Posing with Jonathan Craig from "Making Monsters"
You may notice that I, Sickle, don't look like my normal self...every year, Efrit and I possess bodies to attend THS, which is why you'll notice our voices will sound more "normal" on our THS podcast coverage at the end of the event. Just try to ignore it.
The bar for Telluride Horror Show has been set very high based on years past alone, but the bar was set even higher with a film list that had Efrit and I salivating. And the festival has definitely come prepared to meet those high expectations. Solely from a subjective point of view, the short films have always been a highlight of THS, which is a testament to their quality, not an indictment of the feature films. But this year, the feature films have upped the ante and have taken day 1 of the show. Let's do a quick review below.
Making Monsters follows a streaming personality couple that built their fame on scare pranks they are invited to a church-turned-home by an old friend, things go from weird to unsettling as they meet the friend's
Making Monsters pulls familiar concepts from other films, but succeeds in becoming a totally unique yarn. The film balances scares with humor and self-awareness with purity in its macabre elements.
I can't say enough to director Justin Harding's ability to push the film's narrative and quality is on full display through a story that is somehow simple and complex simultaneously. This film tackles many perpendicular thematic avenues perfectly, achieving raw entertainment value with engaging plot and character progression.
Harding's successful directing takes full advantage of the performances from Alana Elmer, Jonathan Craig, and Tim Loden. Elmer delivers with veteran skill, while Craig's turn reminds one of Creep at its most comically unsettling.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 8/10
Z follows a mother and father who try to resolve their son's social issues that have seemingly manifested into an imaginary friend named Z. As their son gradually develops violent tendencies, the couple must discover how to put an end to the imaginary friend.
Z is easily the most pure scary movie of THS so far. The imaginary friend angle is taken in a fun direction that focuses on the truly terrifying aspects of the concept. The director does a fantastic job of building suspense early and retaining it throughout. The final act has some moments that drop the momentum a bit, but it's not enough to kill the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the concept in which I would like to praise Z for the most would be a significant spoiler...but I would like to say that I rather enjoyed the concept of the imaginary friend. The approach produces a unique tale that is woven into a story that in some ways tackles similar family dynamics to that of Hereditary, but to a much smaller and less solemn degree.
I love the imaginary friend concept and it's been done in the past with lackluster results. Z proved to be a gem among them, with some legitimate scares and consistently tense atmosphere.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 5/10
I truly commend Hulu for its attempts to commit to horror, but it has struggled to produce quality at the same level as its quantity. However, this brilliant film from Under the Shadow's Babak Anvari will soon be released on the platform and will easily take the top spot among the streaming service's horror attempts.
Wounds boasts a horror efficacy and thick plot structure that is worthy of a full review someday. In the meantime, it will get my ringing endorsement as easily one of the best modern Lovecraftian horror films. Focusing heavily on the psychosis and chaos instilled in Lovecraftian horror, the progression of the malevolent forces behind the scenes build in such a coherent way that when the logic descends into senselessness, you have the proper state of mind to follow the path.
Wounds manages to be heavy on the symbolism and macabre metaphors while still delivering top-notch scares and disturbing imagery. The progression of the horror and atmosphere is perfectly executed until a finale that left all of us stunned in its abruptness.
The heavy use of cockroaches to drive the symbolic destitution of the characters' worlds will leave you squirming, while the regular jump scares and powerful tension will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Creature Fest Shorts Block
Check. - One of the best horror shorts out there about what lurks under the bed, partly because of its unusual premise and partly because of its execution.
It Crawled in Through the Window - This abruptly-launched short is simple in concept, but delivers in a unique way that makes it one-of-a-kind.
Abyssus - This claustrophobic creature feature was at its best before the underwhelming creature design arrives, but it deserves accolades for its powerful atmosphere and sound design.
Pathosis - While it didn't tackle its struggle with the intention I was expecting, this short was very well executed and featured some very creepy effects work.
The Fortune Teller - Easily one of my favorite creature designs, the short was simplistic, but had one of the best scares.
Night Crawl - This smart short was one of my favorites of the block with its "Descent meets Shawshank Redemption"-like approach.
The Burden - This Dutch short was arguably my favorite of the block because its story progression leading up to its big scare finale.