Well, well, well, it’s that time again, kids! With the arrival of October comes the arrival of Shriekfest Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival! And a fun fest is was! Well, it was fun once I got past a bout of motion sickness. Yeah…let me explain.
So, Friday night there were three feature films on the agenda. At 7 PM, the first film was 6:15. Don’t let that confuse you, it still started at 7 PM at Raleigh Studios. Next up at 9 PM was The Answer, and rounding out the night was the film, Chatter. For some reason I didn’t really think much of the description of 6:15; “The world’s first one-shot POV zombie thriller!” Yeah, maybe some people would have been more wary, but not me. Now, first of all, I don’t really have problems with hand-held movies. Not in any physical context, anyway. I haven’t really gotten motion sickness since I was about 12 at an amusement park – you know, that ride called The Octopus? Right. Horrible. So, it didn’t occur to ome that there would be a problem here. Unfortunately, almost from the outset of this film, I was in trouble. I spent about 81 minutes in a cold sweat. “81 minutes? Why didn’t you leave the theater, Neil?”, you ask. Well, I wasn’t sure I could get to the door. Yep. It was that bad. Plus, I would have had to climb over people to get out of the aisle, so, yeah. I just closed my eyes occasionally and pushed through. But it sucked.
But, that being said, the general consensus was that people liked it and I would have to say that other than my physiological issues, it was indeed a fun idea. But I guess a film entirely shot by a Go-Pro strapped to a guys chest is where I draw the line for motion sickness. Now I know my limit.
The only other problem, of course, was that for an hour after that film, I was dizzy, nauseous, and weak-knee’d. Therefore, the second film of the night, The Answer, was mostly a mystery to me because I couldn’t get into the theater until about two thirds in. So, that last act of the film seemed decent. Some cheesy dialogue, but it seemed like it might be an interesting Sci-Fi film. Turns out, it won the award for Best Sci-Fi Feature, so there you have it.
The last film, Chatter, was one of my favorites of the fest. This film uses online technology, where an agent of the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring internet traffic and comes across the Skype video communications of a couple temporarily living in different parts of the world who discover their new home is haunted. They use a little humor, and some really good creepy shots via their webcams. There have been a few films starting to use these kind of elements, but writer/director Matthew Solomon uses these effectively. He also manages to break up any potential monotony by occasionally cutting away to scenes of an agent monitoring these videos which is both pertinent to the story, and offers some occasional humor. Look for Chatter when it finds distribution.
Saturday starts with a great group of shorts. Everything was actually rather good, but I’ll give you my highlights. In Program one, I really enjoyed Fairy Knowledge, a story about a girl, who after getting rejected at a fairy themed party, decides to do some boning up on her knowledge of fairies. With some wit, and playful scares, this was a fun six minutes.
The Outer Darkness may be a short film, but it plays more like 23 minutes of a proposed feature. Nonetheless, it’s pretty great and solid in all aspects. It’s definitley compelling enough that I want to see the feature that this short could become. On Friday evenings at Lynnsmouth Community Centre, meets a group led by Father Johnathan Crowe. They all share their stories of strange occurrances that have scarred their lives in some way. Tonight a young tormented woman named Jenny will share her story of a game of chance that sealed the fate of her family.
Program two began with The Smiling Man, written and directed by A.J. Briones, a rather disturbing short that shows us a little girl who finds herself face to face with pure evil. this was an award winner of the weekend and deservedly so.
Bad Guy # 2 was one of my favorite shorts of the weekend. A hilarious take on the hierarchy of henchman of a ruthless, violent mob boss type, this practical-effects driven splatter comedy shows one bad guy that promotions suck. I highly recommend this one, folks.
Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse also gives us some humor, as a group of teen friends go to a local haunted house that doesn’t impress their expectations. At least not until things seem to be all too real. Now they, along with some of the employees, have to try and survive the night.
