It’s that time again for the magic and excitement of Shriekfest 19- THE horror, sci-fi film festival to attend!
I love this festival, and Denise Gossett, the festival’s creator and co-founder, is a genuinely kind, generous, and supportive person. You find find a finer human running a film festival anywhere, and that’s the truth.
So, I’m back to give my wrap-up of the festival. If I were to do a film-by-film review, we’d be here for days. So, I’ll just hit you with the highlights.
I know I probably say this every year, but the films seem to get better every year, and this is no exception. There is just a higher quality of material submitted each year, and after 19 years, it’s getting heard to pick ‘favorites’. so there is something to like in every feature this year, I jsut don’t have the space to elaborate on all of them.
Starting with FRIDAY night, we have the feature Greenlight. This is a great first film maker’s feature.
“Director Jack Archer (Chase Williamson) can’t seem to catch a break in Hollywood. Ambitions of directing his first feature film are hopeless. Enter B-movie producer Bob Moseby (Chris Browning) who sees Jack for what he truly is, a talented filmmaker. He offers Jack the opportunity to direct his first feature. However, Jack’s dream job quickly descends into a nightmare…”
Talk about making an offer you can’t refuse. Chase Williamson’s Jack gets stuck between a rock and a hard place while trying to shoot his first film. With a vibrant color palette and solid performances, this film is actually a solid horror/thriller. It happened to win the award for Best Thriller Feature.
Another one Friday night, a film called Artik. there was something interesting about this one.
A comic book obsessed serial killer’s sinister plan to train his son to be his replacement is interrupted when the young boy lures a well-meaning stranger, Holton, back to their secluded farm threatening to expose their families terrifying secret.
Interesting fact: this also stars actor Chase Williamson (as Holden). This role for him was completely different and showed his range. He’s a solid actor.
This film also starred one of the producers, Jerry G. Angelo, as Artik, the serial killer in question.
The performances are solid, and they create a unique and creepy atmosphere. And Jerry Angelo did a kind of voice that was both odd and yet strangely detached.
Also great production design and locations gave Artik a cool vibe.
SATURDAY we get started with some shorts – which I love! All of the shorts were pretty great, but some really stood out for me.
The very first short, right out of the gate, was Finley. It was AWESOME. It set the bar high and was tough to beat all through the weekend.
“Finley” is a cheerfully energetic horror short following the shenanigans of a wooden puppet as he tries to kill a group of college kids who have moved into his house.
This took a familiar premise and made it funny, yet managed to end it in classic horror fashion. LOVED this.
Next was Maggie May.
“Sometimes doing nothing can be the worst move of all.”
A great British short that indeed shows that even doing nothing can do the most harm. Some dark humor and a horrific – and agonizingly frustrating – story made this a solid horror short.
Next was Psycho Path.
“Laurel Rhodes is a backpacking vlogger who specializes in hidden trails and hard-to-reach hikes. After taking a wrong turn on her latest expedition, she stumbles upon an eerie, deserted cabin with strange markings on the wall. Trapped in the dark and rain”
Some great acting and a simple one location shoot keeps this a tense short. And the ending? A great little twist that left me satisfied.
And then there’s Kissed.
“A Mortician fixes up the new body in the morgue, and adds a few touches of his own.”
This short has something to say, as well as being pretty creepy – I mean, hey, it takes place in a morgue, it’s not a musical comedy. Although I’d also have probably enjoyed it if it were. But it’s a great six minutes short with solid pay-off.
The next group on Saturday is also really good. Stand-outs begin with Overkill.
“A comedic twist on a classic slasher setup: a group of millennials escape to a lake, only to find themselves the target of a masked killer.”
You know the old trope of an unkillable killer? This one has fun with that with great success, AND won the award for Best Horror Short.
And the last short on Saturday was the wonderful We Got a Monkey’s Paw.
“Things get hairy when Zack convinces Jakki to spend the day making wishes on a Monkey’s Paw. Soon the two find themselves doing backflips trying to undo the cataclysmic series of events they’ve set off. Ghost brides, demon boxes, dead-y bears, oh my!”
Holy hell, this was chock full o’fun! Really, the synopsis says it all. This was pretty awesome and hilarious.
For the Saturday night features we have the winner of the Sci-Fi feature, Volition.
A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder.”
This was a really good science fiction film. Often with films like this – the clairvoyance is really something else – you have to be careful how it’s written. I often find plot holes that make the story not work, but Volition has a tight script and I couldn’t find any problems with the plot.
Solid acting, a careful and intriguing script with a unique way of unfolding the action, make this a cool sci-fi film I would recommend. Look for it if you can.
Next was Max Winslow and the House of Secrets.
“Five teens are invited to the home of an eccentric billionaire to compete in a game to win his mansion. The night takes a dark turn when they become trapped in the house and are forced to face off against an evil computer that controls everything in the house, including their fate.”
It’s not often, if ever, that I see a family – or a tween oriented movie at Shriekfest, but here we are with what I think is the first.
The production quality was great, the cast was on point, and the message was positive. AND, it had Chad Michael Murray in it.
Overall, Max Winslow and the House of Secrets was not aimed at me. I am definitely not the demographic for this film, but for the young teen audience, it’s pretty spot on and well made. If you have kids of that age, this might be a great choice for them.
It’s not really horror, it’s more suspense in a very family friendly way.
SUNDAY’S shorts! We Die Alone gets us started, and it’s a great way to get things going. Won the award for Best Thriller Short film.
“A chance encounter dangerously intertwines the lives of three people with differing perspectives on love.”
Solid performances and an unexpected turn of events help make this short worth a watch.
And then there’s The Hidebehind. This one was simple but excellent.
