TCFF19 CringeFest Shorts Block Reviews – chills, thrills, & post-apocalyptic frills

TCFF may have come and gone, but hey, doesn’t mean that we’re all done with our coverage and reviews. Just in time for Halloween, we’ve got reviews of 9 horror/thriller films in the Cringe-fest shorts block. Thanks to our horror reviewer Laura Schaubschlager.

For all the TCFF coverage, type TCFF2019 in the search box on our homepage.


I was lucky enough to spend my Tuesday night at TCFF’s Cringe Fest – a block of 9 short horror films advertised as “chills, thrills, and post-apocalyptic frills.” Because of the number of films, I’ll keep my reviews of each brief, but overall, this was a spectacular variety of shorts and it absolutely delivered on its promised chills and thrills.

Killer Hike 7

I had the same problem with this film that I had with Puppet Killer: it makes fun of teen slasher movies, but it doesn’t have any new takes-it just points out how the teens are played by older actors and the characters each fit into specific tropes; again, even the jokes about the horror cliches are cliches themselves. I will say that the cast was a lot of fun to watch despite the stale material; they all gave really over-the-top performances that could have been embarrassing if done wrong, but were genuinely entertaining thanks to this talented group of actors.

Meat Eater

I’m not even sure I should review this one, since it is really short-a couple minutes long at most. We see a young woman running through the woods, trying to escape an unseen tormentor, towards what she hopes will be her salvation. It does manage to keep the suspense high despite its short run time, which is impressive.

Footprints

This one could have easily been boring-a supernatural found footage movie sounds almost lazy-but I really enjoyed it. The found-footage style really worked with the dark, snowy forest setting, and using the set-up of a husband suspecting his wife of cheating as a framing device was a creative way to tell a story about an otherwise traditional movie monster.

Wrong Level

Based on “The Elevator Game,” an internet urban legend about riding an elevator to a different dimension, Wrong Level follows a young man trying to rescue his girlfriend by playing the game himself. As silly as it sounds, I actually think the “Elevator Game” story is kind of creepy, and it’s a great idea for a short film; the tension literally rises as the elevator ascends. The set-up allows for excellent pacing, which isn’t easy for a short film.

Break In Break Out

This was another suspenseful, well-paced short, and is one of two fantastic films by the talented Michael Drisoll in the Cringe Fest block. Not only is it wonderfully tense and full of twists (I don’t even want to try and describe the plot because I worry I’ll give too much away), but the color scheme and lighting are also gorgeous in a gritty sort of way.

Frost Bite

I didn’t expect a zombie movie to make me cry, but Frost Bite managed it. The young actress playing the girl leading the zombie across the frozen wasteland is incredibly talented. The zombie effects are creepy and well-done. And if the ending doesn’t make you shed at least one tear, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

The Birdwatcher

A quiet, awkward corporate employee on a birdwatching hike through the woods stumbles upon a potentially dangerous situation and has to decide what to do. With the majority of the focus on one actor with absolutely no dialogue, The Birdwatcher is lucky to have a talented lead- he’s goofy and charming but mysterious enough to make you wonder if there’s something darker going on with him. I also really enjoyed the ending; the short did a great job of building up to it, and it struck the perfect balance of comedy and horror.

To The Boats

The second film in the Cringe Fest lineup by Michael Driscoll, To the Boats follows two men running to the coast of England, trying to reach their final method of escape from the horror of their once beloved home country. This movie is visually stunning, with some gorgeous, sweeping shots of the countryside and coast, and the actors give a gripping, emotional performance.

Check out Ruth’s interview from last year with Michael about this film.

Mr. Sam

Oh, boy. This movie was…a lot. It’s about Sam, an eccentric mortician and his relationship with his mother, a young girl he tutors, and the corpse of a man he’s infatuated with. There are a lot of incredibly dark topics in this film-rape, incest, child abuse, and necrophilia-that feel like they’re mostly there for shock value. I’m not saying dark subjects shouldn’t be included in movies, but because this was a short, there was no time to explore them, and it never felt like there was a real reason for them to be there, as there barely seems to even be a narrative arc, just these loosely strung-together plot points. The cast is good, with Sam and his young student being the stand-outs, and hopefully their roles in this lead to bigger projects, but this was an uncomfortable film to end on.


Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews and interviews!

 

 

TCFF19 Horror/Thriller Reviews: Puppet Killer + Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street + 3 Day Weekend

We’ve already reached halfway of the film fest!! You can search TCFF2019 for ALL of the posts we’ve done so far this year.

