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Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Longer-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

For those Horror directors and writers who’ve had a shade bit more experience, or who need longer than fifteen minutes to tell their stories of terror and woe, we have a series of Horror shorts to shock and terrify. From the familiar twisted into something new, to ancient powers of the macabre, sit still for these longer shorts and let yourself be carried off into a whole new darkness!

‘Creatures of Whitechapel’

Country: UK

Director: Jonathan Martin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers will cut you down!

It’s the dark cold heart of London, and a killer stalks the alleyways of Whitechapel, hunting down the Ladies of the Night. But it turns out, that killer is actually a her-self too, and she has a Master she’s working for. What could “Jacqueline the Ripper” possibly need with those body parts she stole? Dr. Frankenstein needs a heart for his latest creation, poor thing; the eternal quest of man to make a thing with his own two hands, simply so he can boink it. He needs other parts too, and that’s why he sent the Lady Igor out in an opera cape and top hat with a scalpel blade, never imagining that she would find some kind of redemption in the arms of Mary Kelly. Nevertheless, Master needs a heart (and still doesn’t see the irony in that statement), so he can bring his lady love to life and hopefully responsive movement. Even Dr. Praetoris, Frankie’s fellow scientist, rival and skeptic, doesn’t quite seem to understand that women monsters stick together, through death and beyond!

When done well, Horror mashups are a terrific thing to behold, and Creatures of Whitechapel has certainly done that! The storyline rather reminds me of the awesomeness that was Penny Dreadful, well remembered and always missed, with scenes and sets inspired by From Hell and Victor Frankenstein, original musical scores that won awards and put me in the mind of Sweeney Todd, this particular short makes my little black heart so happy. We women really should get more gender-bent roles in the Horror world, that opens up all kinds of amazing intertwining possibilities!

‘The Madame in Black’

Country: Sweden

Director: Jarno Lee Vinsencius

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Drawn from a Swedish legend in which a Countess was burned for witchery that purportedly killed her husband and children, which was of course turned into a mirror game for generations to come, very like the American legend of Bloody Mary, The Madame in Black also appears to be a parlor game for young adults who really should be more leery. Our siblings in the short played the game when they were very young and apparently the Madame makes no distinctions about what age she continues to haunt a person. Emma convinces Alex, while they’re hanging out drinking with their significant others, to say the words before the mirror again, and next thing you know, a scary Lady draped in all black is terrorizing everyone!

The story of course puts me in the mind of the movie The Woman In Black, and the atmosphere surrounding the short is very reminiscent of The Conjuring. The “gotcha!” scares are fairly good, and the makeup job for the Madame (when she is fully shown) is pretty darned terrifying, if a little predictable. While I agree it’s important to have background story to whatever game you want to play inside your Horror movie, a little too much time is spent on the brother-sister and their friends dynamic, which could be easily achieved with some flash scenes, and leave more time for the admittedly-good jump scares and hauntings of the Madame in Black.

‘Elegy’

Country: USA

Director: CJ Gardella

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

All around is the cycle of life and death, and nature reflects that in its simplicity and savagery. A brick house out near a swamp teeming with animal life that devours each-other endlessly holds many secrets, where the lines between being alive and being dead, or even undead, blur and become indistinct. A man and a woman walk the lonely halls of the house, attempting to not antagonize each-other, but rather understand the mysteries of the dead and the dying, and even returning back to a kind of existence. A strange kind of harmony exists, with the insects and those who feed off of death, and that which withers finds a kind of quiet beauty in its preservation.

The entire short, especially the animal scenes of hunting, killing, and decaying, really reminded me of the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, and that was an incredibly odd one. The animals and insects caught on film mid-snap are certainly wonderful to look at, and the truly great thing about this short is the creepy between-life-and-death atmosphere the filmmakers manage to convey. In a short fraught with unique imagery, where none of the characters actually speak, one can only expect some confusion about what the short is attempting to convey in the depths of Horror. I’m still not entirely sure, but I wager it was some kind of descent into madness to study the whole process of death, and perhaps, how love never actually dies.

‘Others Like You’

Country: Italy

Director: Eugenio Villani

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When does an obsession go too far, and land one in the depths of sheer Horror? Ester wants a child so badly, she’s been binging a series of one-night-stands to get herself pregnant, but somehow never manages to carry a baby to full term and birth. Especially after seeing the female Doctor for a pregnancy test, and showing off that what I assume is a hysterectomy scar all across her abdomen. Doc Greta herself is a scarred survivor and no longer able to have children either, yet she still manages to “mother” a group of hidden monsters, creatures of the old world and old ways, where the sacrificial math of one life for one life is perfectly valid. Ester’s looking for her missing kitten, and though it’s rather unfair of Greta to say Ester can’t even look after a kitten much less a baby, luring Ester to a place of dark birth magic doesn’t seem like the kindest lesson.

Another short that happens to be well-shot but whose storyline is near-inexplicable, Others Like You peels back the layers of women’s Horror, that deep desperate pain and emptiness of childlessness. Very much like the movie Grace with its eternal question of, ‘How far would you go for your children?’, the short adds its own dark European magickal twist that may send even the strongest advocates of The Handmaids Tale running away in disgust!

