I’ve never seen it, and since I was just too goddamn tired to deal with that lady taking the shard of wood to her eye, I opted for the lesser known Dead and Buried. That’s probably blasphemy to a lot of Fulci fans, but Dead and Buried turned out to be a really fun little EC Comics style horror romp akin to what would happen if Death Becomes Her was actually a tale of terror. Up next was the debut of a film that was 90% finished (according to the director) called Saga: A Black Metal Viking Biker Film with Zombies. If you’re a functional adult who likes music of the frostbitten variety, then that probably sounds like the greatest fucking movie ever put to film to you. It isn’t. At all. I have no idea what the plot of this movie was. There was a band, they made a movie, a church was burned down, some biker women were there for 10 minutes and lit the ground on fire, and Nocturno Culto said some stuff on camera. Now imagine all of that shot on a phone and severely lacking zombies and you’ve got your movie. It was time for so much beer.
At this point I’m thinking about how much better the scheduling is this year. No longer must I decide between bands or movies throughout the entire day and evening. Instead films ran in the morning into late afternoon and all of the main stage bands started in the early afternoon for minimal overlap. After this delightful realization and a chat with a chill ass Canadian dude named Carl about Demilich and American black metal it was on to the eerie 70’s zombie Nazi affair Shockwaves featuring a Q&A by makeup man Alan Ormsby. After a brief food break I was ready to hit the theater and jam. I missed Child Bite and half of Warbeast, but was able to get a decent spot for NOLA sludge legends Eyehategod. It was pretty much exactly what you expect when Eyehategod takes the stage these days, but it’s all delivered in such a rowdy and fun fashion it was impossible not to enjoy oneself. Up next was Exodus, whom I enjoy but have never been a huge fan of. That said, they put on a hell of a live show. They played the standards like “Bonded by Blood” and “Strike of the Beast” while mixing in newer cuts like “Blood In, Blood Out” and “Body Harvest” all while Steve Souza worked the stage and crowd like a master.
It may be hard to believe crowd excitement escalating after a band like Exodus, but Superjoint was up next and San Antonio was ready to lose their collective shit, and lose their collective shit they did. I think by now Phil Anselmo has answered critics about whether or not he can vocally perform these songs anymore, but I feel the need to reiterate that the man sounded great and showed a youthful exuberance while stomping about the stage. After crushing “The Destruction of a Person,” comedian Dave Hill came out and took over guitar duty for Jimmy fucking Bower, a sentence I still can’t believe I just typed. While his clowning around led to an absolutely awesome few minutes of the band playing “My Sharona,” Dave hung around and did a great job closing things out playing “Fuck Your Enemy” with the band. Finally, we arrive at my most anticipated artist of the evening: King Diamond. I would’ve been completely content merely wailing along to “Welcome Home” and leaving, but King offered so much more, playing a few Mercyful Fate tunes before eventually going into Abigail in its entirety. King was damn near record perfect vocally, and the rest of the band wasn’t far behind if they were behind at all. At 59 years of age King Diamond still brings it and delivers one of the most fun stage shows I’ve ever seen. He’s playing the same set in Dallas in less than 2 weeks, and I’m still dying to go. That good.
So how does someone follow up an evening like that? By trying to stay awake during a midnight showing of The Evil Dead, that’s how! I made it, and carried my already tired carcass to day 2.
After probably way too much Mexican food to start the day I ventured off to a screening of House by the Cemetery, a surprisingly straightforward-but-still-goddamn-weird effort by Lucio Fulci. This was very quickly followed by nap time because I’m an old man and needed to get some more rest before seeing the almighty Nails slowly stomp a thousand faces into oblivion, and boy did they ever do that. If you thought Nails was heavy on record, you need to see them live ASAP. There wasn’t much in the way of stage presence, but you could tell everyone was in a furious focus and practically oozing rage. Plus, who cares what they’re doing on stage when you’re slamming into people for 35 minutes? Oh, and shout out to the guy who demanded they play “Tyrant” as soon as they finished playing “Tyrant.”
Honestly I skipped most of the bands for Saturday as it was the hardcore day at the fest, but in hindsight I regret skipping Cripple Bastards. I instead opted for a screening of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, a 1970’s zombie horror comedy directed by Bob Clark of Porky’s and A Christmas Story fame. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it as it’s a pretty witty and offbeat zombie flick, but be warned; it’s a slow burn.