The Saturday night features offered up my other favorite of the fest. Clinger was just a treat. A hilarious script by Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, Bubba Fish (?!), and Michael Steves, directed by Steves, Clinger enterteined my thoroughly. When her possessive boyfriend dies in a horrible accident, Fern Peterson’s life is thrown into turmoil. Things go from bad to worse when he returns as a lovesick ghost trying to kill her so they can be together forever. A great story of the nature of first love, and how messy it can be – well, bloody, in this case – Clinger is chock full of gushing blood and really funny stuff. It’s my other big recommendation from the fest.
The last film Saturday night was Interiors. A man is hired to capture supernatural events in a house with a supposed spirit named Emily. He spends a night alone there and is taken on a journey into the unknown. This is the award winner of the weekend for Best Horror Feature. It’s certainly a solid film, however, one sequence was too long – so much so that it marred the film for me.
This brings us to Sunday’s first Shorts Program. All of these are pretty good, but my faves were, strangely, all sci-fi related. Traveler is about a group of friends that construct a jet-powered craft that will teleport them across the Universe. But it’s only when they succeed that their problems begin. This is a really well made short, but because it plays more like the first act of a feature, it leaves you without a conclusion. But, man, I really want to see this as a feature.
Alien Communications is a fun short about communicating with the opposite sex, and with, well, aliens. Let’s face it, neither is particularly easy all the time. Love the spirit and humor of this short.
In The Stowaway, as the title describes, a stowaway is discovered on an emergency dispatch ship and must come to terms of the consequences of her actions. Seriously good drama and production. A really wonderful little short that happened to win the Best Sci-Fi Short Award.
Short Program two also had some good shorts, my faves being The Peripheral, about a patient, Kenny, who shows up unexpectedly at Dr. Joanna Redding’s house, she attempts to help him overcome his “irrational” phobia of the creatures that he sees in his peripheral vision. Very effective and creepy, with a pleasant surprise of practical effects.
Next was The Blood of Love. Devastated by the death of her husband, a young woman finds solace in technological magic when she is given a secret machine that can bring him back to life for short periods of time. The sacrifices this device requires are severe. The durations of his return are short. And they’re growing shorter. If you like a dark romance film, this is for you.
And then, Iris. A man uses his smart phone to assist in burying a dead body. This one will make you chuckle, and perhaps look at Siri in a whole new light.
The winner of the Best Thriller Feature, and my fave feature of Sunday, was Landmine Goes Click. Three American tourists are backpacking through the remote countryside of European Georgia. One of them becomes trapped on an armed landmine. But this seems to be a minor threat compared to the nightmare of the rest of the afternoon. A psychopath happens upon them, and he takes advantage of the tourist’s immobility and brutally assaults the woman he loves. This film has a few little flaws, but nonetheless, it is still fresh in my head. This is one really intense film, and you will need a drink afterward, for sure. Definitely will make you uncomfortable at times. Unless you’re dead inside, then you’ll be fine. And if yo are fine afterward, then, stay the Hell away from me.
The next feature was Granny of the Dead, and it’s a British horror-comedy, and you know how much I love those, right? Yeah, well, this was only moderately funny, and simply didn’t push the envelope enough. But, the film makers are pretty young, so I’ll just say that with some more money, and going more extreme, their next film could be good stuff.
The final feature of the weekend was All I Need, and I don’t know if I could give you a clear synopsis of this one if I tried. Here’s what the tag line is as it was printed: “The paths of a desperate man and an imprisoned young woman cross unexpectedly in the den of a mysterious killer.” Yeah, that’s not really clear after you see the film. And I couldn’t even really tell if it was an editing problem, or just an overall script problem. I just know it was a problem.
So, that wraps up another Shriekfest! 2015 was a pretty good year, on the whole. And it certainly gets my Halloween mood going. Look for those highlights – some of them may be online, or soon to find distribution. And always, I like to thank Shriekfest founder and Ringmaster, the always lovely and talented, Denise Gossett! Her passion and heart are so important in making Shriekfest so much fun and a great showcase for independent filmmaking. All the love for her and all that work the festival. Even though they tried to get me to throw up.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, always sad when Shriekfest is over. Except when I get sick in the theater. 😉