Another Shriekfest Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival has come and gone just like that! Seems like you blink and it’s over, you know? All the anticipation all year and it’s over before you know it. But there’s always a bunch of great films by which to mark the weekend.
For those of you that are not regulars here, Shriekfest is one of, if not THE longest running horror/sci-fi film festivals around. It was started by founder/festival director Denise Gossett, one of the most wonderful, kind, generous, HUGE-hearted humans anywhere. And I don’t say that because I’m kissing up – I just love covering Shriekfest – but I say that because, frankly it’s true.
This is a person that at festivals end, on Sunday night when she presents the awards to the winners, is incapable of holding back tears. Yes, she simply wants EVERYONE to win. She makes a point of telling everyone that, just because you didn’t win that year, you still have talent and shouldn’t give up on your passion for writing/filmmaking, etc. She wants your unique voices to be heard and she encourages you to do it.
That’s a rare thing, in general, and maybe especially in an industry like filmmaking. Denise makes everyone feel like family, and family supports one another. She’s easily one of my favorite humans.
And so, this is one of the big reason I love Shriekfest. One of the other reason, of course, is that I happen to enjoy the horror and science fiction genres. Shriekfest is a great place to see independent films in these genres.
So, from Friday night at 7 pm, all the way to Sunday night at 10 pm, I’m in for the long haul. I try to see everything. That’s a LOT of time in a theater, you exclaim. Yes. Yes it is. But what if I leave to take a break and I miss the BEST film of the weekend while I’m gone? (YES, that happened to me one year – never again!)
So, enough pre-amable. Let’s get started. There were no real low points this year, as the quality of the submissions seem to get better every year. So, I’ll talk about the highest points simply because there just isn’t enough space here.
Friday night started with the feature Mercy Christmas. “Michael Briskett meets the perfect woman and his ideal Christmas dream comes true when she invites him to her family’s holiday celebration. Michael’s dream shatters once he realizes that HE will be the Christmas dinner.”
Haha – Briskett. I love that. An oft humorous tale of finding your self-worth and taking control of your life, Mercy Christmas has it all: Holiday spirit, family, and cannibalism! Fun!
Also Friday night was a Spanish submission, a pretty fucked up horror/thriller called The Glass Coffin.
Dressed for the occasion, Amanda steps into the luxury limousine which is waiting to take her to the gala ceremony where she is due to receive a lifetime award for a career in acting. Suddenly the glass in the windows goes dark, Amanda’s phone is jammed and she can’t open any of the doors.
A voice distorted by a metallic filter tells her not to try to break the windows. She would be better just to accept that she is trapped inside. From now on she must do everything the voice tells her. The time has come, THE SHOW IS ABOUT TO BEGIN…”
This one was not funny. Nope. The Glass Coffin was pretty messed up. A lot of this was psychological, which made for strong emotional horror. Not for the faint, and could be triggering for some, but if you are a fan of the genre, it’s worth a look. Winner of the Best Thriller Feature.
Saturday! The shorts programs are always a highlight for me – I love to see what people can create in a smaller format. And this year, though there were a LOT of great ones, I sort of feel like the very first three stand out the most for me.
First up is Agatha, a creepy period piece. “The orphan train comes daily, spilling hundreds of children onto the streets of Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s. Desperate and alone, the penniless 7 year old Sophie, entrusts an older woman who hires her to bring food each night to someone living in her attic. There is just one rule: Do not pass the serving table….EVER. As time passes, the child’s curiosity grows bold; drawing her closer to discovering the truth behind the prisoner.”
I love the production on this. Looks like there was a bigger budget than there was. This one was cool. Here is a link for the trailer if yo like: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/agatha
Next up is a great short called Tethered. Abandoned by his mother, Solomon is left to live in isolation while abiding by three rules. Having grown accustomed to his routine, he begins to realize the rules may be a hindrance to a life-changing discovery.”
A simple premise, but effectively shot and plotted. I really loved this one. You can also see the trailer for this here:
Now, for my money, the next short was bloody genius and I want someone to give these people 20 million or so dollars to make this a feature. It’s called Daemon Runner. “Demon hunters track down and subdue a possessed girl. They use brutal force and killer technology to exorcise the demon … much ass-kicking ensues.”
I believe it’s from the UK, and it’s amazing. Think Ghostbusters but they’re hunting demons, and grittier, and maybe higher energy. It’s only 5 minutes, and it’s one of those shorts that is more like a demo of what they can do rather than a short with a narrative. BUT IT’S SO GOOD.
