A Suds and Cinema Christmas Part 2 of 2

Shelf Elf

Dad(Smithey Smithiggins) just brought home something special for his daughter(Whitney McRiverbottom). It’s a doll named Twinkle Daddy(Elmer McRiverbottom), designed to help the family get ready for Christmas. In reality, it’s a game intended to get children excited for Santa’s arrival. When mom(Darla Duodenum) notices that Twinkle Daddy seems to be moving on his own, however, the parents begin to wonder if it actually is “just a game”. 

A surreal mix of comedy and horror set during the Christmas holiday, Shelf Elf is bizarre in all the best ways. The film is a unique and creative take on the popular Elf on the Shelf game. Director Brett Smith maintains a grounded feel to the film that counteracts nicely with the more fantastic elements. The actors also do a great job staying in character, considering the wacky premise. Kudos goes to the dad in the film for having to carry Twinkle Daddy around, which looked like an impressive feat.

I give Shelf Elf 6 out of 6 reels. 

Crushed Kringle

Kris Kringle(Matthew Sams) has fallen on hard times. After changing his name to Chris Bowdoen he now spends his time drinking beers and eating snacks. Even his buddies T-Spoon(Jazzy Jackson) and Re-Mote(Shane Egan) can’t seem to drag him out of his slump. It may take a Christmas miracle to get Kris back to his old gift delivering, bad ass basketball playing self.

Director Matthew Sams delivers a dark comedic gem in his holiday short Crushed Kringle. We have seen multiple versions of Santa Claus in movies over the years, but Matthew’s take is still unique. By being creative it allows the absurdist elements in the story to shine, making them all the more hilarious. The character work is excellent and pairs well with each actor’s great performance. The plot moves quickly, however, and may lose some viewers’ attention do to the crazy story. Despite this Crushed Kringle is still a hilarious look at the sometimes depressing Christmas season.

I give Crushed Kringle 5 out of 6 reels.

House Music

A family has decorated their house for the Christmas holiday. They also took the time to synchronize the lights in time with a classic holiday tune. Enjoy experiencing the sonic and visual spectacle they have created.

Delightful, clean, and well choreographed are some descriptors that come to mind when viewing House Music by animator Joe Doll. By blending two Christmas traditions, holiday music and house decoration, Joe has created something special. The build up in intensity is a nice touch, as it keeps the viewer interested until the end. While there is no story to speak of House Music is still entertaining, nonetheless.

I give House Music 4 out of 6 reels.

Krampusnacht

Sophia(Kelly Aston) and Adam(Nathan Oesterle) have a problem. Their son Hans(Samuel Gagliardi) has been an absolute terror and it’s only getting worse. That’s when Adam decides to tell Hans the tale of Krampusnacht. The night when Krampus(Brandon Despain) comes to get all the bad little boys and girls.

We have seen the legend of Krampus told in many films over the years. In Krampusnacht, directed by Pete Talamo, we get another version of this horror classic. The set design and cinematography in Krampusnacht are exceptional and gives the film a traditional Christmas flavor. The creature design is beastly and horrifying. The story falters, however, when it comes to the boy Hans. Samuel Gagliardi gives an amazing performance as Hans, but is given some over the top dialogue. The boy is amazingly rude and disobedient, which may distract some viewers while watching. Despite this Krampusnacht is still very scary and is another great entry in the Krampus lore.

I give Krampusnacht 4 out of 6 reels.

Naughty List

Last year Santa Claus(Kurt Salgat) didn’t give a certain little boy(Tobin Welborn) the bike he wanted. This year that boy has something in store for Santa.

In Naughty List, directed by Nathan Smith, Cindy Gaul, and Micheal Welborn, we get an interesting take on the naughty/nice list that Santa Claus uses when delivering presents. What would happen if a child didn’t agree with Santa’s assessment? Naughty List, although quite short, accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is unsettle the viewer. Naughty List is recommended to any horror fan that would enjoy seeing Santa having the tables turned on himself.

I give Naughty List 3 out of 6 reels.

Alchemy

A man(Ian Kevin Scott) enters a mysterious interview and starts an impossibly long questionnaire. A woman(Angela Pietropinto) tells him he must answer, accurately and thoroughly, the complete form before leaving. When the man is later locked in his testing room will he escape or forever be trapped in this place of perpetual limbo?

Alchemy, directed by Brandon Polanco, is a film that asks many questions while answering very few. That is left up to the viewer and, in many ways, is the point of the film. Alchemy is technically very well done. The acting, direction, cinematography and sound design are on point and help the viewer in forming their own meaning of the film. In the same way the man struggled to find a way out of the room, the viewer must struggle with finding their own explanations of the material presented. Alchemy can be a difficult watch, but you’ll find it stays with you long after. This is what makes it an important watch.

I give Alchemy 6 out of 6 reels.

Santa Comes Tonight

Santa Claus has arrived at one of the many stops during his Christmas Eve deliveries. It seems he has run into a pretty serious problem. He can’t get down the chimney!

Who doesn’t like a Christmas cartoon during the holidays? In Santa Comes Tonight you get exactly that. Animator Joe Doll does a fantastic job in taking Jolly Ole’ Saint Nick and giving him a distinctive personality during the short. This is impressive considering Santa has no dialogue, every movement being very crucial to the plot. Although it would have been nice to see more of Santa’s exploits Santa Comes Tonight will still delight fans of holiday Christmas animation.

I give Santa Comes Tonight 3 out of 6 reels.

A Suds & Cinema Christmas Pt 1 of 2

Naughty 

Christmas is about to arrive and Brie(Gigi Henderson) is worried. She believes she has been naughty. Her concerns are soothed, however, by Santa Claus(Jamie Landau) himself as he is delivering her presents. When she discovers that Santa isn’t who he says he is Brie decides to take matters into her own hands.

