Shockproof film festival gives star billing to B-movie schlock and gore


The Shockproof Festival is on at Prague’s arthouse cinema Aero. The festival, known for its focus on B-movie action films, gore, exploitation horror and more, this year is focusing largely on the theme of epidemiology and outbreaks (don’t be surprised if a zombie apocalypse is just around the corner).

I spoke to the festival’s artistic director Jiří Flígl; he told me more about Shockproof and what it has offered through the years.

“Our aim is basically anything outside the bounds of the usual, the mainstream, the run-of-the-mill. We focus on a lot of ‘trashier’ areas and I mean anything. From 1980s straight-to-video action movies to classic horror, even classic porn; but we also sometimes include films that are experimental in terms in terms of genre, arthouse pictures.”

Obviously there is any attraction by some to these kinds of movies and in some cases there can be value (many great actors got their start in B films, for example).

“Of course it depends from film to film. But certainly B-films and genre pictures, they are all a part of the history of cinema. If you focus only on classic films, you will be getting only a distorted picture of what cinema is. Also, many of these films often, intentionally or unintentionally, can provide a more awesome experience even than classic or more high-brow productions.”

Is it difficult to get some of the titles you set your sights on?

“Our aim is basically anything outside the bounds of the usual, the mainstream, the run-of-the-mill.”

“It depends. Many of the films actually belong to the bigger Hollywood studios so it isn’t that hard; other times it can be very difficult and finding a copy can be a bit like detective work. That said, we are now in our 12th year, so we have a great many contacts and we know who to turn to.”

You mentioned the 12th year, always a kind of milestone… by now you must a kind of regular core of festival goers who know fully what to expect…

“Certainly, a lot of people come back every year and we know them and it is an opportunity to meet and talk about the films and so on.”

The festival has a social side to it and also a sense of humor: I read that there will be a kind of special atmosphere during one of the screenings…

“We always try to give interactive treatment to at least one film and because this year’s overarching theme is Epidemics, we will give the treatment to a Danish zombie film which takes a more drama style approach. A team will scout the auditorium for ‘ill people’ and members of the audience will get a quick medical ‘check-up’ as they enter to guarantee a virus-free environment (laughs).”

OK. What are some of the films you would recommend for fans?

“I can mention a few but let me say something about the festival for English speakers: one interesting aspect is that we have very good simultaneous and sometimes funny translation into headphones offered to visitors. It can happen that members of the English-speaking audience who have no need for the headphones will look around to see what is so funny, so there is that contrast. The translation is something that many of the Czech fans really appreciate.

'The Warrior',  photo: Festival otrlého diváka
“Then, this year we are going to have live simultaneous translation into Czech for the film The Last Dragon, a Blaxploitation/sit-com/Kung Fu film produced by Berry Gordy from Motown.

“Audiences looking for something on the bizarre end of the spectrum may want to check out the Indonesian film The Warrior, in which a comic book style hero who fights oppressors during Dutch rule. The film features lots of Kung Fu and black magic and crazy, crazy imagery.”

“If you focus only on classic films, you will be getting only a distorted picture of what cinema is.”

“We will be screening The Reflecting Skin, which one might call a take on Terrence Malick film but with a bizarre plot line and bizarre setting.

“On the very extreme side of the spectrum we will screen a very nasty August Underground a legendary but very sadistic and sickening movie. It is about serial killers but shot like a home movie.

“I would definitely highlight a new German horror film, The Nightmare, which is definitely one of the best artistically done genre films over the last years.”

I imagine that some of the films you show are just too hard core even for viewers who might expect it or have a stomach for it…

'The Boy Scouts' Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse',  photo: Festival otrlého diváka
“It has happened. As a festival we tend to focus mostly on the entertaining side of the spectrum but every year we do include several extreme movies each year. We screened a film called Human Centipede 2 last year and one hour into the movie there was kind of an exodus of several people from the theatre during one extreme scene.”

On the other hand, this year you will also be screening what I understand is known as a ‘zom com’, which is a zombie comedy, dark comedy, called The Boy Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. We have seen in recent years zombies become mainstream in a way they weren’t previously (say, in the first decade or so that George Romero made Night of the Living Dead or its famous gory sequel Dawn of the Dead)… There is The Walking Dead of course which has had an impact as well.

“Zombies can be used in a comedy, as social commentary, in really intense horror. They are universal. People love them.”

“I wouldn’t put a mainstream label on zombies themselves as an element but you can say they have entered the mainstream in terms of pop culture. That has less to do with the something like The Walking Dead, in my opinion, than the influence of video games like the first Resident Evil, which proved very popular in the 1990s. The main moment zombies entered the mainstream picture was when pop icon Michael Jackson used them in the video for thriller. But zombies of course are very popular and now they are everywhere, even in special levels of Call of Duty. They can be used across genres, in any setting: they can be used in a comedy, they can be used as social commentary, really intense horror. They are universal. People love them.”