Really cool, great production value, super cool effects – I REALLY hope someone gives them tons of money to make this a feature. It would be bad-ass and people would totally go see it. I hope that the fimmaking Gods hear my prayers. 🙂
Also on this short film program were Foxwood, “A blind date takes a monstrous turn as a young couple meets on a cold Christmas night.”
It’s starts as one thing, and then shifts into something completely different – and in a good way. It’s really unexpected and fun. I could see a fun horror/comedy series coming for this. Here’s the teaser:
Then comes Classified, the winner of the Best Super Short of the Fest.
“A SEAL team is sent on a CIA mission in search of missing soldiers only to find a demonic presence they cannot defeat.”
Really cool effects and some “Ouch!” moments. Nicely done. Here is the trailer:
On to Program 2 on Saturday, which is tough because they were all pretty great. I’ll try to give my favorites, even though the whole block was worth seeing.
Burn – “In an increasingly panicked part of England, local disappearances have become nationwide news. Expectant couple Peter and Louise Vaubarn watch the media’s coverage of recent events in both fascination and fear – their first child, Charlie, will soon be born amid the mass hysteria. But with Pete’s fragile health in the balance, his means of providing fatherly advice to his unborn son are limited, yet will shape his family’s life forever.”
An interesting turn that was worthwhile. Here is the trailer: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/burn
The Witching Hour – “On Halloween night, George, a fearful young boy, crosses paths with the spooky and bewitching Susie, as she takes him by the hand on an adventurous night of mischief into the haunted Beauregard Manor.”
Sadly, no trailer, but it was pretty charming and fun. Look for it if it makes it way to some kind of distribution.
6 2nds To Die – Ambitious runner Billy desperately wants to fill the vacant role of 1st AD on the location of his current film shoot. No less than six 2nd AD’s stand in line to be promoted before him. Billy is determined, however, and embarks on a murderous spree to ensure he jumps the queue.
This was hilarious. Also of particular interest to people that are familiar with working in film production. No trailer here, but hey, it’s only 3 minutes anyway.
The Saturday night features had some good stuff. I liked Fractured. Actually I wasn’t sure about it until a specific moment. I was feeling like it was nothing special until a significant shift in the film happened and I got on board.
“When Rebecca and Michael decide to take a weekend getaway and drive into the isolated countryside, they arrive at their cottage unscathed, but Rebecca can’t help but feel like someone is watching.”
This had a pleasant surprise that made the film different than most. I could see this turning up somewhere like Netflix of something. Check it out if you get the chance.
Next up was Cannibals and Carpet Fitters. “A group of carpet fitters are sent on a job to an old Country house in the middle of nowhere. However they soon discover it’s a trap set up by the savage, cannibalistic family, The Hannings. The carpet fitters are forced to fight for their lives or risk ending up being the evenings dinner. Unfortunately they are not quite your typical heroes!”
This was lots of fun. It was a short a couple years ago at Shriekfest – one the better ones, too – and now it has returned as a feature film. Made by Brits, the humor is right up my alley. Funny, gore-fest shenanigans ensue.
Ok, now this one is pretty unique. It’s called The Evil Within, “The sadistic tale of a lonely, mentally handicapped boy who befriends his reflection in an antique mirror. This demonic creature orders him to go on a murderous rampage to kill the people he loves most.”
It’s worth noting in particular that this was written and directed by Andrew Getty, the grandson of J. Paul Getty. Yes, THAT Getty. It’s a fascinating story for sure. Andrew Getty started making this film in 2002, and it took five years to shoot. There were money issues. Then another ten years to do the post-production. Then Andrew Getty died in 2015.
Andrew Getty happen to be a meth user, which may have influenced the fact that the script for this film was based on his own dreams and nightmares. If you watch the trailer, you’ll find it’s pretty bonkers. And so it the movie.
But there’s a strange quality to the film that makes it really interesting. That might have something to do with the fact that it was made by a wealthy person on meth, but either way, worth the watch.
The post-production effects are really cool and creepy. The cast is really solid, which includes Frederick Koehler, Sean Patrick Flannery, Dina Meyer, Michael Berryman, Brianna Brown and Kim Darby.
The response at the fest was pretty strong, so give it a look. It’s available to watch online for, like, four bucks, on Amazon, Youtube, and Vudu.
Watch the crazy trailer here: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/the-evil-within
Sunday brought another two short programs.
First up for the day is The Armoire. “A struggling actress moves to Hollywood where she discovers a piece of furniture in her apartment is haunted by a malicious ghost.”