Horror has a history of being paired with Christmas stories and in Naughty, directed by Shawn Driscoll, this pairing is pulled off to great effect. A cleverly written story, which keeps you questioning what’s coming next, combined with a creepy performance by Gigi Henderson makes for a horrifying Christmas film. Humor is also added to lighten the mood just enough to make the horror elements more digestible as some may not appreciate the gore.

I give Naughty 5 out of 6 reels.

This Present Situation: A Dark Christmas Comedy

After a freak accident during his Christmas Eve deliveries, Santa Claus(Kyle Vesey) has gone missing. He was last seen at the house of Little Jenny Lou(Ruby Doubtfire). So gather round the fireplace and listen to the rhyming narrator(Andrew Protopapas) as he tells us the tale of what befell Ol’ Saint Nick.

Directed by Alex Caperton, This Present Situation: A Dark Christmas Comedy is exactly what the title describes. It’s a dark comedy with a twist, as it’s also a musical. Well, a musical in that the narrator is reciting the entire story in rhyme. Like some musical inspired films this rhyming element can be polarizing. Since the comedy leans towards the fantastical, the rhyming element fits in perfectly. Similar to other Christmas classics like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, This Present Situation is a dark but delightfully funny watch.

I give This Present Situation: A Dark Christmas Comedy 5 out of 6 reels.

Joyeux Noël 

A woman(Haley Webb) struggles with feelings of pain and loss during the happiest day of the year, Christmas. She goes through the motions, contemplating her thoughts. How does one cope when the anniversary of a tragedy lands on a day of widespread celebration?

A dramatic short taking place during the Christmas holiday Joyeux Noël, directed by Haley Webb, takes a serious look at the joyous holiday. Beautifully narrated by Laettitia Guyot, the story of Joyeux Noël is relatable for many who have had tragic events happen during the holidays. Haley Webb’s performance is understated and helps the viewer to see her struggles and emotions. This great performance along with the wonderfully narrated story make for a powerful film.

I give Joyeux Noël 6 out of 6 reels.

The Green Jello Song from Thanksgiving: The Musical

It’s time for the grandest meal of the year. Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks for our blessings and the delicious food we are about to eat. What happens, however, when the meal has ended and the leftovers are ready to be put away?

Short and sweet, The Green Jello Song from Thanksgiving: The Musical is an amusing look into the life of a neglected side dish. Animators Sam & Allison are able to make you interested, laugh, and ultimately care for an untouched plate of food. It would be interesting to get more than a brief visit to this world. Despite the short time, however, The Green Jello Song is still highly enjoyable.

I give The Green Jello Song from Thanksgiving: The Musical 4 out of 6 reels.

Thanksgiving 

Roger Blackstone(Robert Ellis Smith) is extending the olive branch to his estranged son Frank(Nick Gifford). He has invited Frank and his girlfriend Trisha(Lanecia Edmonds) for a Thanksgiving dinner. Things quickly fall apart as secrets revealed lead to some embarrassing and hilarious situations.

A short comedy about the craziness that occurs during family functions Thanksgiving, directed by Mike Messier, is an amusing look into these issues. The situations presented are funny although, at times, they do get over the top. This makes the events all the more quirky, but this style may not be for everyone. With every character being fleshed out and well acted it gives the audience a clear picture of their personality and motivations. Thanksgiving is recommended for anyone who enjoys a well done, dramatic comedy.

I give Thanksgiving 5 out of 6 reels.

A Geechee Christmas 

Paul(Matthew Myers) has started a new life, one away from his ex wife Kandi(Denia Hamilton) and their children. Paul’s new family(Paula Walton, Teron Legare Taylor, and Damya Hamilton) are settling in for Christmas Eve unaware that Paul’s ex wife, Kandi, has a plan. It seems Paul hasn’t been the greatest father and Kandi’s scheme is set to give Paul a truly dysfunctional holiday.

Stressful situations can sometimes dominate the holidays and in A Geechee Christmas, directed by J. Paul The Demigod, we get a darkly comedic take on these problems. Setting up a dramatic scenario that wouldn’t be ideal for the holidays makes for a very interesting plot. It then gets even more engaging when a solution to this issue is made. This is when A Geechee Christmas brings the laughs although some may not see the humor due to the children in Paul’s new family being effected in the fallout. A Geechee Christmas is hilarious watch and would be recommended to fans of similar films like Bad Santa.

I give A Geechee Christmas 4 out of 6 reels.

Cookie’s Rap

Cookie the alien has a crazy Christmas tale for all the good boys and girls. It’s not your traditional holiday yarn as it’s being told from the moon and in the form of a rap video. Enjoy!

More of a music video than a traditional film Cookie’s Rap, directed by Alan Maxson, is a one of a kind experience. It’s a funny, totally absurd take on Santa Claus lore as rapped by Cookie, an alien from the moon. Obviously this description alone will make a lot viewers skeptical. If given the chance, however, Cookie’s Rap can be a highly entertaining watch. The creativity, character work, and storytelling are inventive to watch which makes Cookie’s Rap extremely original.

I give Cookie’s Rap 3 out of 6 reels.

O’Tidings of Joy

Santa Claus(Kurt Salgat) is giving a rare look into his workshop during the holiday season. Mrs. Emerson(Tonia Carrier) is finishing her tour and is wondering if her son is going to get his favorite video game. They decide to go to the back room and have a look. Santa’s elves, Pixie(Emily Roszatycki) and Mixie(Bruce Falcon), tag along seeming very excited. Maybe a little too excited.

