It’s that time of year, again, folks! We’re well into the Halloween season of October, and that means it’s also Shriekfest season!
Shriekfest 2018 – THE Independent Horror/Sci-Fi film festival you should be checking out if you haven’t before. Festival founder and director, Denise Gossett is still amongst the sweetest, most gracious, amazing and inspiring people ever. She works tirelessly all year to make Shriekfest the really fun and accepting festival that it is.
Oh, sure, this all SOUNDS like I’m sucking-up but it turns out this is one instance where such accolades are sincere. I HIGHLY urge anyone that loves the genre to attend Shriekfest next year. Oh, and there WILL be a next year, because Denise can’t seem to stop doing this festival despite being astonished that the festival is in its’ 18th year. I don’t know what we’d all do if it stopped.
Ok, so I like to recap and give you all the highlights of the festival, and this year is a tricky one. There were a LOT of great films and shorts this year and so I’m going to see if I can keep from blathering on too long.
Friday night we had three features to watch. They were, Alive, Echoes of Fear, and Never Hike Alone.
Alive: Here’s the official synopsis: A severely injured man and woman awake in an abandoned sanitarium only to discover that a sadistic caretaker holds the keys to their freedom and the horrific answers as to their real identity.
This won the award for Best Thriller Feature Film this year. I admit after a while, I didn’t know quite what I thought about this one. But it turns out, this is one of those films that if you hold out to the third act, things really start to fall into place. A lot of references will mkae this film shine on another level. But even so, it’s got a lot of solid tension and keeps you guessing.
One of my other faves was Never Hike Alone. This couldn’t win any awards because…it’s a fan film paying tribute to Friday the 13th. And it was really great. The synopsis (as if you didn’t already know):
“Never Hike Alone follows an adventure blogger, Kyle McLeod (Andrew Leighty), who uncovers the lost remains of Camp Crystal Lake while on a solo backpacking trip. Ignoring the campfire tales from his childhood, Kyle’s search turns deadly when he crosses into the path of Camp Blood’s legendary mass murderer, Jason Voorhees. Stranded in the forest with Jason on his heels, Kyle must push his survival skills to their limits if he hopes to survive the night. Otherwise, he’ll wind up as another lost victim of the cursed camp.”
It works great and is a wonderful tribute. And at a lean 54 minutes, you can watch it and still feel like you have time to watch something else. Totally worth checking out. I believe it’s on YouTube right now in it’s entirety.
As we roll in to Saturday, the first short film block has nothing but good shorts. So I’ll just have to be picky about it. Seriously, there wasn’t a bad short in the whole weekend, so it’s a tough call to just give highlights.
The first short particularly liked – and that surprised me – was Caronte, a sci-fi story with an unexpectedly emotional element. the synopsis:
“Debbie is rude with her own family. But after a dramatic car accident, she starts to regret about the way she behaved with them. Unexpectedly, Debbie’s story connects with Arsys’s, an experienced military and space fighter pilot who tries to survive a huge space battle which takes place on other time…another galaxy….another universe.”
This was really great. Excellent visual effects, and again, a surprising emotional story. They do a LOT with their 15 minutes. Written and directed by Luis Tinoco Pindea.
Next up was Snaggletooth, a fun little film that had a lot of charm.
“This nine-minute short film tells the story of a young girl who believes she is going to get a puppy—but discovers her mother has tricked her into a late-night visit to the dentist, instead. Why are they keeping this appointment in the dead of night? Who is this mysterious dentist? And what about the puppy?”
And the tag line? “All Mary Alice wants is a puppy. But first she needs to get something straight.”
Oh, and that is such an important tag line. They have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/snaggletooth.movie/
After that, There’s One Inside The House is chock full of funny.
“A monster hunter wakes up to find one of the subterranean dwellers he was tracking inside his home and a stand off ensues with bloody results.”
It’s 10 and a half minutes of entertainment, for sure. I laughed at this one.
Next in the first group of shorts was Strange Clowns. Ok, first of all; CLOWNS. That’s creepy. And it’s funny. Hard to hate that combo. The synopsis:
“A lonely killer clown turns to online dating when ax murder just isn’t enough anymore.”
It’s a first date that will have you in stitches. That’s not really alluding to anything. it’s just really funny. There are no stitches involved.
Off to the second group of short films on Saturday. First up was Safe, a sci-fi short with some great action throughout.
The synopsis: “Three masked intruders break into a Woman’s home to retrieve an item from her safe. But what they get is much more than they bargained for.
This had a cool twist that definitely surprised me. Safe won the award for Best Sci-Fi short.
Next up – and one of my faves of the weekend, was Avulsion. This was really gruesome and had a great ending. The official synopsis is apt and teases just enough.
“A blue collar worker visits an escort with an unusual ability to grant his deepest fetish.”
It was awesome.
Next up is a beautiful short film called From Life.
“An amateur artist sketching in a churchyard has a series of encounters with a young woman, who we might come to believe is a ghost. In fact, the truth is stranger than that.”
This is a lovely, haunting piece that stood out from the rest for me.
And then there’s Endless Cycle.
“After many failed attempts, Dan takes a different approach at banishing a blood-sucking basement dwelling creature in hopes to accomplish a pain-free load of laundry.”
Yeah, if you live, or have lived, in an apartment building with laundry in the basement, this one will be particularly amusing. Definitely gave me some laughs.
Now, Saturday night the features – well, truth be told – FEATURE – was pretty good. There were three features, but I only saw one because I had bought a ticket a long time ago to see Gary Numan at the Fonda Theater. I know, I know, I usually try to see EVERYTHING at Shriekfest, but hey, sometimes it’s good to take a little break.