This 15 minute film was pretty solid, with some good creepy stuff. Simple idea, but effective.
You can check out the trailer: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/the-armoire
The next short I liked was Savor.” A man discovers the horrors of dining alone.”
It’s a whopping 37 seconds long but pays off superbly. Fun!
Next was the wonderful Bride of Franky. “In this darkly comedic feminist nod to Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, a not-so-mad scientist builds a mate for her mentor’s lonely creation with electrifying, and deadly, results.”
Shot in glorious black & white, it’s got a very retro feel and a light tone. This was a treat. The trailer: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/bride-of-frankie
And then the short, Still Here, which “is set four years after a mysterious event has left all life on Earth to instantly freeze in time. Anything with a heartbeat is instantly shutdown the moment the stillness hit, except for one.
Unaffected by the catastrophic event that turned his family and friends into statues, Cody is left to navigate the crowded yet desolate world the stillness has left behind.
After long searching for others, Cody retreats to a cabin in the woods as a way to remove himself from the world left behind. At first, life in the woods is promising but, with little to distract him, Cody’s sense of hopelessness begins to creep back in as he struggles to live in such an empty world. Still Here follows that srtuggle.”
This was another really great short. Can’t find a trailer online, so, oh well.
In the second program of shorts, I particularly enjoyed one titled J.
“In the not so distant future, a hacker and activist named Costco Cooley is quickly growing in popularity. He has been coined the modern-day Robin Hood of computer hacking. His outspoken nature against government and fearless public image have suddenly made him more vulnerable than ever. In an effort to protect himself and mask this true whereabouts, he buys a synthetic artificial clone named ‘J’, short for model number J-978-0-07-212516. All this seems promising until J is sent out on a highly sensitive hack that takes an unexpected turn.”
A very cool ending. And yes, this one DOES have a trailer online: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/j
Next is Miscast, a fun horror-thriller. “On Halloween night, office worker May gets caught in a battle between good and evil when her new co-worker April reveals herself as a real witch by turning her office party into a bloodbath with a spell. “Miscast”, starring Nina Daniels, Brea Bee, and Kade Pait, is a darkly funny horror-thriller in “witch” nothing is as it seems.”
The trailer!: https://www.shriekfest.com/entries/2017/miscast
Seriously, there were so many great shorts. It was so hard to pick so-called ‘favorites’. Sunday night’s features are up next!
First feature on Sunday was Hostile. “Juliette, a lone survivor of an apocalyptic era, fights to survive against hunger, thirst, a broken leg and strange disturbing creatures that only come out at nighttime.”
This was a deceiving film. Not in a bad way, it just sort of surprised me at the end. It’s a french film and sort of has those sensibilities. It has one of those endings that make you replay the film in your head to retrace its’ steps. It actually got better the more I thought about it.
Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxrmz8PQ8fQ
The one real sci-fi feature was Curvature. It’s a time travel sci-fi drama about “an engineer who travels back in time to stop herself from committing a murder.”
This is pretty good and I like to support the sci-fi films because it’s a genre that isn’t always as easy to get right. And time-travel movies always make me nervous because you never know if they’re going to have holes in their logic or not. This one seemed like it was careful, but I’m still working on it. Acting, production, etc. are all good here. I’m just not sure if I found it very unique.
So, lastly, we have Gnaw, which happens to be the winner of the Best Horror feature of the fest.
“Jennifer Conrad is a small-town girl starting over in the big city. Fleeing an abusive relationship, all she wants is a chance to begin again. But it’s hard to start over when something is eating you while you sleep… one painful bite at a time.”
Written by Jim Brennan, Haylar Garcia, Kathryn Gould and directed by Haylar Garcia, Gnaw has some homage elements to an classic film starring Karen Black, but I feel if I name it, it night give away too much.
I enjoyed this film with one exception. It seemed like it either didn’t have three acts. It felt like it was only a first and a third, or maybe it was mostly second act and then a third. Either way, the middle of the film seemed to stretch a bit long so it kind of stalled, and for a 99 minute film, that’s fixable. The third act is great, though, and it ends solid.
A great cast with people like Penelope Mitchell, Sally Kirkland, Chris Johnson and Kyle Gass. Yes, Tenacious D Kyle Gass. And he’s great.
Another great year of shorts and features at Shriekfest. I love attending this festival for so many reasons. I’ll keep going as long as founder Denise Gossett will let me. 🙂
A Happy Halloween to everyone, and make sure you get out there and see some scary movies – and support your independent filmmakers!