O’Tidings of Joy, a horror short directed by Nic White & Micheal Welborn, is a frightening look into Santa Claus’s mysterious workshop. The film, similar to the Christmas classic Elf, embraces the Santa Claus lore by treating it as a factual element in a normal, realistic society. What’s intriguing about O’Tidings of Joy is the horror tinge it brings that most of these films lack. Santa’s home is unexplored and it isn’t that far-fetched to believe that something strange may be happening there. Although the overall quality is a little rough around the edges the creative plot alone is worth the watch.

I give O’Tidings of Joy 4 out of 6 reels.

“Good Works” – Reel Review

A woman(Stella Ryan-Lozon) is concerned her life’s purpose may be in jeopardy. Eerie apparitions are tormenting her on an increasingly consistent basis. Will these ghostly visions impede her progress or will she break through these mental instabilities and continue her good work.

Playing like a greatest hits of horror sub genres Good Works, directed by DJ Remark, is a successful short film on many technical fronts. By combining great direction with a mysterious story written by Jason Orr the viewer gets suspenseful tense moments that will please fans of supernatural horror. Great cinematography by Adam Kurtz entwined with gory practical effects by Elizabeth Defelice will delight fans that crave a more realistic feel to their horror. These elements make Good Works an effective piece of scary cinema.

Some mild criticisms of Good Works are a main character whose personality falls a little flat and a storyline that is a bit confusing. Stella Ryan-Luzon plays her character very calmly to protect a revelation during the end of the film. Adding more emotion to the character, though, wouldn’t have ruined the ending. Also, some might want a second viewing due to a slightly perplexing conclusion. Neither of these critiques, however, affect a viewer’s enjoyment of Good Works.

Overall, Good Works is a short horror masterpiece. The ability to mix different sub genres of horror so effortlessly is impressive. Great direction, writing, cinematography and practical effects all helped to make this possible. The main character is a little dry and the ending can be confusing but these don’t disrupt the overall quality. I recommend Good Works to anybody that loves a truly scary movie.

I give Good Works 6 out of 6 reels.

Eternal Code Reel Review

Bio-Engineered Research Ventures has made a monumental discovery in the world of transplantation. In developing their Eternal Life Tech they have found a way to transplant a person’s mind into an entirely different body. In order to further experimentation the board is looking to merge with another company, Intragenetica. 

Against this decision is Bio-Engineered’s CEO, Bridget Pellegrini(Erika Hoveland). She recognizes Intragenetica’s shady intentions and doesn’t want her company’s research being used to “play God”. It’s this decision, however, that puts her, her husband Mark(Billy Wirth), and her daughter Miranda(Angelina Danielle Cama) in immediate danger.

A fellow high-ranking employee, Oliver(Richard Tyson), is willing to do anything to make sure Bridget sees things his way. This includes blackmailing, kidnapping, and even murder. It’s then that homeless war veteran Corey(Damien Chinappi) steps in to help the Pellegrini’s. Corey will do anything to stop Oliver from putting Eternal Life Tech into dangerous hands.

Directed by Harley Wallen, Eternal Code is an action thriller similar in tone to films like Die Hard and Taken. Following in the footsteps of these classics you have all the elements of a great action movie in a world destroying dilemma, a family in peril, a diabolical villain, and a hardened badass hero. Eternal Code takes a while to get going with the first half hour being a little slow. Soon enough the film picks up and brings plenty of high stake scenes that are action packed and full of dramatic tension. The Pellegrini family(Erika Hoveland, Billy Wirth, and Angelina Danielle Cama) does an effective job in making you feel the danger they are in and Richard Tyson turns in an amazing performance as the slimy main antagonist, Oliver. 

The first 30 minutes of Eternal Code is where the film falters somewhat. The “science gone wrong” plot gets explained well enough, but our main protagonist Chris’s(Damien Chinappi) character development felt a little lackluster. He forms a bond with the daughter of the Pellegrini’s by her giving him money and baked goods because of his homelessness. These scenarios felt somewhat forced and unrealistic, even for a film about mind transplantation. Confusion over Chris’s character development continues near the end of the film where he seems to jump from a hardened personality to caring at the drop of a hat, with very little blending in between.

Overall, Eternal Code is an entertaining take on the kick ass action films of the past. The sci-fi plot line is fun and engaging, while the main villain is dangerously menacing. The hero’s motives and his relationships with others are confusing at times, but that doesn’t distract much from the film. Eternal Code is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys good action movies with high stakes and tense, thrilling moments.

I give Eternal Code 5 out of 6 reels

A Slice of Fright 2019 Reel Reviews Part 3

This is the 3rd and final set of short horror films review form A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Festival 2019.

Horrorscope

Sick with a mysterious illness a girl(Claudia Trujillo) is experiencing some strange side effects. Curious noises, physical ailments, and random occurrences are plaguing her day-to-day life. Then her mother(Miriam Marcet) visits the family physician(Morgan Symes) and gets a wacky diagnosis.

Horrorscope is an excellent satirical horror/comedy short directed by Pol Diggler. The acting, writing, and direction are all on point and work together to create a film that is fresh and funny. Some may claim this film seems unfinished but those critiques are missing the point. Without giving any spoilers, Horrorscope is made with a certain style intentionally, to further the goal that it achieved. A huge recommendation for anyone who loves comedy and horror alike.

I give Horrorscope 6 out of 6 reels.

Fresh Start

A woman(Emily Roszatycki) finds the house she’s renovating has some interesting decorative features.

Sometimes realizing one’s actions is horrifying. In Fresh Start, directed by Michael Welborn, we get a clever horror short that delivers a nice build up of tension, leading to a disturbing conclusion. What’s impressive is the audience views this all in a little over a minute. Some may find the minimalistic approach lacking, but that means more is left to the imagination. It’s what you don’t see that makes Fresh Start a frightening watch.

I give Fresh Start 5 out of 6 reels.

