To quote producer/writer/actor Paul Papadeas’ catchy pitch, LAGUNA AVE. is “a film found on a trash heap after the apocalypse.” When Paul presented the script to soon-to-be director David Buchanan, David recalled, “I loved its many contradictions: cheap but ambitious, sleazy yet intellectual, funny and dark. It perfectly captures the trashy times we’re living.” The film was literally bootstrapped by those who saw its potential: “The production took on a life of its own, like some self-propelled, malfunctioning cyborg bent on self-destruction.”
Enter the prestigious FrightFest festival UK, where AGUNA AVE. premieres from August 26 to August 30, 2021. Lauded by Guillermo del Toro as “the Woodstock of Gore,” FrightFest was conceived by Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, and Alan Jones and staged its first event in London in 2000. Over 20 years have passed, and FrightFest has grown and expanded, instituted a year-round event screening program, and even begun to publish and distribute books. LAGUNA AVE. and FrightFest could easily be described as “a marriage made in heaven” (or hell, depending on the venue).
LAGUNA AVE. is a mishmash to horror tropes, black-hearted evildoers, drones, drink and drugs, sex and enemas, paranoid beliefs, conspiracy theories, and artificial intelligence alive and well in the modern world – in other words, there’s something for everyone in this movie. Add to this the concept of no-budget filmmaking, lots of shadows within shadows, and a black-and-white motif – and you have the foundation for LAGUNA AVE.
But on to the story. Russell (Russell Steinberg) is a frustrated, recently unemployed, burned-out TV editor whose prosthetic hand (courtesy of an earlier accident) will prove to be an important plot point. Life hasn’t been treating him very well. His former boss (Paul Papadeas) owes him lots of money and refuses to pay. His girlfriend Rita (Stephanie Brait) couldn’t care less and seems to be out of town most of the time. His new downstairs neighbor Gary (Jamie Hall) keeps him awake at night with a symphony of strange, scary sounds. But things may be looking up (or maybe down, depending on your perspective) when Gary and Russell both seem to be turning into something new and other-worldly with the aid of the computer and present-day robotics.
LAGUNA AVE. is a dark tale filmed on a dark screen. Music tends to be on the heavy metal side. This is definitely not a motion pictures for the kiddies and should appeal to horror film aficionados, especially those with a taste for sci-fi. Steinberg does a good job of turning from wimp to super antihero, and the cast makes the most of the eerie but also comic tale. Clearly, director David Buchanan is having fun turning the script into three dimensions. David Speck’s photography is also a star on the nightmarish Laguna Ave. walk of fame. The entire cast and production crew has done a terrific job with limited resources but lots of enthusiasm.
LAGUNA AVE. will play in-person at the Leicester Square Cinema from August 26 to August 30, 2021. As part of the digital FrightFest event, it will run from September 1 to September 5, 2021. The digital screening will be one screening only and geo-locked for the UK and Ireland only.