Right in the middle of Screamfest, this weekend featured some feature premieres and the majority of the shorts programs. I’m having a good time discovering some raw talent and mingling with the wonderful people who put on this event, and the filmmakers and film lovers who attend. Here is a recap of the features I saw and a few of the standout shorts. Screamfest runs through Thursday, October 17 so there’s still time to celebrate horror here in L.A.
This student film from Columbia University is a really solid post-apocalyptic survival drama. Writer/director Jeremy Robbins has the chops to compose exciting scenes and build suspense. At 20 minutes, it’s a little long for a short but I could see Robbins populating this world with feature-length set of action set pieces and territorial conflicts.
This short is like a horrific O. Henry story. You can kind of see where it’s going but it does it well. A struggling farmer buries his mother under a tree and it makes the tree grow $100 bills. Now what’s a man with a money growing tree to do? Obviously feed it more blood!
Beautiful animation. You can see the trailer at http://www.butterfliesanimation.com.
Another post-apocalyptic short, this one has a few more frills with visual effects portraying a futurescape and production values allowing a roadside with checkpoint soldiers in fatigues. It’s a concise 10 minute interaction between a survivor and what may be the new hope for this desolate future. This could be act one of a feature. You can find out more at http://www.yarnmaker.com/cough/, including future screenings.
You can watch this short online (pw: dembanger), and you should because in under 10 minutes, it is an effective exploration of a scary premise and shows director John Berardo knows how to use the camera. It’s basically When a Stranger Calls for Facebook, so it’s When a Stranger Sends a Friend Request. Really, it’s the horror movie that’s been staring us all in the face for the past five years.
Frost is the primo example of “why the fuck are you still filming? You’ve been stranded on a fucking glacier. Just fucking concentrate on fucking surviving.” I’m sorry for getting so worked up, it’s just I’m usually pretty lenient on found footage movies keeping the cameras rolling. This was ridiculous. It’s also, despite a real frozen location, one of the slower and more boring examples of found footage. It is well shot though and captures the isolation and ice trek. If you’re going to inexplicably keep rolling, at least it looks good.
This Spanish film is House of the Devil meets Misery. A college student, Ana (Ona Casamiquela) responds to an ad for a job looking after Elisa (Ana Turpin), only to discover too late that she doesn’t want any part of this. Things truly go from bad to worse. If you thought the potential employer was bad, wait ‘til you see who else she has to deal with.
I don’t want to give too much away in case you can find and see this movie. It’s well acted and supremely shot. I may have wished Ana were a little more proactive but I’m just spoiled by American final girls. She really is a victim, and that’s valid because sometimes shit happens!
This is definitely the weirdest movie of Screamfest, and that’s saying a lot too. Dylan (Callum Blue), a former coma patient with amnesia, finds himself instantly transitioning between different realms. The realms have some unique, twisted imagery and really unexpected transitions, making for effective jumps. This surreal journey eventually leads Dylan to discover what he did before his accident and a person from his past (Vinnie Jones) is more dangerous than Dylan was. There’s a femme fatale (Nicole LaLiberte) involved too, and it should be noted what a contrast she is to Dylan’s supportive girlfriend (Ashlynn Yennie)
Schism is really well made with practical effects and cinematography. I’d like to think I can tell that it was shot on 35mm, though the projection was still probably digital. Callum Blue is really good in a role that should lead to more complex leading man roles, but it’s so weird the mainstream casting directors probably won’t see it. As amnesia stories go, it’s a fairly standard mystery, but the surreal touches make it more interesting, and so outside the box it’s a rarity compared to mainstream horror/thrillers.
I loved this short about a future technology that allows you to work in your sleep. That is poignant satire, a la Robocop though played a little straighter. What makes it so intriguing is I would actually consider it. I’m not doing anything else while I sleep, and I could use a little extra income to put me over the top here. The horror comes from the notion of how they’re really being put to work while they’re unconscious, but I could totally see this as a feature.
The home invasion genre is a standard of horror, and it’s such a simple one I’m actually surprised we don’t see it more often. This one is equal parts psychological and brutal. Cory (Robin Dunne) is bringing his son Liam (Peter DaCunha) and new wife Sarah (Katharine Isabelle) to his cabin to try to encourage family bonding. Liam is a little resistant to his stepmom. That’s the least of their issues when a family of intruders in animal masks break in and torture them.
As you can tell, there are some standard staples but they’re well done. The animal masks come from an extra creepy source, and they are as interested in breaking up the family as they are in violently attacking them. Kids are usually not as articulate about their emotions as Liam but that helps the film get to the real point quicker. Sarah is a bit more of a traditional final girl than Isabelle usually plays in horror movies, but she’s got this down.