“Lost deep in the forest, a lone backpacker encounters a peculiar stranger.”
Beautiful, atmospheric location, only two characters, and very simple VFX provide great results. This was a strong short for sure.
Off Fleek is a disturbing short with a powerful message about appearances.
“Teenager Emma suffers horrendous cyber bullying and her worse fears come true as the body shaming abuse she receives online begins to transform her appearance. She decides to take drastic action, which has disastrous consequences for herself and her family.”
You sort of know where it’s going to go, but it’s important message and horror elements give it a solid pay off.
And then another fave of mine, Belphagor. Demon possession has never been so fun!
“Danielle and Brian are young and in love. But when Danielle is possessed by a lecherous (but admittedly charming) demon by the name of Belphegor, their relationship is put to the test.”
Another hilarious delight of a short film. Takes demon possession and makes it fun! Highly recommended viewing!
The last group of shorts for the weekend has some treats, too. Headcleaner is good just for the interesting and unique premise alone.
A documentary filmmaker follows a working class recluse from Scotland who can control his environment through the power of sound. Over a fractured timeline we witness the struggle to reconcile the recluse, his mastery of sound and a found footage tape of a sonic weapon called The Drone Tape, tested on humans in the seventies, that will ultimately lead to horrific consequences for the filmmaker.
This is a cool proof of concept for a potential feature or TV series. I’d be all in for either of those. This is a cool idea.
Then there’s Possessions. Fun wordplay with the title, this short has some funny, along with a darker, more serious subject matter. It manages to straddle that line deftly.
“When Zeke decides to sell everything he owns and make an art project out of it, he soon discovers that some possessions are easier to get rid of than others.”
Careful what you buy at a yard sale. Some things come with…baggage. And stuff.
Oh, and then Trick or Treatment. I enjoyed this a lot.
“Chucky, Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead, Leatherface and more in group therapy… as puppets… Healing happens we we remove the masks!
C’mon, puppet versions of horror icons, in therapy? They make it work! This was really funny. You all remember how much I love horror comedy, right? Yep.
A fantstic use of two minutes is Drip.
“A boy. A bathroom. The middle of the night.”
It’s that simple. Excellent tension and taps into the primal fear of dark hallways. This also had a perfect pay-off.
And lastly, the ever so disturbing Baby Bird.
“When Jen and Paul are invited to a coworker’s dinner party, they get roped in to playing the group’s favorite game, Baby Bird.”
I had a feeling where this was going to go and it did not disappoint. In a really gross idea sort of way. Disgusting, but really funny, too. a must see, unless you have a weak stomach. And definitely will make you feel fine about the old “10 second rule” about food.
That leaves us with Sunday night features. All three of these were quite good.
First we have Do Not Reply. Definitely aimed at a teen audience, and their parents.
“Chelsea (Amanda Arcuri), a lonely high school girl, is abducted through a social media app by Brad (Jackson Rathbone) and is held captive with other teenage girls who are to become victims in his virtual reality filmed murders.”
One of the things that is so creepy about this is that it could actually happen. Young girls fall for the attention of men online too often and we hear about these kind of abductions on the news all too frequently. This film definitely plays into those fears.
Maybe I’m not exactly the demographic for this one, but it’s still disturbing – and CFN’s own Chris Mancini and his daughter certainly are. They both really liked this film as well.
After that was The Black String. I really liked this one a lot.
“Jonathan is a lonely twenty-something, stuck in his home town working night shifts at the local convenience store. When an unexpected encounter with a mysterious woman turns his life upside down, Jonathan is stricken by illness and nightmarish visions. Paranoid and desperate, he launches on a quest across the suburbs to find the seductress who started it all. Friends and family believe he’s losing his mind, but Jonathan is convinced he’s the target of something far more sinister.”
Jonathan is played by none other than Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz. And he’s solid in this as a guy who may or may not be paranoid. This film keeps you guessing as to what’s real and what isn’t.
I really liked the tone, the production design, and the grittiness of it. And The Black String has some cool horror moments that made me a little uncomfortable. Win! All in all, this is a cool film – which, by the way, I believe you can watch on certain streaming services now. Check it out!
And lastly, we have Making Monsters.
“When a celebrity couple famed for their YouTube scare-prank channel are invited to a friend’s converted church in the countryside for a weekend getaway, a series of startling events unfold that spiral them into an inexplicable nightmare.”
This couple goes to visit friends in their converted barn home in the county. They all party and then wake up super hung over the next day…or is it only the next day? Yeah, things get worse from there.
Other than one strange plot thread that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, this is a solid horror film. Scenes of genuine terror, a cat and mouse chase, and a fun horror antagonist, make this an entertaining film for the Halloween season. Or, you know, whenever you want to watch horror movies.
I recommend Making Monsters. It also won the award for Best Horror Feature.
This was really a great year at Shriekfest. I know I say that every year, but that’s because it’s true. There are many Horror film festivals out there, but so few that are truly focused on Independent films. Shriekfest stays true to the Independent filmmaker. soome of these films are made with the lowest of budgets, so what you see on the screen is truly a labor of love and passion for the medium.
And festival founder and director, Denise Gossett is a shining light in what can be an imdustry full of fake people, ‘yes’ men and fair weather friends. Denise is kind, sincere, generous, and really like Momma Festival Director. She cares about each and every one of the people that submit films/screenplays and would love to give them ALL the Green Light and million dollar budgets – or at LEAST an award from the Festival. It is really her supportive nature that makes Shriekfest the Horror/Sci-Fi Film festival that people want to be a part of. I know I love it.
Hopefully, we’ll all be back for Shriekfest 20 next year! Keep it creepy, people!