The cinematic adventure that is the 14th annual Buried Alive Film Festival kicked off last night at the 7 Stages Theatre in Atlanta. It was a strong opening salvo as the below shorts block featured a smorgasbord of body horror, zombie survival, cannibalism, and sci-fi.
Onto the highlights…
SHORT BLOCKS #1 – “THE FIRST SHOVEL IN THE GRAVE IS ALWAYS THE BEST”
Tempura (Ujicha, Japan)
What better way to start off the night than briefly delving into the disturbing mind of Ujicha, who some of you may recall from his 2018 feature Violence Voyager. This short has the same hand-drawn, “gekimation” style that is equally charming and disturbing.
Two kids, Takeshi and Masashi (the latter hideously deformed and naked for some unexplained reason) are lost in the woods looking for their dog John. They’re confronted by an alien creature with a ray gun that turns living beings into deep-fried Tempura. You would think this falls on the lighter side of horror, but Ujicha’s animation has a way of making your skin crawl when your mind imagines how these scenes would look in the real world.
The Corpse Is Alive (Edmundo Barraza, USA)
We all have irrational fears, but what if the one you abhorred the most became reality? The elderly man of this film experiences just that when is deep-seated fear of being buried alive becomes a reality.
There’s a twist here with the man telling his son that when the times comes for his death, bury him with a cell phone and gun, presumably to call for help and if all else fails, commit suicide over starving to death. However, the narrative doesn’t quite come together as the story teeters too much between being serious and comedic. The scenes inside the coffin are shot well to convey the claustrophobic feel and desperation of the character, but all that is broken once the old man is “saved” with a flimsy explanation for why he gets dug back up.
Unholy Mole (David Bornstein, USA)
And we have our first gross-out film of the evening! While it’s not uncommon for some dads to experience newborn jealously, it is a bit out there for one to sacrifice his child’s soul just so his pregnant wife can have more time to make delicious guacamole.
Lots of fun here that includes an animated Devil in the style of the Samurai Jack cartoon, and gross-out body humor from the wife who begins to excrete guacamole from all her orifices. Not for the squeamish, but definitely for the demented.
I Learned To Drive At The End of the World (Miao, China)
When it comes to zombie apocalypse flicks, count me as a guy who prefers seeing it from the beginning where society completely falls into chaos. Director Miao takes a more personalized approach by centering the narrative on a loving couple. The woman is trying to learn to drive without much success. Luckily, she has a devoted partner who showers her with encouragement and consistently reminding her of the internal strength she possesses.
The adorable lesson gets cut short when the zombies descend and the woman must quickly execute the newly-learned instructions and to make a difficult decision that’s necessary to keep her sanity. That choice is to keep her now zombified husband restrained in the car as a calming influence (along with the futile hope he can still be saved).
A sad but beautiful story on how the mind deals with the trauma of losing a loved one.
Ferine (Andrea Corsini, Italy)
We men do our fair share of complaining about women and the dating scene, but it could be much worse. I mean, consider other species who literally have to avoid being devoured post-coital or sometimes even in the middle of the act.
Director Andrea Corsini does a wonderful job of presenting that dark side of nature as a practical means of survival for a feral woman. It even flows like a nature show, where we find the female emerging from the forest to lure, mate and then not just kill the male, but make his life useful as a hunting tool for her offspring.
And just like we may feel for a prey animal who suffers when snared by an apex predator, we also intuitively understand its the natural order of things. Every living creature plays a role in continuing the ecosystem. Ferine does the same. After all, we’re just animals ourselves, right?
Violence (Christian Meola, USA)
I’m always up for a good Creepypasta-style story! Shot up in Albany, New York guerrilla-style at a local supermarket (the director told a little lie that he was filming a love story in order to get permission), Violence is more of an assault on the senses instead of overt brutality. Urban legends from the 80s and 90s about human trafficking photos randomly being found helped inspire this tale of a woman’s curiosity making her an abduction target.
The polaroid pictures, a technology in itself that seems a bit creepy now in our modern world, become our only hint at what type of violence awaits these women.
Bavure (Donato Sansone, France)
In Ancient Greece, Aristotle came up with the concept of the “unmoved mover” as the God-like force that keeps the universe in order. This philosophy is a perfect way to view the “living painting” that is Bavure.
The film narrates the evolution of man from creation to self-awareness. This is depicted by a paintbrush that constantly updates the picture with new images (ranging from childbirth to space exploration). Things start to get sinister when mankind journeys too deep into space and is accosted by a more advanced alien species who meddle in our evolutionary path.
At only four minutes, Bavure is poignant as a straight-forward story or as a live-action, over the shoulder view of an artist’s creative process.
Hanako-San (Dan Tabor, USA)
Hanako-San is the Japanese urban legend of a girl’s spirit that haunts school bathrooms. Our protagonist is a young girl experiencing abuse sexual abuse and school bullying who seeks out Hanako-San in hopes of being granted vengeance.
The choice of splitting the film between live-action and animation was detrimental as the brooding tension of the black and white first half was broken by the vibrant animation and the over the top, final kill sequence.
Still, this a concept that can work as a feature hopefully Tabor opts to explore it more.
FIVE COURSE MEAL (James Cadden, Canada)
A couple decides to sign-up for a month-long, mysterious experiment with dire (and disgusting) results. The couple initially has the luxury of freshly prepared meals but quickly discover there’s something wrong as the cuisine makes them more and more hungry.
As time progresses, the pair get obscenely obese and animal-like until we get to the true purpose of the experiment — whether the hunger for food can override love and sanity. As you can see from the above picture, hunger wins out.
If you get grossed out by seeing other people eat sloppily, you won’t make it through this one. For the rest of you, enjoy the repulsive fun if you can track it down.
Hellevate (Dusty Brown, USA)
It makes perfect sense that Hell would be controlled by inept customer service. Welcome to Hellevate, where people who don’t understand they’ve been sent to eternal damnation must go through “new member orientation” to get acclimated with the 9 Circles of Hellfire. Everyone can relate to calling a company and getting bounced around numerous departments with no resolution in sight. Combining that with the”stuck in the elevator” motif was a stroke of brilliance.
Look, even in Hell you want a little bit of empathy. Maybe this guy’s complaint to old Beelzebub will lead to further company training.
Check back later today for a full review of the Day 1 feature Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made, and through Sunday for full recaps of each day of the Buried Alive Film Festival. Tickets are still available at https://buriedalivefilmfest.com/tickets/.