Neptune

An autumn storm is rolling in as a woman feverishly works to finish her yard work. Suddenly a mysterious object comes hurdling out of the sky, crash landing on her property. She then fearfully begins to slowly step toward the glowing orb…

Playing on our fears of the unknown Neptune is a micro sci-fi/horror film directed by Sen 3 Productions. A mundane activity, in this case raking leaves, lulls the audience into a sense of calm familiarity. The scenario is then turned completely upside down. A maddening conclusion unfolds, one that is difficult to describe with words alone. Despite being more of an introduction to a larger film Neptune still demands being seen, to find out what horrors lie in the orb.

I give Neptune 4 out of 6 reels.

Very Real

A boy(Tobin Welborn) invites his caregiver(Faith Damian) to try some cool virtual reality technology. She soon finds the world she has entered seems very realistic. Maybe too realistic.

Very Real, directed by Michael Welborn, is a short horror film that leans heavily into its main premise. In the past we controlled technology not allowing it to take over our everyday lives. As more and more innovative devices are invented, that line blurs. Very Real takes the concept of something we mostly believe harmless, virtual reality gaming, and turns it into a horrifying nightmare. While some aspects are a bit confusing, particularly the motivations of the boy in the film, Very Real still is a very scary watch.

I give Very Real 4 out of 6 reels.

Death Cleaners 

Two cleaners(Jason Scarbrough, Gloria Bueno) arrive to clean up the scene of a messy homicide. Weird things begin to occur when it’s apparent everyone hasn’t left the scene of the crime.

True crime has been popular for some time now and in Death Cleaners, directed by Isaac Rodriguez, we get some true crime themes mixed with horror. The setup is interesting because we see the aftermath of a crime scene investigation, which is rarely explored. It’s easy to relate with the main characters. They are there to do a specific job, but they can’t help being curious. We’ve all been there and Jason Scarbrough and Gloria Bueno are excellent in portraying this. Also, Kandie Garcia is perfect in the horrifying conclusion. Death Cleaners is a frightening tale and recommended to anyone who wants a fictionalized twist on the true crime genre.

I give Death Cleaners 5 out of 6 reels.

Lilith

Being enamored by her beauty a man(Raavian Rehman) is willing to do anything for his new girlfriend(Celeste Blandon). Her name is Lilith and she hopes to mesmerize him, mind, body, and soul.

A poetic take on a classic tale, Lilith is a chilling horror short directed by Aly Hardt. The writing is fantastic, showing the time and care put into the script. Lilith combines elements of films from the past while also maintaining a sense of modernism. This creates an intriguing mixture of filmmaking styles, new and old. The cinematography is excellent with some great panning shots that build atmosphere and tension. The camerawork doesn’t feel forced and forms organically around the script. The dreamlike quality of the film may turn-off some, but it’s this artistic quality that gives Lilith a uniqueness all its own.

I give Lilith 4 out of 6 reels.

The Boston Maniac

Pedro(Pedro Caxade) finds himself in the most horrific of nightmares, trapped in the house of Luger(Bill Hutchens) AKA The Boston Maniac. 

Directed by Judson Vaughan, The Boston Maniac is a horror short described in one word: Brutal. Luger is a villain that would scare anybody out of their mind and Bill Hutchens plays him excellently. The cinematography and lighting add to the film by creating shots that are gruesomely beautiful. The gory practical effects are just icing on the cake. For fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel, The Boston Maniac is wholeheartedly recommended.

I give The Boston Maniac 6 out of 6 reels.

I Know You

While casually reading a book Mike Fischer(Kyle Blair) gets interrupted by a complete stranger(David Waldman). “I know you,” the stranger replies.  Mike, however, does not and is getting concerned as this stranger seems to know him exceptionally well.

Problems in our lives always seem to catch up to us and in the dark comedy I Know You directed by Nic White, things are no different. A problem has caught up to Mike and he deals with it in a hilarious fashion. The physical comedy in I Know You is enjoyable, and will leave you laughing despite Mikes dire situation. We also get some descent gore in and the special effects are very well done. The low-budget is noticeable but with solid acting, creative direction, and plenty of laughs I Know You rises above.

I give I Know You 5 out of 6 reels.

The Nervous Breakdown

An odd creature gets trapped in the confines of a hotdog bun. If that got your attention then continue on into the mad world of The Nervous Breakdown.

Excellent audio and visual artist MCR Electric Otto brings his brand of chaotic animation to life with The Nervous Breakdown. Stuttering hand drawn visuals accompanied by aggressive electronic beats create something stunningly unique. Some will love it, some may hate it, but none can deny the artistry and creativity in this animated short.

I give The Nervous Breakdown 3 out of 6 reels.

Thanks for tuning in, Slicers!

A Slice of Fright Film Fest 2019 – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 2

Back with part 2 of 3!!

Patina

John’s(Matt Kelly) order has finally arrived and he’s beyond excited. He has bought a robot named Patina(Alan Maxson) and can’t wait to show it to his wife, Alexa(Annabel Barrett). Alexa isn’t amused, however, as Patina is malfunctioning and it’s getting worse as the day goes on.

Sci-fi has always been a good companion to horror and Patina, directed by Alan Maxson, is no different. The genres blend together seamlessly with a dash of dark comedy added to the mix. While we’ve seen rouge artificial intelligence stories before it’s the overall execution that pulls Patina together. The acting is exceptional with all three actors playing off each other nicely whether it be for laughs or for scares. The sound design is also terrific with Patina’s movements sounding both prehistoric and futuristic. Patina is fantastic on all fronts and is highly recommended for any lover of the sci-fi/horror genre.

I give Patina 6 out of 6 reels.