After a round of beer with fellow writer Stockhausen, in town for much more poser-ish reasons, it was time for what was easily my most anticipated set of the weekend: Agoraphobic Nosebleed. While it was incredibly strange to see soundcheck for a drum machine, it didn’t really matter once the band tore into “Bitch’s Handbag Full of Money.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lose my shit when they played “Self Detonate,” a personal favorite of mine from their split with Total Fucking Destruction that sounds absolutely stellar with the addition of Kat Katz on vocals. I can’t tell if the addition of a real drummer would help or hurt the insanity of some ANb tracks in a live setting, but if this show was any indication they sound just fine with a robot pounding the metaphorical skins.
Finishing off the evening were New York death metal legends Suffocation. I had never seen them live, and while I was expecting a good set, I was not prepared for the all out assault that greeted me after the opening note. The crowd was pretty much in a frenzy from the get go, but as soon as the words “Pierced from Within” were uttered, the pit reached peak slamitude. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever want to curb stomp jabronis as badly as I did when the breakdown riff from “Liege of Inveracity” played. The perfect musical cap to the evening.
Sunday started with the double header of Cannibal Man and Don’t Torture a Duckling, each a bit more thriller than horror but interesting and bizarre all the same. After these movies is where I fucked up; I had had the schedule pulled up on my phone for a few weeks to try to outline what I wanted to do and what I could miss, never once thinking to maybe refresh the page and see if it updated. As I would later find out everyone’s set times on Sunday were pushed up by an hour and I had no idea. I wound up missing all of YOB except for the final song and was kicking myself for the next hour or two for being so dumb.
After a Ghoul set that I spent largely stewing, it was time for Pittsburgh synthwave duo Zombi. Having never listened to them before I was delighted to hear a band that evoked the spirit of classic Italian giallo soundtracks, combining thick bass sounds with synth loops and jazzy, thrashing drums. It was nice to have a semi mellow break from all of the death and grind of the weekend. The reprieve, while refreshing, proved all too momentary as it was time for Incantation to take the stage. I’m largely unfamiliar with Incantation’s work (GASP) so I couldn’t tell you what they did or didn’t play, but I CAN tell you they sound absolutely cavernous live and are a blast to see. Pits were largely nonexistent, but that’s just because everyone was too busy banging their goddamn head.
Next up was a fairly brief, but touching tribute to Corey Mitchell that saw Phil ask for a moment of chaos in his honor as well as a video tribute. It was a very nice send up and it was good to see the crowd pay respect (Guy who kept yelling “AUTOPSY,” if you’re reading this I want you to know I am going to uppercut you to death Mortal Kombat style, you prick).
As soon as Autopsy hit the stage everyone went nuts, the energy from all 3 days coming to a head. Songs seemed to largely be pulled from Severed Survival, and why not? It remains one of death metal’s finest hours, so to see it celebrated so thoroughly live was a pleasure. Their set also included a new song from their upcoming album Skull Grinder called “Strung Up and Gutted”, and it was everything you’d expect from an Autopsy tune, blending in perfectly with a largely throwback set.
Finally, after Autopsy had finished slaying the crowd, it was time for Goblin‘s live scoring of the horror classic Dawn of the Dead. Unfortunately things got off to a rough start as the film started to stutter pretty severely about 5 minutes into the movie. Goblin appeared undeterred and never missed a beat despite the movie being largely impossible to follow. After they wrapped up a song, Claudio Simonetti announced that they were taking a break to try and fix the film to a cheering crowd. After a 15 minute or so interlude the film returned to the screen and the band to the stage. They finished off the night in grand style, making everyone all but forget about the snafu at the start. As the credits rolled the band went full on rock mode, unleashing some furious drumming, ass ripping solos and astoundingly soaring keys. As someone who has only ever seen the American version of the film that was largely devoid of Goblin’s soundtrack, it was a hell of a treat to hear it for the first time in such a setting.
It was hard not to think at the end of the fest about how proud Corey would be to see it come together in such a grand fashion. In three years this festival has gone from a rather niche little gathering to a pretty legit U.S. festival. The only thing crazier than thinking about how it’s grown is thinking about where it could possibly go in the future. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. As it stands right now, if you like anything remotely related to horror or heavy metal, this has become a can’t miss festival. Even though I just spent 2,000 words going over the weekend, I still missed probably one-third of the things there are to see and do (autograph signings, guest speakers, Paul Booth doing tattoos, the SECOND STAGE, etc.) Housecore just keeps getting bigger and better, and I can’t imagine it will be abandoning that trajectory for several years to come.
All photos courtesy of Alexis Benitez. Check out her Facebook page here for more photos of bands and beer.