The Gary Numan show was awesome, though, thanks for asking. 😉
Ironically, the couple times I’ve missed a film on a Saturday night, I’m told it was the best one of the weekend. I wasn’t told that this time.
So, the film I did see was Ashes, and it was really good. It’s a supernatural story with a lot of humor.
“When a family’s “Black Sheep” aunt passes away, they are reluctantly gifted her cremated remains. After a series of strange supernatural misfortunes beset them, they’ll go though Hell to be rid of her vexed spirit once and for all.”
I didn’t expect this film to be as good as it was for some reason. It really managed to shift between creepy, spooky scares and some blood and then back to humor rather deftly and without seeming unnatural. Kudos for the filmmakers to keep it seamless like that. It really worked. Big fun.
And that brings us to Sunday, and the first group of shorts. The first short I particularly loved was Let’s Be Friends. A kids stuffed animal should not be crossed.
“Connor, the new kid in school, is a lonely boy whose only friend is a stuffed toy named Beadie. When Conner brings Beadie to school, despite his father’s warnings, a run-in with a bully leads to horrific consequences.”
It’s not terribly difficult to see where this one goes, but there is a great deal of pleasure in seeing the film play out in all it’s grisly glory. Good times.
Next up is Clickbait. This one is pretty fucked up, but really effective. It’s a VERY cautionary tale of the internet, but done well.
“When Pablo, a teenager, clicks on the wrong link he is caught in a cruel online game. He will have to pass a series of tests in order to save the life of a girls’ father.”
It’s pretty crazy. In a good way.
Next is Magic H8 Ball. It’s really funny, and good, despite barely qualifying as horror genre.
“Burned by a cheating boyfriend (and some mild chlamydia), a heartbroken pushover turns to a mysterious Magic 8 Ball for the answers. But as he starts giving into his impulses, he risks his hurt turning into hate—and losing all control.”
This was pretty hilarious, I admit. As you can see, I do love humor mixed with my horror. But this one barely fits in to the horror category, as there is practically no sense of menace in this albeit briefly. Still enjoyed it, though.
The next group of shorts are among my faves. Cat Box is really cool and was a nice surprise.
“A cat sitter’s curiosity gets the better of him when a series of keys lead him to discover a well kept secret.”
The whole key thing is a clever element in this.
In the next short, Post Mortem Mary, “Mary and her mother run a post-mortem photography business in 1840’s Australia. They arrive to a small farmhouse to find devastated parents grieving over the death of their daughter but as they get to work Mary’s mother is required to comfort the grieving parent, leaving Mary alone to confront her phobia she must do all she can to make the dead look alive…”
Written and directed by Joshua Long, this has wonderful production design and performances. It’s very creepy and really sets the mood. And it gives us a glimpse inside a long-forgotten practice of taking photos of our lost loved ones before they got put in the ground. It’ll make you squirm once or twice, for sure.
Next up is the wonderful Latched, winner of the Best Horror Short for the weekend. This one has some disturbing moments.
“An obsessive choreographer on a creative retreat with her toddler awakens a fairy corpse with disturbing intentions.”
This was very cool, very well made by writer Justin Harding and directed by Harding and rob Brunner. Seriously, there’s a moment in this where you’re like, “Oh, no, that’s not going to happen is it? Oh, yep, it’s happening.”
Latched is pretty awesome.
And the last short to note was Cabin Killer, which won the award for Best Super Short film.
“A young couple attempts to reinvigorate their struggling relationship at a remote cabin in the woods.”
I think you can guess how this goes. However, you may not guess how hilarious it is. It sets up the great genre setting, and then tickles your funny bone. Lots of fun.
Sunday night features start with Sound Wave, a really creative and interesting idea.
“Ben Boyles is an orphaned radio technician that lives with one of his father’s childhood friends, Antonio. But, when Ben finds out Antonio’s repair shop isn’t doing well, he moonlights as a crime solver with a dubious cop, Detective Macy. A genius inventor, Ben has created a device that can pick up old sound waves, allowing him to hear any conversation from the past. And while Macy is grateful for Ben’s help, he thinks there’s real money to be made with Ben’s device. Unfortunately, Macy’s potential partners agree, but… why share?”
Not sure how I feel completely about the execution, but it did win the Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy award.
Lastly, the delightfully disturbing Sick For Toys.
“Roy (David Gunning) is the nice guy who finishes last. Sick of his current situation, he accepts an invitation to have Christmas dinner with the beautiful and strangely alluring Emilia (Camille Montgomery). Once at dinner, Roy realizes that Emilia and her oddball brother Edward (Jon Paul Burkhart) are not what they seem.”
This one does have some good gore, but the most disturbing aspects are all psychological. This one is not for everyone, but it’s certainly fun for those who are not disturbed by disturbing, if ya know what I mean. Let’s face it, if you’re into horror, disturbing is relative. Oh, wow, that wasn’t supposed to be a play on words about this film, but it turned out that way. Fun!
All in all 2018 was a solid year of entertaining films and shorts at Shriekfest. i’ll certainly keep coming back as long as Denise lets me. And again, I really enjoyed everything this year, but you can see how long this article is and I’ve only touched on the highlights. If I mention everything, I’d be writing this into next year.
Another HUGE thank you to Denise Gossett for being so kind and wonderful – and brilliant. Shriekfest is one of my film festival touchstones and I look forward to it each year. And think you to all the staff of volunteers at Shriekfest as well!
Don’t forget – if you’re in the Orlando, Florida area, you can go check out Shrieklest Orlando on November 3, 2018! All this and more can be found right here: https://www.shriekfest.com/
Everyone keep having a spooky Halloween season! Cheers!