The second day of THS was another huge success, featuring a myriad of horror short blocks and a few much-anticipated films from the S&E crew. Here are our thoughts on what we saw on day 2!
Ha-Ha Horror Shorts
I finally caught the Ha-Ha Shorts for the first time at THS, as I always had obligations in another theater in previous years. But I was able to finally go this year, and it did not disappoint. Here were the noteworthy and favorite shorts for me from the block.
A woman is trapped in a Red Lobster commercial. In the vein of Too Many Cooks, this short was the highlight of the block, and perhaps all of the shorts at THS thus far. It impressed riot laughter throughout the entire short, and actually ended on a note that was mildly introspective. An amazing short.
While not horror for a majority of the runtime, Lemon Drink had one of the most hilarious premises of any short I've seen. A woman realizes that her boyfriend only speaks in movie quotes. And it's as awesome as it sounds.
Had THS dared to run the Squirm Shorts block again, Mouse most certainly would have headlined. It follows an addict couple that try to orchestrate easy money from a food company when they find a mouse in a can of beans. The laughs from this one were primarily to keep from vomiting.
When a husband-to-be drops his engagement ring down the garbage disposal and dies when trying to fetch it, his spirit discovers the ability to inhabit other bodies to continue a relationship with his grief-stricken girlfriend. This was my second favorite of the Ha-Ha shorts, because it does such a good job on the comedy delivery and telling a cohesive story.
We Summon a Demon
When two guys summon a demon to make one of them more "cool", the demon wreaks havoc and attempts to kill them. The creature design is on point and the comedic delivery is as well most of the time. It was one I'll remember.
This film follows two brothers who, a decade after escaping from a cult, return to the same community for closure. After experiencing odd disturbances and reconnecting with the cult members, the two brothers' sentiment towards the place separates and grows into a chasm, dividing the two. The tension grows as a prophesied ascension closes in, and the brothers have to decide whether to run again or stick around.
The Endless follows in the vein of the other Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead films, Resolution and Spring. As the two perfect their craft, it'll be easier and easier to tell what a Benson/Moorhead film is. And Endless is on that path to perfection. As with all of their films, the directors use unsettling tension and minimalist horror to drive characters with depth and expanse. Their Lovecraftian undertones are growing stronger with each new entry. This film isn't for someone looking for conventional, superficial horror. This film crawls through your skin to your heart strings. It isn't out for blood, it's out for substance. We're very much looking forward to more of what Benson and Moorhead have to bring to the table in the future.
Horror Qualifier" 6/10 Horror Quality: 4/10 Film Quality: 8/10
Cold Ground follows a documentary crew that goes into the mountains at the French-Swiss border to meet up with some biologists investigating a slew of cattle mutilations. The crew and their caravan of assistance soon discover that something has gone horribly wrong and they are being stalked by a sinister presence.
As far as found footage goes, Cold Ground is one of the better selections you could watch. I am particularly fond of horror films that dive into plausible explanations for happenings, even if these theses are never confirmed. Cold Ground does this in regularity during its first half while everything is revving up. The viewer gets theories while the crew is trudging along. And there is a lot of trudging. An inordinate amount. Trudging is the favorite activity of these characters, and it made it difficult perhaps unfairly because it was in the final late night slot. The slow burn has a pay off, but not a huge one. We never get a great look. Cold Ground didn't bring a whole lot of fresh content to the sub-genre, but it was a enjoyable take.
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 5/10 Film Quality: 5/10
Dark Fantasy/Sci-Fi Shorts
Killer spacemen from putter planet X - Retro and it knows it! This movie did a great job of giving that old school feel, but also letting you know it was making fun of all of it. Not really horror, but still super enjoyable.
It Began Without Warning - Kids will always be creepy, especially when they have a grotesque zit with teeth leading them around. This movie left me feeling uncomfortable and ready to forget puberty again.
Keep out of Children's Reach - While the overall premise is kind of interesting, it just comes off as mean and not really with any point. Plus, killing Santa is a dick move.
The Passenger - If you are going to show a short film at an American film festival, give us subtitles or else we will walk out feeling stupid for not knowing Russian. Cool alien.
DeamonRunner - This movie is what would happen if The Exorcist had a kid with Johnny Mnemonic. Excellent take on technology and the super natural, reminding us all that Ghostbusters is still cool. Like we would forget that...Haha.
Lunatique - This film was the closest we will get to a Fallout movie at the moment. That alone makes it awesome, but it is also not overly long and well-paced with an effective world aesthetic surrounding it.
Level - I love when video games get their own movies... Most of the time. But this one was kinda the opposite. I very much enjoyed this one, and even though you can figure it out pretty fast, it has the depth to easily turn into a series.
In most movies we typically see vampires are the bad guys. They are used as the main anrigonist of most horror films as they are freaking scary and supremely powerful. It is rare that we see the relationship reversed but Eat Locals does just this. Over the course of the film we get ro experience what it is like to be a vampire being hunted by a group of mercenaries. Of course they are funded by the church and need to eradicated all trace of the threats, but even trope end up being challenged. Suffice it to say that
Eat Locals is more than just a campy kill fest. We get to see common themes of silly horror movies challenged without the film having to take itself too seriously. As a final example of how well the film was able to pull this off, we get a glimpse of the inner workings of vampire society and how they rule without destroying the world's population. Think vampire economics. It is nice to be able to sit down at a horror festival and not be stuck watching the same old stuff (see What The Waters Left Behind). I would suggest this film if you are looking for a horror/action film with some pretty intelligent writing and great actors (Charlie Cox, Tony Curran, and Eve Myles).
Horror Qualifier 6/10 Horror Quality 4/10 Film Quality 6/10
Creep 2 So if you haven't seen Creep, go watch it now. It's an intensely awkward 77-minute emotional rollercoaster. Okay, so you're back now and holy hell that's one creepy killer right? And now that we know that's how the sequel is going to work. The gimmick was a one-shot right? Well not exactly, Creep 2 explores the midlife crisis of a serial killer. The gimmick here is that he finds an eager and desperate YouTube documentarian, who is willing to go on the strange journey with our creep. As sequels go, this is one of the rare occasions that I liked the second one more than the first, as it kept the tensions high, but felt less uncomfortable than the first. But then again perhaps the creep is just growing on me.
The film was followed up by a Q&A with the director Patrick Bryce. Patrick was a very charismatic individual and we got to hear quite a few interesting things about the movie. The original film only had Bryce and Duplass passing the camera back and forth, exploring strange personality types. Duplass was made for the creep character, and so they got to try a lot of things that may or may not have worked. Bryce mentions the second one was akin to Evil Dead 2, where they got to take the best parts for the first film and try new things. One of which was the addition of Desiree Akhavan as the character Sara. She added an interesting, new perspective as a director to influence the shooting, but also the new dynamic of adding a woman (something not seen or really referenced in the film before as a potential victim).
It was a big deal for Bryce and Akhavan to make sure Sara wasn't just a victim for Duplass' character and had her own motivations and reasons for being there. Finally we got some insight into the iconic Peachfuzz mask. Apparently they bought it from a Rodney Dangerfield impersonator who wanted to tell his own sorry when they asked for the rights to use his mask. Patrick Bryce was great and we cannot wait for another film.
Horror qualifier: 7/10 Horror quality: 5 /10 Film quality: 7/10