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.

“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.

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.

Bella – Reel Review

Bella by Charlene Jeter

On the surface, Mary Ellen appears to have a normal life. A mother to beautiful twin babies and doting wife to husband Josh, Mary Ellen couldn’t ask for anything more. Appearances are deceiving, however, as Josh is an extremely violent abuser. When all hope seems lost Mary Ellen meets Bella. Bella is a strong, confident woman who has survived her own abusive relationship. Is Mary Ellen ready to take Bella’s advice to the bloody end? Or have things already spiraled past the point of no control?

Bella is a short dramatic thriller written and directed by Charlene Jeter. Charlene also stars in the film as Bella, along with Heather Fairbanks as Mary Ellen and Jeremy Evitts as Josh. Bella is a film that has some great elements, but also many questionable ones. First we’ll start with the positive. 

When it comes to setting the mood, Bella truly shines. In the beginning, we visit the back story for Bella’s character. The cinematography, costuming, and acting were so on point that I actually thought I was in 1980’s Detroit. Charlene Jeter does an absolutely spectacular job portraying Bella and is in a class all her own. The drama in this first half was captivating and I wanted to see what was next.

In the second half we return to Mary Ellen’s story after getting a glimpse of Bella’s early years. This is where the story begins to break down. Without giving spoilers some plot twists occur that were confusing and didn’t seem to fit with the motivations of the characters. Despite the confusion, I was continuously entertained and never bored.

Bella is a tale of two movies for me. The first being the enjoyable beginning that highlighted Bella’s backstory. This section had incredible drama that was tense and gripping to watch. The second half, while still interesting to watch, had some questionable plot twists and confusing motivations. Despite these moments, I recommend giving Bella a watch. It is now available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

I give Bella 3 out of 6 Reels.

From Mania to Obsession – Reel Review

Zach Evans is attending a panel at the 2019 Festival of Play. The topic of discussion is Ziggo Mania 5, a video game that Zach adores. One of the panelists is Jesse Blackwell, who is the lead programmer on the project. Once Zach gets a chance to ask some questions he finds out from Jesse some unfortunate news about Ziggo Mania. News that will light a spark within Zach and lead to a series of sinister events. Jesse is now in danger and will have to use all his unique skills to save himself.

From Mania to Obsession is a short suspense/thriller directed by Andrew Brantley and Kevin Shirka. It stars Kevin Shirka as Zach Evans and Randall Williams as Jesse Blackwell. From Mania to Obsession is a very enjoyable film on multiple levels. One thing that stood out for me was the overall concept of the movie. Another was this concepts execution in terms of the escalating suspense. Similar to Stephen Kings Misery, this film tells of one individuals demented fixation on an individual. In this case, Zach Evans compulsion for Jesse Blackwell. Unique to From Mania to Obsession is the use of modern technologies, which makes the story more relatable. Kevin Shirka does a great job in taking this concept and applying it to the actions and mannerisms of Zach. It’s very entertaining watching Zach steadily descend into madness throughout the film.

A criticism I have with From Mania to Obsession is with using Ziggo Mania 5 throughout the short. Although it was creative using a video game that appears exclusively made for the film, Ziggo Mania 5s quality didn’t fit with the story. Ziggo Mania 5 looks like a mobile game, something that would appeal to younger children. As a gamer I have to admit this threw me off a bit. A non-gamer, however, probably wouldn’t notice. I feel this could have been fixed by providing a more realistic motivation for Zach’s anger. One suggestion could be that Ziggo Mania 5 is now introducing micro transactions. Another could be that the game has taken a dramatically deep dip in quality.

From Mania to Obsession is full of great suspenseful moments. The modern take on the concept is excellent and Kevin’s portrayal of Zach is frightening. The quality of Ziggo Mania 5 is a little confusing, however, which is distracting. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys thrillers that don’t resort to jump scares or excessive violence.

I give From Mania to Obsession 3 out of 6 reels.

Suds & Cinema – Memphis Mini Reel Reviews – Part 2

Pie

A documentary about a man. A man who has learned to hate pies. Not just because he hates the taste, but because they are ruining his life. Yes, that’s right. I said pies.

