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Highlights from Telluride Horror Show 2022

The 2022 Telluride Horror Show was another great year for horror, but that's no surprise. The event we look forward to every year did not disappoint, particularly in the shorts blocks that have become a fan favorite of the festival due to the scrutiny and dedication to quality from the curators. We'll go over some thoughts from a few feature films below and some highlights from the shorts blocks.

Feature Films

The Breach

I am a sucker for a horror movie that follows a skeptical detective or sheriff that slowly begins to realize there is more to their murder investigation than can be explained. The Breach follows this process and starts strong as a murder investigation spirals into chaos. The build is effective, but the payoff is mixed. There is a plethora of fantastic and gruesome body horror effects in the final act, but unfortunately they are interspersed among awkwardly conceived CG implementation and set pieces that feel disconnected from the dread that was built. The score and atmosphere also seemed to devolve towards the end with feelings reminiscent of a low-budget scifi action thriller, killing the momentum of the film's dread. The piece as a whole feels disjointed, with some ambitious scenes exceeding what the budget was capable of pulling off effectively, yet there were still some great moments for fans of the story structure and body horror effects.

V/H/S 99

It's hard to top VHS 94, for me, so it wasn't a letdown when 99 wasn't quite able to live up to that bar. Perhaps I'm allowing recency bias to sneak in, but I LOVED 94 so much that it rivaled the best in the series for me. Efrit brought up a good point that previous entries in the franchise were more creative in their execution, in particular the first-person view, but I loved the dedication to a wide array of creature and practical effects in every 94 segment that I was just more consistently entertained in that entry than any other. But I digress...I had to assume that 99 would go in different directions and those directions likely wouldn't tickle my fancy in the same way. And they didn't. But that's not necessarily a knock on 99. Each segment has its moments, with one story that twisted so harshly in its plot shifting that it felt like watching three different segments in one. And this entry in the franchise ends on a segment that rivals the best these anthologies have had to offer, as we follow two unsuspecting filmmakers who slip into the bowels of Hell. It's a truly amazing spectacle, especially considering the budget they were undoubtedly working with.

Something in the Dirt

The latest film from directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (Spring, The Endless) is a unique piece of filmmaking that we've come to expect from these two guys. It has all the pieces of a Moorhead/Benson joint; subtle cosmic and/or Lovecraftian themes, juxtaposed personal conflicts and dynamics between characters, and their witty, dry humor that is chopped up amidst the intrigue and quiet dread. This film has their fingerprint, but it also has a very fresh take on their style. The entire thing operates as a documentary, with interviews thrown into the action and cuts to relevant imagery amidst arguments and theories being processed and explained. But even the moments that feel like genuine filmmaking are alluded to being the two documentarians reenacting their own experiences and conversations, leaving the audience to wonder what's "real"...or "real fiction"...or...whatever. It adds all sorts of wrinkles and layers to the storytelling. And the storytelling is deep and full of ambiguity already. It becomes clear that this movie isn't about solving all of its questions, which may leave one with a sense of dissatisfaction, but it still leaves one thinking long after the credits roll; about the mysteries of the world and universe and the dynamics of our friendships. A true post-Moorhead/Benson-viewing symptom.


Short Films

Good Boy

Arguably my favorite short of the festival, this story follows a first-time dogsitter who must watch over, or more accurately, protect herself against the evil pomeranian she is supposed to be looking after. Some great visual gags ensue, but one of which went a tad too far for some viewers and may trigger those sensitive to harm befalling animals (of course, no actual dogs were hurt in the making of the film). Despite this, the short as a whole was a great dark comedy that plays out almost like a live-action Looney Tunes segment where slapstick practical effects abound.


The Coupon

In the same vein as previous entries like 2016's A Reasonable Request, this black comedy isn't as much horror as it is a whacky and raunchy dark exercise. It follows a wife who gifts her husband with a homemade coupon book, with one of the coupons offering a particular type of favor. After an accident, the coupon ends up in the hands of an unsettlingly stoic and relentless man who insists he has legal right to the coupon's offering. A plot that twists the fabric of our society ensues to much hilarity.


#valleyman

I had to bring up this short because the titular Valleyman made an appearance in character as we were waiting in line for the comedy horror shorts block. Such a brilliant play from the actor, as he stood completely still to a hilarious and disturbing degree about 25 feet from the line. It made the experience of the festival, the shorts block, and the short itself all the more enjoyable. It was awesome.


There were a lot of other great films and shorts that we didn't bring up here, but we'll keep an eye out for them as they become available outside of the festival circuit. Two feature films from the festival are already available on easily-accessible streaming platforms! Matriarch can be found on Hulu and VHS 99 is already on Shudder, so go check those movies out, and we'll see you at THS 2023!

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