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Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts Part 2

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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‘Blackbird’

Country: UK

Director: Tim Fellingham & Charlotte Stente Nielsen

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What happens when the one you think is your savior, turns out to have been your tormentor all along? Here on a lonely stretch of nowhere, a man with a concussion and severe memory loss, apparently from getting tossed from his motorcycle, goes to save a runaway maiden in a nightgown. The both of them hole up together trying to figure out what they’re running from, and through a series of dreams and flashbacks and one horrible “gotcha!” moment involving a blackbird tattoo, discover they really do know each-other, a little too well for either ones comfort.

The use of Memento-like timelines and flashbacks can be perfectly fine, but I thought a little too much emphasis was placed on atmosphere and not enough on the story itself. If a movie, either short or feature-length, has only two actors in it, it is very likely that the villain is one of them; it kind of lessens the potential shock value. Nevertheless, should the story be expanded, the short could have real potential.

‘The Dark Hunger’

Country: USA

Director: Anthony Williams

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

What to do when one discovers a supernatural cannibal terrorizing your neighborhood? No calling in the CIA or some paranormal equivalent, no, some sort of mafia-like gang kidnaps the man they call Dead Fred and stick him in a cell, to be fed their enemies. Because Dead Fred is a full cannibal and always cleans his plate, so there’s no evidence left behind. And when we meet up with our cannibal hero, it looks like he’s been enduring this setup for awhile.  His Dark Passenger, the actual cannibal vampire in his skull with the awesome deep voice, is content to stay in prison so long as the captors keep feeding it, but Fred has other ideas. Despite that not actually being his real name, Dead Fred decides to embrace the pseudonym and make a deal with his Dark Passenger to get out of this prison and find the man at the top, the real mastermind monster who put Fred here in the first place!

It’s never easy to combine a supernatural element with an attempt at Hannibal Lecter-like characters, and yet somehow The Dark Hunger manages it nicely. The short reads like a trailer for a film that I would certainly watch, and I sincerely wished the short was one of the longer short films, so I could pretend it was a movie. With even some of the better notes of 30 Days of Night thrown in, The Dark Hunger should make Director Williams an up-and-comer worthy of keeping an eye on.

‘Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir’

Country: USA

Director: David E. Munz-Maire

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

If you could ever imagine what a winery run by Children of the Corn would be like, then the Chateau Sauvignon is for you. The stark landscape, dead animal skulls and eerie wine-making equipment that looks suspiciously like butchery pressings all serve to provide an atmosphere that screams Horror. And almost immediately, it turns out, the vitner equipment really does still make wine for the tourists and all, but is also being used in the butchery of at least some of those tourists, to keep Mom alive. (Whether Mom is a zombie, some kind of vampire, cannibal or anything else, is unclear.) But the meat juice is beginning to run out, Son is becoming concerned, and Dad is just trying to hold everything together, despite Moms condition. Two new tourists have come late to the winery and Son wants to give them the full tour, no matter what Dad says – here sample some of our wine, over here is some of the processes we use to make our vintages, and by the way, your son is a jackass, here’s a glass pouring beaker shoved into your skull. Because Mom needs to be fed, and wine isn’t cutting it anymore.

A very fine short, all kinds of atmospheric and moody, though I would have liked to have a bit more to the story. What kind of creature is Mom now, how did she get this way, what happens to all of them when the meat juice finally runs out? Perhaps for the next series of Horror shorts from Director Munz-Maire, or, he could turn the whole thing into a feature-length jaunt – I would watch it.

‘Death Metal’

Country: USA

Director: Chris McInroy

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Dude man, I get you, hail Satan and Metal is God and all that, you bet. But if you’re handed Grand-dad’s axe (as in guitar), that he supposedly got from the Dark Prince himself, along with three important rules to follow when using it, you’d want to adhere to them and be respectful wouldn’t you? It doesn’t seem as though frustrated metal-head Lars gives two damns about any of that, and immediately goes off to break all three rules jamming in the afternoon at the park on the axe. Is it any wonder that the axe-head breaks off from the rest of the guitar and goes hog-wild?

I saw Lars and his dumbassery at another Horror film festival and thought it was hilarious then, as now. It’s always so cute to see the Metalheads tossing the horns and headbanging for all they’re worth, because of course Satan’s all kinds of into that. Just never forget, Lucifer has a very wicked sense of humor, too.

‘As They Continue to Fall’

Country: USA

Director: Nikhil Bhagat

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Whether you’re a fan of the Prophecy series, or saw the film Legion and the short-lived Syfy show it spawned, Dominion, Angels are fairly well-known these days as something other than the be-winged halo’d bringers of light and Gods love. What we have here is the somewhat now-familiar trope of the hobo hero hunting bad guys, in this case actual Angels, and it must be said, doing a fair job of it. From the looks of the feather trophies that line his coat, keeping him warm, our hobo hero is no-one to be trifled with. (Because really, depending upon which hierarchy of Angel you’re fighting, you could strap a nuke to the Angelic type and he’d laugh at you.) Our hobo hero has been dealing with Angelic visions all his life, but now after the apparent end of the world, has taken to hunting them down with vim and vigor. And who could blame him? What is an Angel, after all, but another Devil just waiting to fall?

