When US army officer General Billy Ford(Morgan Freeman) learns of a sickness spreading throughout a small village in Zaire he sends in one of his best men, virologist Sam Daniels(Dustin Hoffman), to investigate. Upon his return from Zaire Sam warns Billy about the rapidly spreading, deadly virus. Billy and his superior, General Donald McClintock(Donald Sutherland), dismiss the issue as an isolated incident. The virus comes stateside, however, when a monkey smuggled from Zaire arrives in the small community of Cedar Creek, CA. The race is on as Sam and CDC scientist Robby Keough(Rene Russo) fight not only the disease but also a mysterious government coverup that dates back to the late 60s.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen and written by Laurence Dworet and Robert Roy Pool, Outbreak is a 1995 action/adventure thriller. Similar to other films in the mid nineties Outbreak takes a factual subject, in this case a viral outbreak, and creates thrilling over the top scenarios that go with the plot. Films like Twister and Jurassic Park are some comparisons that come to mind. Outbreak does an exceptional job in keeping the viewer riveted. The story moves at a brisk pace and the odds are constantly stacked against the heroic leads, Sam and Robby. The acting accelerates the action by creating characters that are unique and easily distinguishable. The actors do a phenomenal job establishing the relationships they are in and making us believe in their interactions.
In the same way that the action helps to keep the viewer intrigued, it also gives the plot a few “How could this possibly happen?” moments. The action/adventure genre can sometimes be bloated with questionable decisions and unlikely timing and Outbreak is no exception. Without spoilers, all I can say is that there were moments I questioned if certain events would have happened practically or if they were solely put in to heighten the tension. With a story that revolves around a realistic event, I expect some sensible actions and motivations. In this area, Outbreak dropped the ball more than a few times.
Despite some of the convenient timing and unrealistic choices, I thought Outbreak was a decent film. It’s quick pace, thrilling set pieces, and great acting were more than enough for me to give this film a solid recommendation. This is a perfect rental or streaming option for anyone who enjoys an exciting plot that doesn’t get bogged down in the details.
After a business trip to Hong Kong Beth Emhoff’s(Gwyneth Paltrow) health quickly starts to decline. Fever, cough, and waves of light headed nausea are consuming her body. Her husband, Mitch Emhoff(Matt Damon), is not only concerned for her but also their children, Clark(Griffin Kane) and Jory(Anna Jacoby-Heron). What Mitch doesn’t realize is that his wife is patient zero in what is to become a global pandemic. With the sickness starting to spread at an alarming rate the director of the CDC, Dr. Ellis Cheever(Laurence Fishburne), begins emergency preparations. He contacts CDC coworker and Epidemiologist Dr. Erin Mears(Kate Winslet) to help him in what is to become one of the largest outbreaks of disease the world has ever met.
Contagion is a 2011 medical thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns. Soderbergh does an impressive job creating a sense of scale to the pandemic and Burns explains the plot in a way that doesn’t turn away the viewer. The sheer amount of characters in Contagion is staggering and their stories are all happening simultaneously throughout the globe. To juggle these storylines and fit them into an hour and forty-five minutes is an impressive feat of editing. The script is written and delivered in a way that uses the correct terminology and protocols that would actually happen in an emergency such as this. It gives the film an authenticity that would be appreciated by anybody from medical experts to the common moviegoer.
While I appreciated the scale and details put into the script and plot, these are also some of the problems that I had with Contagion. The scale of the film caused some characters and their storylines to get lost in the chaos. A plot line involving a kidnapped doctor near the beginning of the film comes back near the end. By the time they continued, I had some memory searching to do to get myself back into that plot thread. I also had to watch this movie twice for this review. While it’s valued that they are not dumbing down the material, it is on the borderline of being too technical.
Despite some plot lines that are questionably broken up and my ability to understand some of the medical language used, I thoroughly enjoyed Contagion. The talent to weave so many stories and stick most of the landings is incredible. Also, it’s accessible for everyone and is a great rewatch if you didn’t pick up some of the minor details. I recommend Contagion to any one who enjoys their thrillers tense,realistic, and emotional.
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.
This is the 3rd and final set of short horror films review form A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Festival 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’BrienLong 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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 KingsMisery, 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.
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 Haller–Silverstone as Mazie are some of the keys that make Sac de Merde shine. Directed by Greg Chwerchak, Sac 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 Carlon, Saul’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.
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.
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.
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 Party, Toasted 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.
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.
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 Wood, American 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 Atkinson, Gauntlet 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.
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 Massimillo, Haircut 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.
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.
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.