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Telluride Horror Show, Day 2, Sickle's Take

No surprise. Telluride Horror Show delivered on the goods again on Saturday with some great shorts and feature films! Below are Sickle's takes on the second day of THS's offerings:


The Head - The biggest mystery of THS was definitely The Head. I tried to find more info on it. Anything beyond the promising yet vague synopsis and this single image. But I couldn't find a single thing. And perhaps I'm better for it. Going in blind, I was able to endure The Head like a virgin. Whoops...unintentionally gross, but I'm not fixing it.

A medieval bounty hunter kills monsters until he can find the one that killed his daughter. What's not to like? The likely low budget isn't evident in most of the material, with excellent attention to detail in the setting, scenery, costume design and commitment to practical effects. I can't emphasize enough the clearly obvious production value that took every penny as far as it could go.

The limited screen time for monster mayhem is frustrating at times, particularly in the middle of the film when the mostly dialogue-less plot gets a tad repetitive while it tries to solidify everything we need to know through visual cues and behavior. While I love the lack of dialogue and narration, it leads to a little bit of a lull at times while the life and times of this bounty hunter are laid to bare.

The repetitive nature is also prevalent in the frequent scenic shots of nature and our bounty hunter's home base. It would be my opinion these were used for two purposes: to rightfully show off the attention to detail that better materializes the reality of the world, but also possibly to increase a runtime that was struggling to fill the generally accepted qualifications of a feature film. Either way, it was beautiful in a dank and dark sort of way, but just a little repetitive and drawn out due to excess.

It's of my opinion this movie is about the consequences of being consumed with vengeance. And while that conclusion is certainly up for discussion, I think a lot of the film's plot can fall into that metaphor. And I think it is something in this superhero age that works as a counter-point to what we consider normal behavior for a protagonist.

The climax with the monster was a well done hunt that felt like a combination of a medieval Predator final act and an obscure Isolation reminder. Despite my critical thoughts, I was overall impressed and would like to watch it again sometime soon.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 8/10

Horror Quality: 6/10

Film Quality: 7/10

The Dead Center - Psychological thriller meets supernatural horror as a detective searching for a missing corpse collides with a psychiatrist trying to help a catatonic man. The coinciding stories are great as we collect more information than the characters. It's helpful for understanding the situation, but it does take away some of the tension on our psychiatrist's side of things, because confusion isn't able to feed the fear.

I'm okay with that, because sometimes it's exhausting to be confused on what's happening. It's been a popular ploy of late, especially in primetime scifi/horror shows. So it was refreshing to have a movie heavy on the mystery, but giving us every avenue to explain what's happening.

Even then, we get plenty of haunting questions as things rev up. Our characters are rife with intrigue and humanity, even our "antagonist" of sorts is more a victim than a villain. It makes you severely interested in the survival and end result of almost everyone you see. There's plenty of compassion to go around in this dark tale.

The plot definitely hits a lull 1/3 of the way through, but it's not unbearable. At a film festival, these moments are far more apparent than a Friday night on Netflix when your mind allows for more patience to a film's progression. So it's easier to be unforgiving to pacing than the film deserves.

I think the product we receive in this film is the most intelligent of THS, providing a lot of depth into the supernatural and psychological. The brief moments exploring the rooms and hallways of the emergency psychiatric ward is eye-opening, just seeing what is likely every day life being perceived as mundane by the staff. Almost every aspect is engaging, even in the lulls.

The final act is a wonderful escalation of horror, taking us to the ultimate realization of a revelation that was materializing since about halfway through the film. We saw it coming, but still didn't know what to expect, which is a unique experience for a filmmaker to pull off. It's a great film worthy of more than one viewing.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 8/10

Horror Quality: 6/10

Film Quality: 8/10

Lords of Chaos - A semi-sensationalized tale based on the true story of the Norwegian black metal band, Mayhem. The film pulls from the perspective of guitarist Aarseth (Rory Culkin) primarily, using his person for voiceover/narration. The film boasts it's based on truth, only to quickly admit that it's also based on lies. And I suppose that's up to the audience to decide what's "Hollywood" and what's Mayhem.

It's worth noting the film's use of its cast. Rather than go the full Norwegian casting route with subtitles, the film featured a cast speaking English, largely with American accents on top of that. While it may be considered controversial or even offensive to some, I can see the defense for their choice. But more pertinent to the film's production, I just wanted to bring attention to the film for embracing their choice. Rather than try to run consistent accents for its cast, they almost all just spoke (as a generality) English with American accents. But rather than shift the whole setting to the United States, it stayed in Norway. So, taking a moment to remind yourself that Norway isn't a part of the US (sarcasm), you eventually adjust to the decision relatively quickly.

The film's tone caught me off-guard. I did not expect it to be as lighthearted or carefree as it was throughout the story. Its satirical nature at times reminded me of This is Spinal Tap of all things (without the docu-style approach, of course). I (along with most of the crowd) found myself laughing quite a bit at the antics of these black metal pioneers and enthusiasts, as they trip over their own facades to expose their fragile humanity all too often.

The film covers a BROAD spectrum of emotions and reactions; disturbing, brutal, depressing, revolting, elated, hilarious, intense, moving...but perhaps most of all, eye-opening. It's a fairly open book on a world many don't understand. And I think while it respects that many won't understand no matter how much they're exposed to it, there are many elements to their character and personality that is relatable to all...just their avenue of perceiving and thereby reacting to life is different.

The realism found throughout grounds the brutality of its true events, but also builds rapport with the real-life people portrayed. The emotions you experience is a lifetime's worth, as you journey through the life of this band and its self-proclaimed leader, Aarseth. This unique world that was Mayhem's black metal history was solely within those years of Oslo, Norway, and this film gives you a visceral glimpse into it.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 7/10

Horror Quality: 7/10

Film Quality: 7/10


The Front Door - A cult makes itself at home when a man leaves his front door unlocked. The awkward hilarity that ensues starts off great but starts to fizzle as the delivery and dialogue is diluted by a runtime that may have been a minute or two too long. But still, a great short. HORROR SHORT RATING: 6/10

Deep Sleeper - The definition of the word short, this film delivers the goods with a chaotically funny punchline. HORROR SHORT RATING: 8/10

Control - An OCD woman struggles to get her things in order before committing suicide. This short brought exactly what I was expecting. Sadistic humor blended with poignant commentary on both the conditions of OCD and depression. A fantastic short. HORROR SHORT RATING: 9/10

Netflix & Chill - A young man gets invited over for an evening of Netflix & Chill and all that implies...or so the evening is supposed to go...Funny and relevant to our current generation. HORROR SHORT RATING: 8/10

Sam Did It - A medical examiner/diener-type person discovers he's performing an autopsy on his favorite celebrity, Alfred Molina. I love shorts with celebrities, particularly because they are usually used to great effect, breaking the fourth wall. In this case, it does, and it works so wonderfully. HORROR SHORT RATING: 8/10

Right Place, Wrong Tim - A British sitcom is invaded by clones of the lead actor, turning into a disturbingly funny Too Many Cooks-type concept. Not as funny or disturbing as its American counterpart, but still quite enjoyable. HORROR SHORT RATING: 8/10

Chowboys - Umm...what was that? A chaotic mess of violent comedy, the plot of three freezing, starving cowboys hard to follow, and perhaps best for it. HORROR SHORT RATING: 6/10

The Ha Ha shorts are fantastic, as has become the custom of this festival. Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!

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