So I’ll be the first to state that film festivals tend to be a mixed bag. Sometimes you get to see some amazing films that blow you away; sometimes, you see some films that make you concerned for people’s minds and careers. Regardless, they are really fun, and I envy bigger cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York because film festivals hit so much more often. That being said, I love St. Louis – I can’t imagine living anywhere else now. We have some truly amazing theatres hid amongst the chains, and one of them is the Tivoli.
I have to open up by stating that the Tivoli (and really the Delmar loop in general) is one of my favorite St. Louis attractions. The theatre doesn’t really look like much, but it has the old fashioned marquee, the stage screens, and some really fun posters on the walls. I love movie posters (as evidenced by the giant ones I tend to put at the opening of posts), and there are some collages that are truly spectacular. I had the luck to be told about SLIFF (St. Louis International Film Festival) in time to hit a couple of the shorts competitions. I’m going to be writing about all of my adventures at SLIFF, so make sure to check in because I don’t think too many other people will be covering what DoubleFeaturePreachers.com is.
And now, to start. Today I went to the Narrative Shorts – Horror competition. Before we go much further, I must say that I am not sure who won (I’ll update this post as soon as I find out), because audiences are not those that chose the winner – a winner is chosen by the juries. I was hoping there would at least by an audience favorite selection, but alas; you can’t always get what you want. I was extremely pleased, however, to watch an extraordinary collection of films. I’ll try to write them in the order that they were shown – but I didn’t write down the order. I’ve marked the ones that I thought were the highlights with nice Gold stars. On with the show!
This opener was chosen for a reason. It is an obvious love-letter to horror fans, and instantly brings to mind some of the classics. Indeed, the film opens with an old-time theater showing a marathon of horror classics (more on this in a moment). From there, we are transported to the castle of a master villain (played by Terrence Harvey), in order to teach us how to become a villain.
The movie is shot in black and white, no doubt to continue to invoke the feelings of past films. Harvey’s character is obviously inspired by some of the horror greats (Karloff and Lugosi), most specifically Vincent Price. It’s something about the way that he delivers his lines. He does an admirable job with what he is given – sometimes the script is a little too full of direct humor that doesn’t entirely fit with the mood being created by the visuals.
The visuals themselves are pretty fun though. There is some pretty good animation/shadow puppetry that lends something entirely different to the mix. It’s not something you get to see very often and here it is down rather well, and plays up some of the comedy elements. However, as I touched on before, it confuses some of the mood of the film, alternating between creepy and silly.
The transitions between seems were also jarring at times. This is often a hazard that shorts have – with so little time, you can’t waste it on people walking room to room. I do think that this one could have used some of that time well though, because if your movie is essentially a monologue, you can have them saying it while walking around the room, or to a different room.
The opening and closing of the film, with the movie theatre, is well-intentioned, but all-together not fitting with the tone of the rest of the film. In this film, I was entertained, and it did a good job setting the tone for the rest of the night. I’m going to give this one a “B-“
Check it out on IMDB!
As I may have stated a time or two, horror is kind of right in my bread basket. Therefore, it was only natural that I would eventually come across Howard Phillips Lovecraft (H.P. to people like me and you and everyone else in the world). One of his most famous short stories is “The Call of Cthulhu” – which turns out to be really important in this movie.
The first few minutes of this movie set up a completely different film than eventually happens. A couple is having some friends over for dinner (essentially setting up their friends on a blind date) when another couple from the past shows up. They unexpectedly drop in, and based on the awkwardness, they really should have left before everything got started. Because… when Charlie shows up… it turns out he’s Cthulhu, in a button-up shirt. It’s completely unexpected, and it leads down a comedic road in several avenues that is positively hilarious.
I really enjoyed this. The acting is tremendous, with a specific shout out to the terrific Brooke Smith (you may recognize her as Hahn from Grey’s Anatomy). Her timing with the delivery of her lines is beyond perfect, and she balances the horror aspect of everything as well. The performance by her husband (played by Harry Sinclair) is good as well. This was definitely in my top three of the festival, and it ends in a way that is expected only if you know your horror. Kudos to all involved here. A definite “A”.
Check out the IMDB page!
This one was a bit different. First off, it was incredibly short (less than five minutes). It was good though because it played into the fears that the media is generating regarding all the social media in our life (not saying it’s not founded, but I’m just stating a fact – the media goes a bit nuts with things). However, this puts a fun supernatural on things.
Without ruining anything, let’s just say that the words “First Like” are very important. There is a definite feel to this one that is similar to the recent critical hit It Follows and a recent DoubleFeaturePreachers.com review, Hush.
I wasn’t a big fan of some of the quick transitions that went with it, but with the whole thing being under 5 minutes, you have to accept it. The thing that killed the film for me was the main performance of the girl, which I thought was just terribly cliché. Without more to it, or really anyone else to give anything better, it really sends the movie down a few layers. I’m only giving this one a “C”.
Check out the IMDB page!
This one was really different too. It consisted of a girl in a laundry mat being the epitome of what society thinks millennials are. She’s sitting there taking selfie after selfie, texting and listening to music, but not really paying attention to anyone or anything else. That ends up leading to her demise, which is rather creative.
I thought the girl had two basic parts in this short. First, I really enjoyed her acting… until the bleach hit her. As soon as she started screaming, her acting performance wasn’t very good. I was much more intrigued with the way that she portrayed herself in the beginning of the short. And overall, the picture looked very slick. So I’m going to give this one a “B-“.
Check out the IMDB page!
Horror has been moving for some time to a bit more exploitive than even some of what the worst horror flicks from before used to be. We now have the genre called “torture porn”. We have movies that literally exist only for their gross out factor. And that’s kind of what this short is about.
A short (no pun-intended) explanation of the plot – a young boy’s father goes missing. He is apparently not the only one to be missing lately. The boy finds a collection of horror films that are all within this torture porn genre within his dad’s chest (not like the body part chest - that would truly be something). He begins watching them, and it’s just… pretty gross overall.
The picture is pretty slow, with the boy consistently disobeying his mother and clues being dropped from several different media outlets like radios and televisions. The lighting is kind of all over the place, with extreme use of light filters to give things a blue look at times and a reddish glow in others.
The movie continues in this vein, but honestly, it’s not the best. It’s got some really good effects in the inevitable climax, but that’s the highlight of the twelve minutes. The acting is subpar, except for one creepy face that the kid makes in the very last moments of the movie. The mom is not very good, which doesn’t ruin the movie because she’s not the main character, but it definitely affects it. The transitions and the television effects are pretty well ripped off of The Ring. There are several nice tributes to other movies, including E.T., and The Evil Dead. However, it’s not enough to bring it up, and I can only give this one a “C-”.
Check out the IMDB page!
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"