Many of the minds who worked on this short have made major names for themselves elsewhere (Sinister, Deus Ex, The Thing, the NBC TV show Dracula, to name only a few), and they managed to cobble together a short awesome to watch. The future dystopian world where our hobo hero hunts Angels is clear and perfectly understandable, while much is still left open to audience interpretation and judgment, and in building a world like this, that is what we would prefer.

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Horror lives on in our hearts all year ‘round, and all across the world too. The fears we share cross all manner of cultural and gender lines, creating a fandom unique to any other. Because if we unite and share our fears, through glorious films and shorts, perhaps some of those fears will be lessened in shared fandom.

‘Last Resort’

Country: USA

Director: David Schneiderman

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What couple thinks it’s a good idea to take a Horror vacation, when one half of the couple isn’t into Horror? Apparently these people do, and in the role reversal of the common, the female in this relationship is the Horrorphile and her boyfriend the reluctant tagalong. Mel the girlfriend wants the immersive Horror weekend promised in the Horror Haven brochure, which includes bloodstains in the shower, a purportedly dead body in the closet, and a cannibal wine host who likes to dance while ranting and isn’t too smart about where he leaves his tools. Oh, and don’t forget the singularly unhelpful delivery guy who keeps getting lost.

A campy little romp that pokes fun at “experience” camps and Horror in general, Last Resort reminds us that no matter how clever you think you’re being, the universe is still laughing at you. And inside the Horror universe, it’s a damned cackle.

‘Black Ring’

Country: Turkey

Director: Hasan Can Dagli

Review Rating: 9 out of 10

What looks like a professional photography setup in a rundown Turkish castle turns out to hide something far more sinister. Considering the men doing the initial setup look like European gangsters, one would think the chosen who participate in the lottery from hell would be more leery about being handed a black disc. But alas, these bright young beautiful things are here for their shot at fame, and for many of them, it is their very last shot. The shock value the artist and his audience are hunting seems almost gorgeous in the grotesquerie, and reminds a great many of us just how jaded we really are. You really can make art out of someone’s death, but how could you possibly top that?

This short was incredible, and I’ve seen a freaking ton of Horror shorts. To be able to do an entire art-house Horror piece, as a short film no less, where not a single character speaks, is even more mind-blowing. The images and ideas brought across come both starkly dark and breathtakingly bloody, mixing styles like an astounding master painter on the movie screen. Seriously, Director Dagli needs to get on making feature-length Horror movies, and right now.

‘A Fathers Day’

Country: UK

Director: Mat Johns

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What Daddy doesn’t want to protect his little girl from the Horrors of the world? Well, what happens when both you and your daughter are already zombies, does the protecting stop once you’ve died? Of course it doesn’t! You still want to protect your drooling, growling baby, and provide fresh-ish entrails for her, and push her on the merry-go-round while she twitches. And when the human survivors take aim at your zombie daughter, when she goes to protect you, is the proudest moment any Daddy, dead or alive or anything in between, can experience!

A wonderful little short done in the sympathetic style of the movie Warm Bodies, A Father’s Day reminds us that the love of a parent for their child transcends all preconceived boundaries, and that includes even death.

‘The Gift of the Woods’

Country: USA

Director: Kris Theorin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Everyone knows the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but also, that they’re full of ancient creatures, some of whom are monsters. The little girl in the short is an innocent, wanting nothing more than to skip along in the woods and enjoy the bug and plant life, when she happens upon a stump with a dolly on it. The dolly itself is unusual, more like a voodoo doll than anything else, with a bloody paw-print adorning its stomach. And of course when the girl takes the dolly off the stump, it wakes the creature who made the dolly, wanting it back!

Some say even monsters have nightmares. Some monsters even need a teddy, or a dolly, to sleep with to keep their own dream-monsters away. That thought basically sums up the end of this wonderful and sadly far too short Horror cartoon short. Don’t steal another nightmares’ teddy, and if you do, give it back before the sun sets!

‘Hope’

Country: Norway

Director: Adam A. Losurdo

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and the world remains pretty much the same, with one or two tiny exceptions – the shuffling zombies still around. They don’t eat brains, they just kind of die and shuffle along, to be abused and ridiculed by the still-living. Here we have Carl, our zombie forever dressed like a soda jerk, completely without hope as he, you guessed it, shuffles along. Carl gets harassed by young girls on bikes, has his shoes stolen, gets his dumb self buried by the meanie living (not buried alive, reburied dead I guess), only to be rescued by a female zombie inevitably named Hope, and instant attraction. After a whirlwind romance, Hope is inevitably killed and that’s when poor Carl finally becomes the killer zombie he was meant to be.

The short is a fun little turnaround on who the real monsters are – the zombie who doesn’t even eat brains and never did no-one any harm, or the still-alive folk who keep bedeviling him. Everyone has a breaking point, even zombies apparently. After all, how would you react if the love of your unlife was slain (again!) in front of you?