The weekend has arrived and the Buried Alive Film Festival went all-in with three feature films, a live soundtrack performance and a 1.5-hour block of short films spanning seven hours! Suffice to say, everyone got their money’s worth and then some.
SHORT BLOCKS #2: “GRAVEWORM’S FINEST”
Deathyard (Daniel Ballard and Tyler Hellhake, USA)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Mad Max when we’re introduced to the murderous Lively family and their “deathyard,” a car disposal yard that doubles as a dumping ground for victims. The Lively’s are a disfigured bunch short on words and equipped to the nines with mallets, sledgehammers and other instruments of death.
We get a cool cat n’ mouse style hunt with a young couple attempting to elude the Livelys first in the open countryside and then through the deathyard itself.
While the overall story concept is nothing new, Deathyard’s use of overhand shots, closeups of the victims when in hiding and the extended chase motif made this one of the most entertaining shorts in this block.
Hatch (Tyler March, USA)
Don’t let the bugs in! This literal one-minute shorts tells a cute tale of bug entering a snoring man’s body and releasing dozens of eggs. It’s over too quickly to really get deep into it, but the animation style makes for a good chuckle at the end credits.
Ferry (Tyler Hatch, USA)
I have to say, this one was pretty effective for being another one-minute short. A working stiff commuting on a ferry has no idea that he and everyone on the ship have drowned in a freak accident. That is until what he thought was the rescue is in fact demons dragging him to Hell. I loved the medieval feel of visuals on the below final scene.
The Death Vendor (Jeon Jinkyu, Korea)
Some folks have a soul too good for this world. I had this immediate conclusion at the end of this short detailing a boy’s realization that the baby chicks in the market are being sold to their eventual deaths. He eventually gets up the courage to buy and “save” one of the chicks, but this requires him to do business with the chicken vendor, who the boy now views as death incarnate.
The animation style is light but very effective in conveying a child’s fear of things they consider “larger than life.” The skull version of death was effective but not in a “scary” way — it more so conveyed the awe of confronting a cosmic presence.
Metamorphosis (Juan Fran Jacint and Carlos Pereira)
I believe this film is the only claymation offering of the entire festival. Our story deals with an aimless man in his 30s who still lives with his mother and finally decides to evolve and break free from his mundane existence. The dreary feel surrounding his life is depicted in his warped appearance (including his dog and mother). In the end, we discover his “evolution,” which initially appears to be a hanging suicide, was actually him cocooning and emerging as a butterfly.
Jac Kessler’s Popsy (Jak Kessler, USA)
An adaption of a Stephen King short story, Popsy clocks is our longest short clocking in at 31 minutes. It follows Briggs Sheridan, a gambling addict desperate to come up with funds to repay the local loan shark (played by the always snarky Ted Raimi). His plan involves kidnapping a young girl, which unwittingly puts him in the crosshairs of her vampire protector. Of all the films, this was the one protagonist whose death no one shed a tear about.
D Is For Demon (Steven Stull)
Guilt manifests itself in various ways. For the philandering husband in this story, it comes in the hotel with his mistress as she needles him about his failing marriage. In a rage, he strangles and bludgeons her to death. Or does he? After seemingly waking up from the nightmare, we see little cues that this isn’t a dream at all, but possibly his own personal Hell.
No bad deed goes unpunished.
MJ (Jamie Delaney, UK)
In a world where mass shootings are the norm, it’s unsettling to know you have no idea when you’re in the vicinity of an unhinged and potentially violent individual. Said person could be your friend, a co-worker or even a lover. Enter “MJ,” a young woman looking for acceptance on social media. That addiction to the viral world soon turns violent with dire consequences for her friends.
A simple reminder that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for insanity.
Another (Park Yeon, Korea)
Even in the supernatural world, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Meet The Live Kid and The Ghost Kid, who encounter each other one night in the former’s bedroom. Ghost Kid has a desire to replace the Live Kid in the real world and does so. But instead of this being horrific, it turns out the Ghost Kid realizes he’s now in the prison of real-world requirements (school, studying, chores). He’s miserable while the Live Kid is ecstatic at now being able to breach the barriers of time and space.