Pie has a hilarious central concept used to its fullest potential. Directed by Doug Cox, the film uses a faux documentary style to carry this concept up till the end. The genius concept combined with the creative presentation result in a comedy short that I will remember for quite some time.

I give Pie 5 out of 6 reels.

Sac de Merde

Mazie can’t catch a break. All she wants is decent man who is above all else normal. Sounds simple enough but after multiple dates she continues to find quirks that only seem to escalate in weirdness, with hilarious results.

A good story, fantastic script, and an uproariously funny performance by Arielle HallerSilverstone as Mazie are some of the keys that make Sac de Merde shine. Directed by Greg ChwerchakSac de Merde has amazing comedy writing that could make the story great all on its own. However, having Arielle to deliver the lines really brings everything together as she gives us an all-star comedic performance.

I give Sac de Merde 6 out of 6 reels.

Saul’s 108th Story

Saul Moroz shares his incredible story where he installs a pane of glass for a window company. “Incredible story?”, you may ask. Yes, considering it’s 1950s New York and he’s 108 floors above the ground. Don’t worry about it!

A fun short that is basically a very enjoyable story told to us by the man who lived it, Saul Moroz. Directed by Joshua CarlonSaul’s 108th Story puts the spotlight on Saul and he is an entertaining storyteller indeed. As with any great storyteller Saul puts you in his shoes and you actually feel like you’re a glass worker in 1950s New York. The presentation and graphics around Saul as he tells his tale are also a nice touch.

I give Saul’s 108th Story 4 out of 6 reels.

Smoke

After visiting a creepy fortune-teller with his buddies Ethan uncovers a dark sinister secret. A secret that may change the course of his life forever.

Smoke is a creepy tale of revenge directed by Justin Malone. The film features some great editing and skillful camerawork which helps to set up the increasingly sinister mood. Clint Abner does a fine acting job and it shows because we see Ethan’s descent clearly as the joking mood in the beginning quickly turns sour. A great entry into the thriller genre.

I give Smoke 5 out of 6 reels.

The Mirror

Does a mirror really show us what’s happening in reality, only in reverse? Or is only the reflection of our mind?

Directed by Massimiliano Mauceri, The Mirror is an effective horror short with a creative way of telling us its story. The Mirror lacks any dialogue, but makes up for that with amazing special effects and purposeful direction given to the actors (Carlotta Galmarini and Mattia Rigatti). Through the use of these elements we get a very nuanced horror tale that doesn’t resort to jump scares.

I give The Mirror 4 out of 6 reels.

Toasted

What do the items in our house do while we go to work? More than likely they just sit there and don’t move until we get home. Then again maybe they come up with courageous escape plans that rival Escape from Alcatraz.

Done in a similar vein as Sausage PartyToasted takes a style we usually associate with children’s films and flips it on its head. Director Chad Janusch takes a stop motion animation approach with Toasted and mixes it with vulgar adult humor. The results are astonishing because the craft and care taken to make this short is clearly evident. You can see it even in the little details, such as matching certain emotions with specific household items. Fantastically funny and full of visual eye candy.

I give Toasted 6 out of 6 reels.

The Voicemail

A voicemail from a mother because she worries about her adult son going outside for the day. A simple action that shouldn’t be of concern. 

Through the delivery of hearing a voicemail being played, director Kyle Solomon delivers an emotional punch. In The Voicemail we see that, for some people, everyday activities can be much different from others. A short that delivers an impact which will linger with you long after watching.

I give The Voicemail 4 out of 6 reels.

Until next time….

Suds and Cinema Memphis Mini Reel Reviews Part 1

American Craft: What Beer Can Teach Us About Well-Crafted Laws

This documentary short gives us a look into the world of American craft beer. We see the ups and downs over the years as laws have shaped how we produce and distribute craft beer to the public. From its fledgling beginnings to becoming a thriving creative subculture, American craft beer is here to stay.

American Craft is an enjoyable and informative short film. Directed by Matt WoodAmerican Craft achieves two goals that are important to any documentary. First, it attracts newcomers to the world of craft brewing without alienating them. It’s short and stylish enough to just dip your toes into and enjoy, while not being overwhelmed by an ocean of information. Secondly, the content is entertaining and educational. Veterans of the craft brewing scene will appreciate that American Craft is not watered down in any way.