The Soul Collector

The hunter(Michael May) is collecting souls when he happens on the home of his next victims. As the hunter approaches a wife(Tierney Michon) is preparing to shower while her husband(Travis Cox) is watching television with their children. A surprise awaits when he finds this family isn’t as helpless as they seem.

With The Soul Collector director Nick Peterson has made a sci-fi/horror short that is absolutely oozing with style. The art direction stands out and it’s this uniqueness that gives The Soul Collector a memorable quality. The story, which begins as a standard slasher movie, goes places that are certainly unexpected. Some may question the use of the art style for the entire film as it creates some mild confusion, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of the film or the excitement it elicits.

I give The Soul Collector 5 out of 6 reels.

Verso

A deranged man(Nicholas Badamo) is attacking the poor patrons of a bar. No. . . wait, now he is dancing seductively with a woman(Christi Perovski). Watch as an intriguing story unfolds that is unlike anything considered normal.

A film difficult to critique due to how it unfolds, Verso is full of charisma, attitude, and mystery. Directors Ryan Russell Steele and Joseph Victor have created Verso in an interesting way that not only progresses the story, but also uniquely shifts the genre of the film. Morphing the genre not just in the moment, but of the film in its entirety. Verso has interesting art house decisions that may turn off some viewers, but the choices made were for the overall vision and enhancement of the film.

I give Verso 5 out of 6 reels.

The Reapers

Razaphel(Tanner Sells) is having terrible dreams. Nightmares of a group that call themselves the reapers. Razaphel tells his grandmother, Marion(Jami Cullen), about the nightly terrors hoping for an explanation. Marion’s sympathy soon turns to excitement as she knows exactly what Razaphel’s dreams are prophesying.

Directed by Gin Wills, The Reapers is a fantasy horror film that is full of rich lore. On the surface, The Reapers is your standard “I’ve had a bad dream” tale where little info is given about what is going on. In The Reapers, however, you receive an explanation for the nightmares. The audience gets answers for many questions, but also leaves enough mystery for future installments. The overall quality of The Reapers is rough, but the imagination and creativity remain unaffected. This should help in the making of future films should they be made.

I give The Reapers 3 out of 6 reels.

Apollyon

After locking up for the evening a janitor(Jimmy Doom) begins the job of cleaning the local church. After a while he finds that he’s not along when he finds a mysterious woman sitting among the pews. Politely asking her to leave proves dangerous when a devastating chain of events begins.

Apollyon, directed by Bret Miller, is a horror story that delivers a strong message about issues in today’s society. It’s a slow burn, but the tension builds perfectly as Apollyon leads to its last act. The story that Apollyon conveys builds nicely, weaving perfectly with the building tension. It’s societal message comes across unobtrusively, not being thrown in the viewers face. The suffocating tension melding with the intense plot leads to a conclusion that is a deafening crescendo of horror.

I give Apollyon 6 out of 6 reels.

Arcanus

Everything is perfectly normal in the household of a father(Jesus Andres De Dios), mother(Virginia Nolting), and their son(Felix Martin Lobato). Sure strange events are occurring in the neighborhood but nothing to be really worried about, right?

Sometimes people are so fixated on daily activities that they don’t notice the world around them. This is especially true of children and in Arcanus, directed by Fernando Ruiz, we get exactly that. A film that is extremely jarring in it’s scary moments, Arcanus has some very unique jump scares. Through the use of electronic music (think Aphex Twin and Squarepusher) and quick camera cuts to disturbing imagery, Arcanus delivers us these creative scares. Though the story could give us a bit more answers about what’s going on, Arcanus still delivers a slick presentation with plenty of style.

I give Arcanus 4 out of 6 reels.

Long Overdue 

The cabal leader(John Creedon) is finally ready to resurrect the long dead king. All he needs to do is recite some phrases from the sacred texts. Now where did he put those stubborn sacred texts?

A micro comedy/horror directed by Emmet O’Brien Long Overdue takes a moment we’ve all had, realizing we’ve lost something, and turns it into a hilarious short. The amount of lore and world building packed into Long Overdue is impressive, seeing as it’s only a minute long. The film relies solely on one premise, however, and it would have been nice to see a few more quick jokes thrown in. This doesn’t distract from Long Overdue’s quality and by the end of the film any audience will be laughing out loud.

I give Long Overdue 5 out of 6 reels.

Bequeathed 

Michael North(Cliff Beverly) is having a very stressful day. He has just skipped his fathers funeral and the reading of his will. Micheal is soon visited by Phil Carter(Steve Ledyard), a representative of his father’s affairs. It seems that Micheal’s father left him an important item. An item that will change Michael’s perspective on life forever.

In the first minutes of Bequeathed we get what many horror movies are unable to do in an hour by establishing a gripping plot that hooks the audience. Both director Michael McCallum and actors Cliff Beverly and Steve Ledyard are able to create a story that is rich with potential. When the scares begin to take hold not only are they terrifying but they also work to further the lore. In the end a few to many questions are left unanswered, which may cause some confusion. A minor criticism though because Bequeathed still leaves the viewer with an eerie sense of suspense and unease.

I give Bequeathed 5 out of 6 reels.

Midnight Visitor

The past few nights a woman(Janissa Saracino) is plagued by a stranger who is attempting to enter her locked apartment. Her doorknob turns back and forth as she is stricken with fear. Upon seeing that her neighbor(Dre Soule) is experiencing the same phenomenon, she lets the stranger inside. . . 

What begins as a straightforward horror concept of attempted home invasion turns toward the mysterious and weird in Midnight Visitor. Directed by Abby Brenker, Midnight Visitor has one of the more interesting ideas you’re like to see for a horror movie antagonist. The film creates a otherworldly setting that imbues a lingering sense of creepiness in the viewer. Questions about the Midnight Visitor will be with the audience long after the film has ended.

