Last night, the Buried Alive Film Festival made a triumphant start to its 2019 event with a record 15 submissions for its Sinema Challenge and a monumental win from Mad Dove Productions for their short Lizzie as the best overall film.
The Sinema Challenge gives its contestants 14 days to make an original movie based on them participating in a random drawing to determine their genre, subject and a wild card entry (affectionately known as the “Card Against Humanity”). This means a director could end up in the body horror genre but have a subject like possession while also have to incorporate a wacky final concept like dealing with a bad hangover or a cop with nothing to lose.
Lizzie was dealt the cards of creating a found-footage zombie film with a twist of including anti-depressants. Make their task equally hard was having their lead actress drop out at the last minute
“So I became a DP turned actor,” quipped Leigh Taylor, who joined lead Lizzie actress K.D. O’Hair on stage.
The pair joked about being an improv team but that wasn’t really an exaggeration — their chemistry is undeniable on and offscreen. In the film, Lizzie’s descent into becoming the undead is interspersed with flashback milestone moments from her life (college graduation, a parent’s death etc.), making for an extremely tragic tale with an unsettling final sequence of the friend (Leigh) attempting to fight off her best friend turned zombie.
If you missed it, the film will be showing again this Sunday during the Closing Awards ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The winner of the 9:30 p.m. block and judges’ runner-up was Jeff Kaplan’s Dia Delos Muerto. Filmed over just three days, Kaplan took his inspiration from a recent visit to Mexico that left him with severe jet lag. With a premise of “meta-horror” combined with “small creatures,” Jeff has to contend with a demented, pocket-size version of himself creeping about his apartment (courtesy of a curse he picked up in Mexico). The crowd loved the visual absurdity of the little demon and gave the film a loud ovation upon the credits. You may remember Kaplan from season 2 of Cobra Kai (where he took a beating at the hands of Ralph Macchio) and you can keep up with his future projects at https://www.iamjkap.com/.
The other big winner was Cleaver Creek for the 7:30 screening block. Directed by Chris Cella, this one was an absolute riot with an annoyed redneck woman and her boyfriend continually failing to keep hapless visitors away from the Cleaver Creek area where her murderous, masked brother roams. But it wasn’t for some moral integrity that the woman is trying to save these new victims. No, it simply came down to being tired of disposing of the bodies her brother dumps around her property. Out of all the films, this got the biggest crowd reaction so hopefully it lands on YouTube.
Honorable Mentions to the other films:
Dollhouse (Young and Restless Productions) combined body horror with objectifying women for a creepy take on young women being conditioned to be like lifeless, obedient “dolls.” There were four makeup artists on set and they did a phenomenal job in making the actresses look vibrant but with an underlying sinister flair.
1959 Baymont Street (Nick Rosando) took us on the found footage journey of a killer executing a brutal home invasion. The twist comes from the director opting to shoot the entire project on a VHS camcorder found on eBay for the nifty price of $27.99. I’m personally a sucker for found footage flicks and the camcorder choice really gave this one a dirty and claustrophobic feel that perfectly meshed with the content.
The Legend of Dickfoot (Charles Hogan) is as crazy as it sounds. But when it was revealed that one of the card selections was “Finger Up in the Ass,” it then made perfect sense how we ended up with the tale of an evil offspring from a gorilla and bearded circus lady. Watch it HERE.
Walt Gurthie is a veteran festival creator and upped himself by submitting two films: Wifely Duties and The Tone. Splitting his production team in half worked out since the projects have VASTLY different presentations. Personally, I loved the artful visuals of Wifely Duties but felt The Tone’s concept has feature potential. Check them out below.
The Cataract needs to be seen simply for the fact the actress is able to safely dig sharp items in her eye. Yes, you read that correctly — no props were used during those scenes and the director revealed most of the cast would get squeamish when she did it. Premise-wise, the monster here targets victims based on an identifying marker in their eye, hence the need for our protagonist to remove it.
Seth Kays’ Disturbance had one of the more unique concept mashups with possession being combined with the drug Adderall. The twist he put on it was having the Adderall user being the only sane one as everyone else in the house fell under the sway of demonic power.
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the director’s full name (Brian) on The Devil’s Asshole, which showcases a chili demon who has self-hate issues regarding his homosexuality. A happenstance meeting with a woman submitting her chili for a work office competition helps said chili demon come to terms with his rectal fixations. I wish I could show you guys a screenshot of the chili demon head’s so fingers crossed this hits YouTube or Vimeo soon. This was another big hit with the audience.
Night of the Vampires IV was the first entry of the 9:30 screening and probably had the most frenetic pace of all the submissions. The metal soundtrack is our only audio so this had a strong music video feel as we followed a man desperately trying to elude a brood of bloodsuckers.
I, Home was the offering from Eric Kays, who won last year for the hilarious Ouija Bored. Although his combo was SciFi and gothic horror, Kays managed to inject some humor in his tale of a lovestruck cop coming to terms with her sadistic lover, who happens to have turned is ex-wife into a living conduit to power his house. Kays admittedly wrote it during a week where sleep was minimal, which he joked is apparent in the deliberately stilted dialogue.
If you’ve ever been annoyed at watching bubbly YouTube couples, then you’ll get a kick out of Samantha Thompson’s Ragin Ritos. Working with demonic possession, found footage and “zesty breakfast burrito,” we get to see a social media foodie slowly turn into an insatiable, mindless cannibal. This one was good for laughs and you can only imagine how quickly this would’ve gone viral in the real world.
Finishing up the list was Tome, a story about a man whose desire to save his terminally ill sister leads him down a path of witchcraft and human sacrifice. Although mostly a dark topic, the humor came from the Cards of Humanity selection requiring the use of an uppercut, which one the potential victims awkwardly lands on the protagonist during a scuffle.
Check back tomorrow for a recap of the official Day 1 (Thursday, November 14) events including the premiere of Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made and two film blocks of shorts beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available at https://buriedalivefilmfest.com/tickets/.