Telluride Horror Show kicked it off strong this year with some great films and shorts that we dove head-first into! It was an awesome start to what is sure to be a terrifying weekend in horror. Let's get into the reviews of the first day's smorgasbord, with Sickle, Efrit and guest writer Aaron.
Trench 11 follows a WWI soldier who is ordered to assist a squad on an expedition to a German trench believed to house secret experiments. While exploring the labyrinth beneath the trench, the soldiers are introduced to horrors beyond their comprehension and experience firsthand the abominations the Germans created.
This was by far the highlight of day 1 and the best way to kick off THS. It isn’t unheard of to merge horror with war drama, but Trench 11 split the blend’s ingredients at about 60/40, respectively, giving plenty of horror, but also diving into the conscience of war, particularly the humanity of WWI. The film was a microcosm of WWI soldier sentiment on both sides of the line, giving perspective to the lack of drive many soldiers had towards the end of the war. Dissension was commonplace amidst armies “adjusting” to trench warfare and shelling. This movie is able to integrate these concepts amidst familiar horror elements that help drive the plot. It was a clever and creative take and one I enjoyed immensely.
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 7/10 Film Quality: 7/10
This film follows a group of 20-somethings returning home from a trip when a tire blows out on a desolate stretch of road. With scant cell service, they attempt to replace the blown tire, but are quickly made aware that the sudden flat was not an accident. With a murderous sniper waiting in the distance, the stranded crew must find a way to survive the gunman’s deadly accuracy.
This film comes from the director of Midnight Meat Train and carries over much of the same perspective and vision that film had. The film isn’t meant to be taken seriously through its entirety, but it doesn’t dwell on its quirkiness for long. The power of the film is in its subtle homage to slashers of the 80’s. The film implies its descendants, while assuming a new weapon. It proves that a rifle can be just as violent and imposing as any sharp weapon wielded by serial killer predecessors.
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 8/10 Film Quality: 5/10
What the Waters Left Behind
This film follows a documentary crew that goes to the lost town of Epecuen that was flooded and evacuated years ago. After the flooding dissipated, it was left a haunting ghost town. As the crew’s vehicle breaks down, they are descended upon by a nasty family bent on their torture and murder. Can anyone escape with their lives?
This film could easily be considered a religious remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a new environment. The characters are nearly replicants of what you have already seen. The film is as ridiculous as a woman getting bitten on the leg by a constrictor and reacting like she was bitten by a viper. Yes, that happened. I did greatly appreciate the character and set design throughout. The integration of livestock bones and skulls into the weapons and costumes were very well done. It wasn’t the only redeeming quality, but it was hard to break away from the overwhelming similarities between it and Texas Chainsaw. Where it lacked originality, it made up for in spirit, cinematography and design.
Horror Qualifier: 9/10 Horror Quality: 7/10 Film Quality: 5/10
Fear Itself Shorts
The good and the not as good (also known as bad), and the Weird.
Agatha – Paying homeless children to feed your monster daughter only works if the kids are smart enough to not get eaten themselves. The buildup in this film is great and the payoff leaves you feeling a mix of emotions that are all very appropriate for this short block.
Father – Every year there is a movie about a monster that can only move when you are not looking at it, and every year it is great. This is this year's and it is fantastic. A neglected child whose mother is too busy bedding a man, gets stalked by a living corpse (which I can only assume is his father by the title).
Sweet Tooth – Sometimes the best thing to do when it comes to noisy neighbor’s children is getting them on your side by bribery, especially with candy! But this may have adverse side effects when the children suddenly die due to neglect. Good build with a solid freaking scary payoff. Best jump scare of the night.
Tickle Monster – Best film of this set by far. You know when you feel that small tickle on your neck? Make sure you don’t giggle or the Tickle Monster will get you. This had some of the most startling moments alongside some of the creepiest visuals. I would suggest this to anyone who wants to not sleep tonight.
Even the Darkness Has Arms - A very poorly shot film with a very interesting monster. Just ends up being too short to be anything but a bit of a letdown.
Teddy Bear Picnic – The lead up in this short is great but the lack of follow through on the crazy teddy bear thing is anything but.
Goodnight Gracie - When a father seemingly gets possessed by a demon and kills his family… No really that is it, nothing else.
Over There – The slow build of this film ends up not being anything but a kid losing his dad, seemed just sad at best.
Latched – Pulling influence from The Hallows, this film sees a mother accidentally get a fey creature addicted to her breast milk. Yes, I didn’t stutter. Ends up being funnier than scary but had a few unsettling moments.
The Pale House – When a squatter is hunting for clown-like vampires, he gets more than he expects when he finds them. This film had a very good creature design, but also came off more funny than really scary. Some good gore alongside the humor and horror though!
Rotary – Stylistically this film looks a bit rough, but it has some very creepy moments after things get going. It ends up being a creepy but classic home invasion flick. The title refers to a rotary phone which is little more than a macguffin.
Amy – Based on a true story about a serial killer, but then changes into a story about a crazy demon lady who tries to dehydrate people to death or something. I'm not quite sure, but I would definitely like to know more about what is going on here.
So I liked Mayhem, it was exactly the movie I wanted to see. It's not really a new concept, there is a virus that lowers people's inhibitions to the point where they are no longer legally responsible for their actions; a lesser rage virus from 28 Days Later, whatever is in The Crazies, or perhaps whatever convinced a studio to make The Happening. The "team up and fight your way to the top" trope is also not new, and this also makes this more of a gore-filled action flick, which feels out of place at a horror festival. But while it isn't the most original and not exactly a horror movie, it is a fun romp with a narration style that is super effective at drawing you in and providing some laughs that engages and wins over the audience, which is what you need to truly enjoy a tale of revenge.
Horror Qualifier: 5/10 (promise of violence, but not an overwhelming compulsion to carry t out)
Horror Quality: 5/10 (compared to many of the other things in this vein the violence is tame for the most part)
Film Quality: 7/10 (despite being filled with tropes this movie takes them and runs with them in a fun and satisfying way)