I give Midnight Visitor 4 out of 6 reels.

El Bano 3

A woman(Freespirit_Mace) is out for a walk when she stumbles upon some skeletal remains. Instead of contacting the authorities she gets entranced by a jewel that she finds on the body. A jewel that is both precious and deadly.

A horror short directed by Studi Yo Bless, El Bano 3 plays out like a classic fairy tale. Similar to old horror stories told around the campfire, El Bano 3 will send shivers down your spine. Most people have had the urge to take abandoned items of value and in this way El Bano 3 is a cautionary tale. The film is a modern take on this story, done with a style and grace that makes it more approachable for a newer audience. While the low-budget may turn off some viewers El Bano 3 still has a nostalgic old school charm.

I give El Bano 3 3 out of 6 reels.

Stay tuned for PART 3 of 3 – A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Fest 2019 Mini Reel Reviews!

A Slice of Fright 2019 – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 1

Mark Kelly is BAAAACK with more mini Reel Reviews! This time Mark’s reviewing all of the films showcased at A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Festival 2019!

Ding. . . You’re Dead

A man(Trevor Larson), who is dog sitting for a friend, decides to enjoy a nice microwave lasagna. It’s after retrieving his delicious dish that he realizes strange things are occurring. 

As scary as it is funny, Ding. . . You’re Dead is an excellent addition to the horror/comedy genre. Jay Salahi does a great job directing by setting up frightening set pieces, while adding bits of humor in just the right places. Also, Trevor Larson’s very expressive performance is priceless and really adds to the laughs. Ding. . . You’re Dead does tend to land on the goofy side of comedy, but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality.

I give Ding. . . You’re Dead 5 out of 6 reels.

The Animator

Little clay men are at the mercy of their creator. . . The Animator!

A delightful dark comedy about the claymation process, The Animator is a really fun watch. Think of being a kid and the joy of toppling over a tower of blocks you’ve just constructed. Now think more gruesome, as you’re destroying things you’ve made out of clay. This is The Animator. Also, director Trent Shy deserves a round of applause as any foray into the world of claymation can be very work intensive and tedious.

I give The Animator 6 out of 6 reels

In Good Health

Marshall(Bryan Landon) has just gotten back from vacation with his girlfriend Val(Rachel M. Beck). As usual with seemingly every vacation Marshall has become very ill. Val leaves and wishes him well but all seems hopeless as he calls sick into work. That is until along comes a spider.

Directed by Jerrod Rachow, In Good Health is a little light on the horror but makes up for that by telling a truly bizarre tale. In the beginning we get some nice aerial shots, which sets the proper mood. The acting, while not outstanding, is good enough to set up an investment in the characters. What follows is a story that is strange and unique. While the ending could have used a little more explanation, In Good Health definitely leaves the audience a sense of unease and dread.

I give In Good Health 4 out of 6 reels

Watch Out

A boy(Ayman Boulahrouz) goes to his grandfathers (Fred Van Der Hilst) after school. As he waits for his mother to return home the boy begins to notice that his grandfather is acting strangely. He doesn’t seem himself and the odd behavior is rapidly escalating.

A look into the world of a real fear that we all share, Watch Out is a horror film directed by Shariff Nasr. The fear of finding a loved one isn’t who they say they are is relatable and makes Watch Out all the more horrifying. The pacing in this film is incredible, giving little morsels of scares along the way until the big feast at the end. While we’ve seen most of these scares before Shariff Nasr puts a personal touch to each scenario, making each unique.

I give Watch Out 5 out of 6 reels

Vanishing Point

Abbey(Gwen Marcello) is having a hard time going to sleep after being tucked in for bed. She’s hearing strange noises and both her mother(Andrea Zenovia) and father(Andrew Mitakides) don’t want to believe she’s crazy. Maybe there is some truth to the claims, however, as an evil begins to slowly spread.

In Vanishing Point director Michael R. Shea introduces us to a world that, at first glance, appears small and fairly simple. Quickly it opens up into something that is much more large and terrifying. Relying on scares that are otherworldly rather than practical, Vanishing Point frightens viewers with thoughts of the unknown. Even though the overall production is rough around the edges it’s the unsettling feeling that Vanishing Point leaves us with that matters most.

I give Vanishing Point 4 out of 6 reels.

Grave Sight

Two grave robbers, Tanya(Holly Stevens) and Preston(Craig Gunn), are looking to get rich quick by scoring some precious jewels. It’s soon clear they are not professionals as they begin to flub up every step of the process with hilarious results.

Directed by Angus Swantee and Walter Forsyth, Grave Sight is a dark comedy that is funny while also containing some pretty disturbing gore. The script is well written delivering plenty of laughs with the constant bickering between the two grave robbers, Tanya and Preston. The situation gets even more hilarious and we get some great physical comedic bits in the process. The ending is something to behold when an evil character enters, spectacularly performed by Dale Bellefontaine. Grave Sight is a little light on the scares but it definitely shines in terms of its comedic and entertainment value. 

I give Grave Sight 5 out of 6 reels.

The Scarf

A grandmother(Margaret Elsesser) and her granddaughter(Shannon Grant) are enjoying each other’s company by knitting some scarves. When the conversation turns to problems she is having at school, the granddaughter gets some grandmotherly advice. Remember, grandmothers always know best.

The Scarf, directed by Neil Willoughby, is a unique film in that a full description of the genre would be best left unheard by a first time viewer. However, saying this is a horror tale doesn’t give much away as very early on we get some quality scenes of all out terror. It’s the ending that needs kept under wraps, as it puts a nice bow on the entire short. The acting is a little over the top at times, which makes the story a bit confusing, but it all comes together nicely at the end.

I give The Scarf 4 out of 6 reels.

