By Natalie Phillips
I’ll get straight to the point. The Del Mar’s Second Annual Mystery Movie Marathon should have been called "Shitstorm, Plus One Really Amazing Movie To Emphasize How Terrible The Other Ones Are." Harsh? Maybe, but you’d be cranky too if you paid $13 to see a selection of films that included the most monstrous union imaginable_-that of reality TV and Ben Affleck. The Marathon, which lasted from midnight until approximately 9:30 am on Oct. 14, consisted of five unreleased films (well four, they cheated on one but thank God because it was the only good one), the titles of which remained a mystery until the opening credits. To help keep the audience awake and jittery for more films, the Del Mar sold sugary snacks and coffee for $2 and under. Much thanks for that at least. By the end of the night, the audience’s spirits were shockingly high after nearly 10 hours indoors. Most of the audience remained until the end, perhaps compelled by the nine raffle prizes awarded after the fifth film. Prizes included DVDs of films such as Roman Polanski’s "Rosemary’s Baby," Bruce Campbell’s "Evil Dead 2" and Chan-wook Park’s "Oldboy." In short, excellent movies everyone should have stayed home last Saturday night and rented. But who knows, there’s always next year. *Severance*Introduced by marathon host Scott Griffen as "’The Office’ meets ‘Deliverance’," "Severance" is a bizarre mishmash of horror and humor set in the Hungarian woods. Off to a "luxury lodge" for a "team building retreat," employees of weapon company Palisade find themselves fighting bloodthirsty war criminals in this film by British director Christopher Smith. The film aims for a "Shaun of the Dead" combination of laughs and shudders, but doesn’t quite get there. While it is undeniably funny at times (any director who can make you snicker at someone caught in a bear trap has to have talent), the horror is mostly nonexistent. The numerous fake outs, in which you think the horror is finally going to start, become wearing after the filmmakers jarringly turn up the sound effects for the 28th time.Indifferent as I was initially to "Severance," there was certainly potential in the filmmaking, and the rest of the audience seemed to love it. I expect good things to come from Christopher Smith in the future, and the film is Oscar worthy in comparison to the other two horror comedies that gracelessly flickered across the Del Mar’s screen.*Sympathy for Lady Vengence*Much like the other two films in Korean director Chan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy, "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" can only truly be described as "deeply fucked up." Park’s films have a way of making you want to cry, vomit and laugh before you crawl forward to lick the screen in reverence. "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" is that good, and was a shining beacon amongst reels of mediocrity and trash. With strong elements of both "Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" matches the intensity of the Park’s earlier films, though with even stranger moments of humor sprinkled throughout. With so many surreal twists and complications, it’s a difficult film to synopsize. "Sympathy" stars actress Yeong-ae Lee as Geum-ja Lee, a beautiful, kind-eyed woman who is sent to jail at the age of 19 for the abduction and strangulation of a five year-old boy. After 13 years, Geum-ja, who falsely confessed to the murder in order to save her own daughter, is released back into society with a scarred reputation, blood red eyeliner and a vendetta to rival any other of the pissed-off heroes of Park’s films. "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" isn’t a gore fest, but its intensity isn’t to be underestimated. Buy it, watch it, worship it. *Feast*Few movies would be able to hold their own in the shadow of a film like "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance," and "Feast," a massive pile of rancid garbage that I hesitate to refer to as a movie, is perhaps the least qualified of all. And yes, I do mean all movies ever made, because this movie is that terrible. I would rather have watched "Sorority Boys" all night, topped off with a trip to a back alley dentist who uses Listerine as an anesthetic. Remember that boring reality show "Project Greenlight 3," in which Hollywood pawns Matt Damon and Ben Affleck hire a director for a horror movie? Well, "Feast" was the outcome. Please, spare me your "but Feast is so bad it’s good!" speech. Leave that to Bruce Campbell, and the countless others who know that a trace of that magic ingredient called "effort" can do wonders for your pet project. "Feast" made me want to attack my fellow audience members for laughing and cheering during the film, I thought I had grown a brain tumor the size of a baby watermelon that made all basic human civilities impossible."Feast" takes place in a bar, with a bunch of characters who are introduced with their names (clever ones such as "hero" and "honey pie") and their life expectancy in the film. Self-referential to the point of nausea, the film’s setting never changes and the majority of it is in fast forward- even scenes such as a woman getting into her truck and speeding away. Director John Gulager seemed like a nice enough fellow on "Project Greenlight," and probably could’ve done better without the help of Affleck and Damon. In order to give the audience a gore break, an alternate movie was offered upstairs about a woman who performs a sexual act on her dog and must face the social consequences. I wish I’d seen that. *Renaissance*The stunning, comic book style animation alone, which is purely in black and white, is enough to arouse interest for a solid half hour or so before the weak script and plot take their toll in "Renaissance.""Renaissance" is a stylish, animated science fiction film set in Paris 2054 that has the visual appeal of Sin City, but none of the edge. It takes itself seriously, but why does it bother if it isn’t going to answer any of the serious questions it poses? The film raises issues about immortality and the exhausting quest for youth and beauty, but never attempts to say anything other than the obvious conclusion that these are futile pursuits.I really wanted to like "Renaissance," and to be fair, it came on at 4 a.m., but it was boring, and for once, the rest of the audience seemed to feel me on this. As I felt I had found kindred spirits when people booed after "Feast," I was similarly relieved to hear that people complained to Scott Griffen for including "Renaissance" in the marathon line-up. There isn’t much to say about this film. Virtually no character development and beautiful animation, it’s about as hollow as the futuristic beauty industry it critiques.*Evil Aliens*Another horror/comedy from the motherland, Jake West’s "Evil Aliens" opens with cemetery sex and a man being drilled (literally, I mean with a huge metal drill) in the ass by aliens until the film lens is completely covered in blood from the aforementioned drilling. It should’ve been magical, but eh… The redeeming quality for me was that one of the less irritating characters in the film had a Watchmen lighter, but, well, sometimes you need a little more than that, especially after eight hours of movies. There’s this weird concept floating around that suggests all horror movies that mock their genre or are campy in any way automatically qualify as beloved cult classics. I mean honestly, it’s practically blasphemy as a horror fan to not like a horror film with bad dialogue, alien drill sodomy and massive dismemberment. People who adhere to these standards for judging films are not unlike those who think shit on a pedestal in a museum is art. Sure, everything is art, and every movie with blood and boobs is a cult classic. But you know what, there has to be a point where you step back and say "Okay, this guy said ‘eat shit!’ as a catch phrase and lit aliens on fire via cool Watchmen lighter and manure, and it wasn’t funny or clever. Hey, maybe these filmmakers aren’t trying at all! This movie sucks!" Regardless of genre, a movie needs heart to survive. You need to be able to feel the director’s agony and passion burn you straight to the bone. It’s like the difference between early episodes of "The Simpsons" and late episodes of "Family Guy." You know what I mean.