Tough luck, Ghost Kid! This was a fun twist on typical ghost and possession stories.
Night of the Fluffet (Raymond Wallace, USA)
Alright, this one is without question the most ridiculous film shown tonight. A fluffet is essentially child-size stuff animal (think Elmo). Unfortunately, this one comes alive and is running around in a family’s home, leading to shotgun-wielding grandparents and other hijinks to bring the wild fluffet down.
Honestly, the fluffet was still kind of adorable even as a psychotic killer, so I was rooting for it and glad he “got away.”
Budfoot (James Sizemore and Tim Reis, USA)
This was one of the big hits of the festival and with good reason. The premise finds toymaker Jo Carver’s new creation coming to life and trying to kill him.
The toy itself goes by “Budfoot” and claims to be from another dimension. And whatever dimension Budfoot is from, apparently good weed is in abundance out there!
The Jo Carver character’s physical comedy when chasing around and avoiding Budfoot’s murderous traps delighted the crowd enough to where I’m confident we’ll see this take home one of the awards on Sunday night.
VFW (Joe Begos, USA)
There is no hyperbole in the statement that VFW is the goriest film at this year’s festival. But it’s not like the film’s premise doesn’t warrant it. How else do you tell the story of a group of Vietnam vets defending their favorite bar from a group of opioid-addicted humanoids?
VFW stands for “Veteran of Foreign Wars” and director Joe Begos has assembled quite the gang, which includes Stephen Lang (Avatar), William Adler (Die Hard 2, The Mist), Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks) and Fred Williamson (Black Caesar, From Dusk Til Dawn). Hell, a movie of these guys sitting around swapping stories could be entertaining enough, let alone them brutally slaughtering countless waves of mutants.
The guys are minding their own business when a young girl, who’s stolen the local kingpin’s drug supply, crashes into the bar seeking shelter. That puts the entire group in the kingpin’s crosshairs as they fight for their lives.
From the dark, Mandy-style visuals to synth-heavy 80s soundtrack, experiencing this movie is like grindhouse meets the Alamo with a heavy helping of Robocop-style violence. Dismemberment and hatchets to the head come in abundance. Shotguns blasts making heads explode? Check. Oh, how about a few epic one-liners after impaling someone? It’s covered.
Backed by Fangoria, VFW knows its target audience and checks all the appropriate boxes to satisfy their bloodlust.
SAMADHA GIVES A SPIRITED NEW SOUNDTRACK TO THE CALL OF CTHULHU
At 10:30 p.m., we were treated to instrumental band Samadha giving the 2005 film The Call of Cthulhu a fresh coat of musical paint.
Although not an older film like their work last year with The Golem, The Call of Cthulhu is a throwback work done in the style of a silent film, allowing for Samadha to easily fit their arrangements over the visuals.
Their use of rolling rhythms punctuated by hard drums gives Cthulhu a greater urgency than the original, and also adds an aura of brooding danger.
You can learn more about Samadha at https://www.facebook.com/Samadhamusic/.
Hellbound (Ben Winston, USA)
If there was ever a perfect film for the midnight feature slot of the Buried Alive Film Festival, it’s Hellbound. A throwback biker film through and through, director Winston financed it from insurance funds secured from a bad accident and shot it entirely on Kodak 16mm film.
Our main leads are Jim and Fred, two carefree bikers enroute to a secluded cabin in the mountains for a night of booze and drugs. Along for the ride is Fred’s mouthy girlfriend Chrissy, who turns out to be the smartest of the trio when she correctly deduces the dangers when they’re accosted by a coven of sexy witches.
The beauty of the witches disarms the fellas who unwisely let themselves be lured back to the witches’s home where they’re brutalized and raped.
With a run time of one hour, the final 20 minutes is shot like a frenetic psychedelic nightmare. The black and white choice gives the final sequences a heightened sense of dread and makes it obvious there will be no happy endings for any of our victims.
Outside of a few extended nudity sequences that felt like male gaze indulgence, Hellbound accomplishes exactly what it set out to do — pay homage to 60s and 70s biker cinema with a modern witches aesthetic.
Tickets for the remaining days of the Buried Alive Film Festival are available at