Hypnosis 

A man(Damien Reynal) is chasing a woman(Flore Vannier-Moreau) down a deserted street in the middle of the night. At least that’s what it seems. We soon find that there is more to this story that what meets the eye.

Directors Gregoire Vaillant and Charles-Edouard Dangelser take a different approach to the “damsel in distress being chased by a male assailant” horror troupe in the thriller Hypnosis. The chase scenes are well done as they build high tension in the action portrayed on the screen. Previous story bits are woven nicely throughout the chase, giving the viewer a back story to what’s going on. The ending is satisfying, wrapping up the immediate questions that need addressing while leaving others unanswered. Hypnosis is a great short to watch multiple times, as you catch little things in each play through that you may have missed before.

I give Hypnosis 6 out of 6 reels.

Siren

A woman(Denise Hill) goes to investigate some music being played in her attic before going to bed. What sounds like a soothing tune quickly becomes something much more sinister.

Directed by Jess Vande Zande, Siren is a micro horror short that answers the question, “What is that weird noise in the attic?”. It delivers an ending that is enjoyable for any fan of old school creature features. What Siren lacks for in budget it makes up in the creative design of all the frightening features found in the creepy attic.

I give Siren 3 out of 6 reels.

Bump in the Night (Jason Interview)

Hosts Da Boogie Man(Johnny Zuko) and The Crypt Keepers Mistress(Ginger Snap) are back with another captivating interview. Today’s guest? The one and only hockey mask wearing terror of Camp Crystal Lake himself, Jason Voorhees!

Bump in the Night, directed by Mizz Moist, is a film that plays out like a dark horror comedy sketch. Something that could have been on Kids in the Hall or The State, we see a premise that is hilarious to watch due to its absurdity. The star of the show, Jason Voorhees, was done exceptionally well and looks like he is ripped straight off the set of one of his cult films. Laughs, horror, and gore we get it all in Bump in the Night.

I give Bump in the Night (Jason Interview) 4 out of 6 reels.

STAY-TUNED FOR PARTS 2-3!

Knoxville Suds &Cinema – Mini Reel Reviews Pt 2

We’re back with Mark Kelly’s mini reel reviews of the remaining SUDS & CINEMA – Knoxville short film selections!

Cheeto

A man(Cody Lovorn) encounters a major dilemma. Should he or should he not eat the delicious snack he has found lying on the floor?

Directed by Cody Lovorn, Cheeto is a comedic micro short. What Cheeto lacks in terms of story it makes up for in quality and entertainment. A hilarious look into a moment that everybody has probably experienced, 

I give Cheeto 3 out of 6 reels.

Don’t Die

After an evening of browsing the internet, doing some research on purchasing a home security system, a man(Cody Lovorn) decides to call it a night. As he heads for bed, however, he soon realizes that his decision to install a security system may have come to late.

A film directed by Cody Lovorn, Don’t Die is a frightening look into the horror sub genre of home invasion. Close attention is payed to the setup of specific shots, which leads to an authentic feeling of fear without resorting to jump scares. Due to the high quality of the filmmaking and the subject being highly relatable, 

I give Don’t Die 6 out of 6 reels.

Foreword

Novelist Jared Draybeck(Michael McCallum) is going through a rough time. He’s got a bad case of writers block and the relationship with his partner Jalynne(Rachel Mender) is crumbling. Jared plans a long session of writing at his friend Davids(Wolf Hogan) house where he reads the most important piece of fan mail he’s ever received.

Foreword is a mind bending tale of jealousy and revenge directed by Michael McCallum. The plot and excellent way in which the director leads us through the story are what makes Foreword intriguing. Some questions were purposely left unanswered which supports a sense of mystery and suspense. The acting is not a strong part of Foreword, but doesn’t distract from the film. 

I give Foreword 5 out of 6 reels.

Voice in the Radio

Kevin(Vince Hobart Smith) is trying to find meaning in his life and of a voice(Haydn Wolfie Koeller) that he hears. A voice that has reassured in the past, but is now asking more of Kevin. A voice that comes out of an old, static filled radio.

Voice in the Radio is a drama directed by JW Cox. It’s a moving look at a mans search for the meaning behind a mysterious voice he hears on an old radio. Effective acting is an essential element to many dramas and Voice in the Radio doesn’t disappoint. Vince Hobart Smith does a terrific job as Kevin and he goes to incredible places with the smartly written script. While the film does walk the line in being overly dramatic in delivering its message, 

I still give Voice in the Radio 4 out of 6 reels.

Papa

A father(Curt Willis) encounters a strange being(Kristin Cochell) in the woods. A strange being that threatens to destroy his wife(Chloe Zeitounian), daughter(Ava Culpepper), and his own sanity.

Papa, a folk horror film directed by Brain Peery, is a terrifying look at a mans mind slowly disintegrating and the destructive relationship with his family. In nuanced fashion we see how a variety of relationships, whether it be man/nature, wife/husband, or daughter/father, can begin to crumble. The acting, the writing and the cinematography were all done with great care in furthering the disturbing story. 

I give Papa 6 out of 6 reels.

Self Checkout

At the grocery store a customer(Tyler Broadway) walks to the self checkout, ready to ring up his items. As we all know, sometimes these machines do some pretty weird things. It’s almost as if they have a life of their own.

A hilarious comedy directed by Hanson Devil, Self Checkout is a slightly off kilter look at the self checkout process, in which most of us know the problems. Self Checkout is an absurdist take on one of these scenarios. The jokes are well written and come at a brisk pace. Tyler Broadway’s over the top delivery also contrasts well with Megan Jones’s dry humor as the self check automated voice. 

I give Self Checkout 5 out of 6 reels.