I give American Craft 6 out of 6 reels.

Happy Bath Day

Follow along as a dog takes a trip to the pet store. Once at the store she gets a little TLC with a bath given to her by her friend in the blue shoes.

Delightfully simple and full of heart Happy Bath Day, directed by Meka Butler, is a pleasure to watch. If you’re looking for an intense story with multiple plot twists, look elsewhere. If you’re a pet lover looking for a relaxing movie with an excellent acoustic soundtrack, Happy Bath Day is for you. Also, it’s worth noting that Jada the dog does an amazing acting job.

I give Happy Bath Day 3 out of 6 reels.

My Plastic Buddha

In My Plastic Buddha we get some insight into a mans ideas on the value and importance we put on specific objects in our everyday lives.

Jeff Madzia stars and directs in My Plastic Buddha, an informative short that is both emotionally moving and effective. Never resorting to sounding to preachy, Jeff weaves us a short, but effective, cautionary tale. He tells us how he has extracted meaning and worth in objects that are objectively worthless. We are then allowed to form our own opinion from his message. We can then decide what in our own life may become our own plastic Buddha.

I give My Plastic Buddha 5 out of 6 reels.

Gauntlet Run: Origins

Tied up in a warehouse, a man answers questions for an unsavory group of people while being beaten. He isn’t giving any answers and when a rival member enters the scene an unlikely partnership forms and an epic beat down commences.

Directed by Garrett AtkinsonGauntlet Run: Origins wears its influences on its sleeve. Those influences being high-octane action films. Movies such as The Raid and John Wick come to mind and Gauntlet Run does them proud. The action is impeccable and at times you may wonder if you’re watching a professionally choreographed action spectacle. The story is generic but with action scenes like this I’ll give Gauntlet Run a pass.

I give Gauntlet Run: Origins 5 out of 6 Reels.

Haircut 

He is at his barber, ready to get his haircut. Or is he with his girlfriend, at a restaurant ready to order. The choices are so confusing.

Intriguing, strange, and clever. These are some terms that come to mind when viewing the comedic short Haircut. Directed by George MassimilloHaircut appears as one of two things. First, is this is a tale about life’s endless choices and the confusion that ensues while making them? Or, secondly, is this just an absurdist alternate reality, similar to Napoleon Dynamite or similar shows on Adult Swim? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way it’s definitely worth a watch.

I give Haircut 3 out of 6 reels.

Lightning Strikes

A brother and sister realize that the sister, who is in a vegetative like state, that they have taken care of for years has a special talent. She can predict the outcome of future lottery draws or other gambling endeavors. Will they use this talent for good or will they let the greed wash over their lives.

Story is the shining star in Lightning Strikes, directed by Camille Calvin. A well written script that combines multiple genres along with great acting are what make the plot captivating. Some of the genres sprinkled throughout are suspense, drama, and even some comedy. Irene, played by Camille Calvin, and Betty, played by Emanda Pimentel, navigate these genres expertly and are a joy to watch. The choices dealing with mental disabilities are sometimes questionable but for the most part don’t interfere with the overall quality.

I give Lightning Strikes 4 out of 6 reels.

Macocky 

Jaysons life isn’t going so well. His girlfriend left him, his college grades are failing, and his dreams of becoming a local superhero always end in injury. That is until he goes back home to get his childhood toy, a Macaulay Culkin doll that brings him good luck and comfort.

Extremely funny and charming the comedy short Macocky, directed by Ivon and Eyan Wuchina, excels on multiple levels. The comedy writing is excellent, mixing jokes that are both uproariously funny as well as more subdued leading to an even tone throughout. The story is nicely paced with moments of complete absurdity complemented by more relatable human moments. Luke Enzor also does a fantastic job in playing Jayson as a unique and quirky person while also remaining realistic. All of these elements make Macocky a must see.

I give Macocky 6 out of 6 reels.

Stay-tuned until NEXT TIME, for SUDS & CINEMA – Memphis Mini Reel Reviews Pt.II!