Check out the recap from Saturday (thanks to our media producers + TCFF interns!):

Well, since it’s almost Halloween, here are a trio of horror/thriller reviews of films screening at TCFF! Thanks to our horror reviewer Laura Schaubschlager. Two of the films below are screening Wednesday night.


I love that Twin Cities Film Fest happens to be right before my favorite holiday (Halloween, in case that wasn’t obvious). I’m already in the mood to binge watch horror movies in the weeks leading up to the 31st, and the festival gives me a chance to see ones that I might not have heard of otherwise. I’ve been lucky enough to watch a few screeners ahead of the festival, and what I’ve seen is a promising sign of what should be another fantastic TCFF season.


Puppet Killer

Looking for a more traditional horror flick for your Halloween fix? Check out Puppet Killer for a fun, bloody parody of teen slasher movies. When Jamie (Aleks Paunovic) is a little boy, his stepmother mysteriously goes missing-but he’s convinced she was murdered by Simon, the fluffy pink puppet his late mother gave him. Ten years later, Alex returns to the cabin in the woods where his stepmother disappeared for Christmas break with his girlfriend Jessie (Lisa Durupt) and their friends Curtis (Lee Majdoub), Rick (Richard Harmon), Brooke (Gigi Saul Guerrero), and Lee (Kyle Cassie).  They find the seemingly innocent puppet in the basement, and soon after, the bloodbath begins.

The writing in this movie isn’t spectacular; it’s clearly meant to poke fun at teen slasher movies, but it doesn’t say anything new about the subject, and some of the jokes about horror cliches feel like cliches themselves. There are also these two characters, a couple sisters trying to hide the body of a guy one of them killed, who show up maybe 20 minutes before the end of the movie whose subplot is never acknowledged or resolved; they’re pretty much just there for a couple extra kills, and considering the movie already has a solid group of high schoolers, more serial killer fodder seems unnecessary, especially when the characters add nothing else to the story.

That said, this is still a really fun movie. In traditional teen slasher fashion, the actors cast as high schoolers are obviously older than their characters, and in this movie, I mean obviously; Alex Paunovic as the main teen, Jamie, is 50 years old. This makes several bits of dialogue extra funny, and the actors are clearly having a lot of fun in their performances as obnoxious, melodramatic adolescents. As far as horror goes, the movie has some fun, solid kills, with decent and bloody practical effects.


Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (doc)

If you’re not a Nightmare on Elm Street fan, you might wonder why anyone would make a documentary about the second installment of the popular 80’s slasher franchise. But Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is more than just one of many sequels: it’s a movie laden with gay subtext and stars a young gay actor, Mark Patton, who, at the time of filming, hadn’t come out. The mid-80’s were especially hard for the LGBTQ community, thanks to the AIDS epidemic being at its peak and causing the public to demonize homosexuality. For an up and coming movie star who felt like he had to stay in the closet to protect his career, the overt homosexual tone of Freddy’s Revenge– and writer David Chaskin’s insistence, after the movie received negative reviews, that he hadn’t written it that way and that it was Mark’s performance that made the movie gay- halted his path to stardom and forced him into a life of obscurity. He went off the grid, living in a small town in Mexico until 2010, when he was tracked down to be a part of Never Sleep Again, a documentary about the Nightmare franchise.

Since then, Mark has embraced his role as a male “scream queen” and gay horror icon, attending several conventions and using his celebrity platform to talk about bullying and homophobia in the horror community. The documentary is not only a fascinating exploration of Mark’s acting and personal journey, but an insightful look at how homosexuality was viewed in the 80’s (especially in Hollywood), and why many members of the LGBTQ community connect with the horror genre.

The documentary is also narrated by Cecil Baldwin, a gay horror icon in his own right (he’s the lead in the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale), adding to what is already an excellent film.


3 Day Weekend

Okay, this isn’t exactly horror-it’s more of a thriller- but the idea of being alone in the woods and stumbling across what at first appears to be a kidnapping gone wrong, then trying to evade the criminals with no car and a phone with no service, is a pretty scary concept. When Ben Boyd (Morgan Krantz) goes on a solo camping trip in the middle of the woods, he discovers a bloody mess in the front seat of one car, a woman (Maya Stojan) bound and gagged in the trunk of another, and the apparent kidnapper (Nathan Phillips) chasing after him. But all is not as it seems, as more of the story is revealed through the different characters’ perspectives.

This movie jumps into the suspense quickly and maintains that tension throughout the hour and twenty minute run time. There’s next to no dialogue, which allows the actors’ talent to really shine. It’s well-paced, allowing a pretty even amount of time to focus on each character’s perspective.

The story-telling gets a little murky and convoluted toward the very end, and some of the brief bits of dialogue feel forced or out of place, but overall it’s a gripping mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat and constantly going “Wait, what?!” at every new reveal.


Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews and interviews!

 

 

FlixChatter Review – HALLOWEEN (2018)

guestpost

Directed by: David Gordon Green

2018’s Halloween follows Final Girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after her traumatic run-in with Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) during his Halloween night killing spree. Now an agoraphobic survivalist, she prepares for Michael’s inevitable return, putting a strain on her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). When Michael does escape during a transfer to a different prison, Laurie fights to protect her family and end things once and for all.

This is easily the best Halloween sequel in the franchise. It’s only really a sequel to the first film, thankfully ignoring the following 7. It feels nostalgic with plenty of little nods to the original film (including liberal use of the iconic score, which I love; it’s basically the soundtrack to the Halloween season, not just the movie). Even some of the lighting choices have a 70’s vibe. It’s still a classic slasher film that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash of the first movie. It’s definitely bloody, but it doesn’t feel excessively gory, keeping a surprising amount of the actual kills offscreen and keeping the ones that are shown pretty quick and straightforward, although there is one notable and horrifying exception toward the end of the film that makes me question the durability of the human skull.

Acting-wise, this movie has a strong cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as always, striking a good balance between hardened survivor and emotional victim. Judy Greer is delightful in everything she’s in, and this is no exception. Newcomer Andi Matichak gives a solid, likable performance. Despite not getting tons of screen time, Karen’s husband Ray (Toby Huss) has some funny moments. The supporting cast is good but not necessarily stand-out, with the exception of Jibrail Nantambu as Julian, the baby-sitting charge of Allyson’s friend Vicky (Virginia Gardner). This kid is hilarious and one of the best parts of the movie. Hopefully we’ll see more of this young actor in the future.

As with any movie, Halloween isn’t perfect. There are some questionable editing choices that don’t match the tone of the movie that they really only use in the first half. There are some weird character choices that don’t feel fully developed and don’t really go anywhere, especially with true crime podcasters Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) and Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall), Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold), and Michael’s doctor/Dr. Loomis’s replacement, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer).

Overall, though, Halloween is an excellent addition to the franchise and a great horror movie overall. I would absolutely recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something spooky to watch for the Halloween season.

laura_review


Have you seen the latest HALLOWEEN? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – The Nun (2018)

guestpost

While I’m a fan of horror in general, I prefer the supernatural/paranormal sub-genre, and The Conjuring film series is easily one of my favorites out of the more recent paranormal horror movies. I always try to go into screenings with an open mind, but I couldn’t help having high expectations with The Nun.

The Nun follows Father Burke (Demian Bichir), a priest who specializes in paranormal investigation, and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), a novitiate about to take her final vows, to an isolated convent in Romania to look into the death of a nun. Joined by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the French-Canadian expatriate who discovered the corpse, the investigators discover an ancient and dangerous force of evil that manifests itself in the form of a demonic nun.

While The Nun is certainly a lot of fun, it’s hardly the best out of The Conjuring series. The biggest problem with it is its heavy reliance on CGI. While all the films in the series use CGI to an extent, they mostly achieve their scares through strategically shadowy shots and tense pacing. While they still utilize that method here, they place more focus on special effects to the point where it packs less of a punch. The demonic nun’s CGI face is especially silly.

The Nun also makes the mistake of beginning and ending with scenes from the first Conjuring movie, which just feels clumsy. Despite the films being connected, the scenes don’t blend well with the overall movie, and it’s confusing for people who haven’t seen the first film; the friend I attended the screening with had never seen the other movies and had to ask me what the scenes were about afterward. People who have seen the first movie would have still been able to appreciate the connection between the movies without having the scenes included, so there really is no good reason for having them there.

All that said, The Nun is still an enjoyable horror movie. A crumbling convent in the middle of a Romanian forest is the perfect setting for a story like this, providing a rich, dark atmosphere. Despite the cheesy CGI, there are still plenty of well-done and unpredictable jump scares. Lastly, the cast is excellent. Taissa Farmiga (sister of The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 lead Vera Farmiga) is no horror novice herself, and she shines in the role of Sister Irene, giving a likable and compelling performance. Jonas Bloquet is entertaining as Frenchie, providing enough levity without being just comedic relief, managing to portray a genuine, sympathetic character. Demian Bichir is fine as Father Burke; he’s not bad, but he’s not exactly memorable either, besides an unintentionally hilarious entrance in a flashback scene that cracked up my friend and me.

While The Nun isn’t necessarily going to be a horror classic, it’s still a decent addition to The Conjuring series, and seeing it is a nice way of kicking off the Halloween season.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘THE NUN’? Well, what did you think?