Suds & Cinema Knoxville – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 1

CinemaSlice is proud to have showcased so many awesome short films at SUDS & CINEMA – Knoxville! Join Mark Kelly as he writes a mini Reel Review on each of the official film selections for this event.

Hunted

A young woman, who is walking through the woods, suddenly notices that someone is following her. Who is following her and will she be able to escape?

A micro horror film directed by Seth Young, Hunted is an effectively scary thriller. Based on being chased by an ominous danger, it plays on our real fears. Hunted feels lacking in story due to the length but in doing so it leaves the viewer haunted by the questions it leaves unanswered.

I give Hunted 3 out of 6 reels.

Tennis

A game of tennis turns into an epic battle for the ages as Jordan(Chance McDuffy) faces of against his overly eager buddy Nick(Greg Collins).

A comedy directed by Logan Solana, Tennis is a hilarious look at two buddies in a “friendly” competition. Jordan and Nick are instantly likable characters that play well off each other due to their contradicting personalities. The writing is fine, but what really shines here is the physical comedy and timing. The joke delivery is spot on and the level of absurdity is appropriate.

I give Tennis 4 out of 6 reels.

Drop Frame

While working on a nature program a producer(Forrest Ferguson) and an editor(Jamie Hickman) encounter something strange. Is it a glitch in the equipment or is something more otherworldly occurring.

Drop Frame is a suspense/mystery film directed by Philip Tatler IV. Although some might classify this as horror, Drop Frame is different. Instead of bombarding the viewer with jump scares and gore, it leaves the viewer with a sense of unease and dread. You’re never quite sure exactly what is going on and just when you think you do Drop Frame gets even weirder. Playing out like a classic episode of Twilight Zone, Drop Frame doesn’t disappoint.

I give Drop Frame 6 out of 6 reels.

Back to the Drawing Board

Using their newly acquired ability of travel time a group of friends, Hannah(Hannah Riddle), Nicholas(Nicholas Mariano), Justin(Justin Simerly), and James(James Maines) try to change past events for a better future. What actually ends up happening is something more hilarious than heroic.

A sci-fi comedy directed by John Queener & Gabe Hobbs, Back to the Drawing Board is a hilarious look into the world of time travel gone wrong. The comedic writing in Back to the Drawing Board is great with the jokes coming at a fast pace. Even with the unrealistic elements of time travel, the script remains grounded and relatable. Although the delivery and timing could have used some work and we’ve seen time travel done in this way before, Back to the Drawing Board is entertaining nonetheless.

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I give Back to the Drawing Board 4 out of 6 reels.

I Will Not Disappear

Alan(Merrit Brakebill, Paul Smith) is reminiscing of past experiences with his wife Victoria(Heather Arnwine, Sarah Smith). In their golden years, Victoria’s memories are slowly disappearing as she struggles to remember the past.

I Will Not Disappear is a heartfelt and emotional drama directed by Jared Sutton. A relatable film for those with loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, I Will Not Disappear will tug on the heartstrings. The cinematography and direction are on a top-tier level and the acting is phenomenal. While many films of the past have covered this same topic, I Will Not Disappear is certainly among the greats.

I give I Will Not Disappear 5 out of 6 reels.

The Workout

During a rigorous Zumba session at the local YMCA tragedy strikes when a man goes into cardiac arrest. Never fear as there is somebody magical in the class to save the day. 

An absurdist comedy directed by Chris Rodgers, The Workout is an enjoyable film that relies heavily on its core premise. The writing and acting, while not outstanding, are woven expertly to serve this premise. Though not really relatable in any way to everyday life, The Workout is still a fun and entertaining watch.

I give The Workout 3 out of 6 reels.

Stay Tuned for PART 2!!

The Rise of Valhalla – Reel Review

It’s the last months of WWII and Germany is in shambles as the allied forces are closing in on the country. The Nazi party is desperate and willing to do anything to turn the tide of the war. German soldiers are ransacking the entire country and after a few alterations with the locals that end in tragedy, a group of German resistance fighters is born. They begin to track a group of Nazi soldiers lead by General Wolff. General Wolff, however, has been busy with much more than looting German homes and killing Jews. The resistance soon discover General Wolff has attempted to raise the dead by opening the gates of Valhalla.

Directed by Daniel Konze, The Rise of Valhalla is a feature-length horror/war drama. Due to the subject and genre that it encapsulates, The Rise of Valhalla isn’t exactly a comfortable film to view. It, however, is definitely a well executed one. In terms of cinematography and setting the mood, The Rise of Valhalla is a masterclass. Careful attention is shown to the location, costuming, and sound design. It feels as though you are actually experiencing the horrors of war. The resistance fighters form a fantastic ensemble. Hermann (Thomas Binder), Wilhelm (Mario Kaspras), Ludwig (Fabio Sorgini), Paul (Marc Bluhm), Leopold (Armin Barwich) and Gustav (Javier Wolf) all do excellent jobs in the tough setting given and the challenging emotions they portray. Without any spoilers, the last act of the film has some top-notch practical gore effects that are stunning to behold.

Some criticisms I have with The Rise of Valhalla have to do with issues in the pacing of the film and its script. There are many scenes in the middle part of the film where we are traveling with the resistance. It’s during these scenes were the film slows down to an uncomfortably slow pace. To help reduce this slower pace, more dialogue for the characters could have helped. The resistance don’t seem to connect much during their journey, and it’s during these slow moments that more bonding could have occurred.

The Rise of Valhalla tells a great alternate history tale that mixes in moments of suspense and horror. At times the pacing felt slow, and with more dialogue the resistance could have developed more emotional bonds. Despite this the cinematography, costuming and sound design work together nicely bringing a convincing portrait of WWII. The finale is a riveting and harrowing portrayal of all out madness.

I give The Rise of Valhalla 4 out of 6 Reels.