Unsure of what to expect, I was comforted by the presence of Sickle and Efrit for my first go-around for Telluride Horror Show 2020. This is where the real horror, and the actual Very Scary Movies™ are shown, right? Let's see how my first experience of THS is going so far!
“Dark Stories” (Anthology)
At the end of Day 2, I was able to experience “Dark Stories”, an anthology, and “Fear Itself”, a series of horror shorts. Going into “Dark Stories” I hadn’t ever seen a horror anthology before but, like all other horror films, I was eager to see what it was all about.
The film itself was interconnected by a possessed doll tormenting a woman after a scuffle in her basement. The doll ties up the woman, and she begins to recite scary stories to him to keep him placated until morning, when her family above can hopefully come to her rescue. She recites a story about ghouls in paintings, runners and ghosts, zombies, demons, and aliens.
This anthology really had something for everyone without pandering to the lowest common denominator. At first I was worried I had jumped into early-2000s CW-level CGI, but my fears were quickly calmed by the story of a ghoul who can move between paintings in an art museum. I let the special effects slide as the story felt fresh.
Afterward, the doll in the interconnecting plot wanted more scary stories, so the woman goes on to tell a story of a runner in a non-threatening-by-day park who ends up waking up on the park bench at night, and is chased by ghosts. This one felt forgettable, just your basic haunting with a modern twist. Still eager for more, and getting agitated, the doll demands more stories.
This is when the woman tells the story of Franck the Zombie- a man in limbo between life and death. Franck was offed by a mob boss, but is mysteriously awakened as if brought back for a “mission”. Possessing superhuman strength, Franck wreaks havoc on every cabinet and door around him while he wrangles his own intestines, loses digits and extremities, and kicks ass. This one was one of my favorites. The woman finishes up the story, and jumps into another about a demon haunting.
This one was also one of my favorites. I love horror where the Very Scary Thing™ is right in your peripheral. Here, a girl suffers what sounds like textbook sleep paralysis. We learn that she had traveled in the desert and had become afflicted by the presence of a jinn. A friend kindly states that it sounds like sleep paralysis and she needs to see a doctor. But the girl is convinced that it is a real demon and seeks help from an alternative medicine healer. I eat demon horror up, so I enjoyed this one.
The penultimate story told by the woman to the doll is of a man suffering delusions that he is the chosen one, the messiah, as he can hear messages from aliens after incidents in his youth where he saw UFOs and bright lights. Two filmmakers study him and his family intent on exposing the insanity of the man and the havoc it wreaked on his family. Left with another cliffhanger, the woman ends the story.
As she keeps peering into the window well to see if it is daytime yet, the doll taunts her, asking if she thinks she’ll be saved if the morning comes. The woman states she has one last story for the doll that brings our interconnecting story full circle, explaining why our captive was distracting the doll until dawn...one about an orphan that was left on the doorstep of a church that has an unusual appetite. The story wrapped up in a perfect box that ties everything together...This anthology was clever and ended on a humorous note while still keeping the gravity within each short story connecting them all.
I’m unsure on which platform this film will be available, but I recommend checking it out!
Good movie: Yes!
Scary movie: Yes it absolutely had some moments!
Horror Rating System (as a whole)
Horror Qualifier: 10/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 7/10
“Fear Itself” Shorts
The last feature for THS Day 2 was called “Fear Itself”, a series of scary short films that Sickle and Efrit swear by. I greatly enjoyed each one of these and I may end up being a huge fan of short films since the horror is turbo-charged to pack all the suspense and story into a short time frame.
A girl realizes someone is taking photos of her on her own phone while she is sleeping. Really unique sound design unlike anything I’ve heard- the relentless “click” and flash of the phone camera give you no time to get used to the tension building up as the photos don’t stop.
Face Your Fears
This one was about a pet sitter who refuses to be scared of the dark. Unknown figures, skittering sound effects, and vintage set design and props make for an interesting vehicle for the story. The girl attempts to face her fears by playing with an old jack-in-the-box, which spits out rhymes and instructions on how to play its game. If you win, you can see inside the box, which has the secrets on how to face your fears. The girl didn’t pass the test, does she win, or lose?
“Significant Other” was one of my favorites possibly for how unique it was. A couple are up in the middle of the night when the girl seems to be sleepwalking and turning a light switch in their hallway on and off. She exclaims that she can see a “red orb” with her eyes closed when the light is on. It’s difficult to put into words the odd tension a large, glowing “red orb” can inflict, but I ended up enjoying the reveal at the end.
We all have regrets, but not all of them show their faces in the form of shapeless shadow figures with unblinking eyes, too many teeth, and knives. This one was unbelievably good- they show just enough of the figure to make your primitive brain figure out what it is, but not too much that you can figure out what you’re looking at. Whether the black figure was symbolic for regret or not, a man is slowly chased through his hotel room by the figure that clearly intends to harm him.
A woman buys an antique, claw-foot bathtub. She takes a dip and, while enjoying the hot water, she is attacked by an entity connected with the tub. This one was a little cliche, but I can’t fault it for anything, other than being a little lukewarm.
Laura Hasn’t Slept
A recurring dream bothers Laura. She is lying on a couch in a therapist’s office and describes what the man in the dream does each time. She’s afraid of what may happen at the end of each dream. I was impressed with the acting, but the short exposition gives the entire mystery away. The reveal at the end was expected, but well-executed.
I hardly understood the premise of this one, but the end made me jump the most! An unknown entity is scaring two girls, and the older one is set on freeing them both from their blanket fort prison. Spoken in hushed Spanish, this short film had an almost ASMR vibe and was oddly charming.
“Selfie” was a satire of the world’s selfie culture, always hoping for more and more likes, and bigger lips, smaller noses, and clearer skin. A young girl is fed up with social media, and deletes all of her accounts to the horror of her friends. They warn her, “it” will come if she doesn’t reinstall her apps. A “selfie” creature with giant red lips, a tiny nose, enormous eyes, and perfect hair and skin then comes for her. It's quite terrifying and relevant.
Good movies? Absolutely, each of them very well done in their own regard.
Scary movies: See above!
Horror Rating System (as a whole)
Horror Qualifier: 10/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 9/10
Ending Day 2 extremely impressed for the future of horror films, I am looking forward to Day 3! Join us for the rest of THS as we continue our coverage!