Terror in the Aisles

Homegrown thriller uses Fox Theater, its history and its renovation

No films will be screened inside the Fox Fullerton during the inaugural Fullerton Film Festival. While a few million dollars have been spent saving the stately building from destruction, and while a great deal of time and energy has gone into sprucing up the exterior and cleaning the interior of that building, which had sat vacant and rotting for nearly 20 years, this old bird is still several years—and many millions of dollars—away from singing.

But just because people won't be sitting inside the Fox during the fest doesn't mean the cavernous interior of this 1925 Italian Renaissance-inspired theater won't be seen: it's the stage for one of the local shorts in the fest, Trick.

Written and directed by local filmmaker Cory Reeder, Trick is a harmless little spin on the slasher genre, with a passel of freshly scrubbed Fullerton College theater students sneaking into the Fox on their way to a Halloween party. There are creaky doors, menacing shadows, ominous music and a few twists and turns along the way that keep the attention focused on the fate of our main character, sassy thespian Cricket (dressed like a butterfly). Will Butterfly, er, Cricket wind up dead by plummeting to her death in the darkened theater, or will she be done in by a hatchet embedded in her trachea?

Okay, so Trickwon't be competing for the Palme d'Orin this world, but it's a perfect fit for this inaugural festival. Though the drive to save and restore the Fox has drawn some headlines and big donations, it remains wholly grassroots. No national stars or ego-driven bankrolls have stepped up. (Instead of Cal State Fullerton alum, and rabid Titan baseball booster, Kevin Costner, the big-ticket names thus far have been D-listers like Tom Hatten and Joanne Worley).

Trick isn't anything special in terms of groundbreaking cinema or high art, but it does the trick as a promotional vehicle for the ongoing effort to save the building that inspired the festival. Reeder, a Fullerton local who has played in bands, tended bar and launched his own production company in the city, does a nice job of using the Fox's history, and future, as a back-story during his suspense yarn.

Throughout the 23-minute short, we catch glimpses of what the Fox used to be: from the toilet in the projection room to the murals that are in the process of being renovated. Characters talk about how their parents used to make out in the theater's balcony and rumors of it being haunted (paranormal investigators visited the Fox in 2004 and claimed the existence of a handful of spirits, including a female performer from the 1920s who wanted a legit film career in Hollywood but had to settle for performing with a seal act at the Fox).

We also hear frequent allusions to the ongoing cleanup, with one character even agreeing to show up at the next work day.

Reeder, who has donated $30,000 to the nonprofit organization behind the drive to restore the Fox, obviously has affection for the building. Even if Trick does veer close to PSA status at times, it—like the film festival—seems well-intentioned and focused on what will ultimately be the toughest trick of all: raising the necessary awareness and ducats to complete the transformation of the Fox from rotting eyesore to dazzling cultural arts venue.

TRICK SCREENS WITH LOOKIN' FOR SOME POSSE, MAKING OF ANIMAL CHIN AND CON: THE CORRUPTION OF SHAWN HELM AS PART OF THE LOCAL ORANGE COUNTY FILMMAKER SHOWCASE AT FULLERTON COLLEGE CAMPUS THEATER, FULLERTON. SUN., 6:30 P.M. $6.

 
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