Day 2 of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival switched gears by giving us two feature films and a short film block focused on the dangers of “Blood Relatives.”
Catch up here if you missed our first day recap!
SHORT BLOCKS #3 “BLOOD RELATIVES”
Amber (Andrew Wynkoop, USA)
A private detective goes on a statewide hunt for a kidnapped girl. However, this amber alert proves the girl isn’t the one who needs saving. This one was very atmospheric and the film morphs from chasing a killer to a ghost haunting over the last few minutes. It begs an unanswered question of where guilt lies when a child is killed. The chilling ending and phrase (“You left me alone”) was my favorite of this block.
Bakemono (Sumire Takamatsu, Jorge Lucas, USA)
A Japanese-American family makes the mistake of trying to scare their child into eating dinner, leading to the young girl embracing the legend of hungry demon. Like most children, the girl sees the good in everything and tries to befriend a demon that’s hellbent on possession. Good pacing and the directors made sure the “bakemono” entity had different versions (spirit self vs. human possession) to give it a distinct difference from the usual “undead” look we see with demonic possessions.
SHHHH (Jonathan Mordechay, Israel)
They never told you that having a baby and the countless sleepless nights would have you contemplating murder. The most absurd entry in this block finds a couple at odds over each not being quiet enough to keep their restless baby from crying. What initially is finger wagging and dirty looks turns into a Spy vs. Spy type showdown with knives and bone-breaking to get even.
And even still, a murder in progress is no excuse to wake the baby.
Beserk (Mairin Hart, USA)
Poor Matthew is seeking treatment for having obsessive thoughts about murdering his wife. His doctors create virtual reality therapy which allows Matthew to act out his rages “safely.” But soon, we begin to wonder where the line is between reality and fantasy. As you can see from the above image, the murder images are very well done and we’re left wondering if the clinical trial was a failure or a success. Only Matthew knows…
The Shallows (Martin Thomas, Norway)
Dreams are where you mind works out you desires and fears. In this film, sleep becomes this man’s worst enemy as it brings to life his biggest regret — the accidental death of his child. The accident is symbolized by a handball seen throughout and it’s particularly poignant to see it with the main character by film’s end, implying his proverbial healing is completely in his own hands.
Unlocked (Timothy Truesdell, USA)
Rarely, it’s the monster who picks the wrong house to break into. A mom and her son come home to find their door ajar. A brief investigation leads to the discovery of a pale, humanoid monster, but little does this creature know that mom and son have high-powered shotguns and rifles stashed. It was about time we saw a film with people exercising their right to bear arms! A little more cat and mouse with the monster would’ve been nice, but then again a gun tends to swiftly end encounters like that.
Zoom and Gloom (Nicholas Jones, UK)
While the doctor diagnoses, the virus grows. For the last 28 days, Lina has been suffering from a mysterious infection after a supermarket trip. This was in the midst of a unnamed pandemic (hint, hint), her husband begins worrying about her constant coughing and erratic movements, particularly around her son. Her alarming behavior is juxtaposed against her husband’s zoom call doctor consultation, and it’s readily apparent that the doctor isn’t taking this as seriously as he should. Quarantining doesn’t work, and by the time the hazmat suit people come, it may just be too late for their son.
Uncle Daddy (Conrad Schapansky, Brad Chornoby, Canada)
Ok, so for this one imagine Leatherface’s family from the the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. But imagine them more inbred… and more stupid… and a mountain-sized matriarch that can throw hands with the best of them. Oh, and don’t forget the grown twins with the intellect of 2 year olds! That’ll begin to give you an idea of what you’re getting into with “Uncle Daddy.” This family, the result of a nuclear testing fallout, do battle with three heroines who find themselves trapped while “mushroom foraging.”
While this may be too over the top for some, for those who like when their horror falls into the screwball lane, you’ll feel right at home.
FEATURE #1: STAY OUT OF THE F**KING ATTIC (Jerren Lauder, USA)
Ex-cons have it hard trying reintegrate back into every day life. Their record is a constant reminder of past mistakes and the higher consequences should they again find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Here, we find three ex-cons who realized there’s strength in numbers and banded together to create a movers service. All was going well until they meet a brooding client who’s not only hiding his sinister identity, but also nefarious secrets throughout the home.
Stay Out the F**king Attic takes two risks that pay off well. One, much time is spent early on with the ex-cons’s back stories and personalities courtesy of their work banter and overall great chemistry. We have the everyday man in Carlos (Bryce Fernelius) trying to now do right by his daughter, the outspoken Imani (Morgan Alexandria) who fiercely guards her independence, and the stoic leader Schillinger (Ryan Francis), who’s looking to atone for past wrongs that become more clear as time progresses (first seen by the nature of his tattoos).
Second, the film decides to go with a low body count and focuses on not just the physical but psychological horrors their captor (and various minions) inflict. The poster image contains the most visually striking character who becomes a symbol of redemptive sacrifice for our trio.
While a few more creatures would’ve great, Stay Out of the F**king Attic does well in using historical figures and history to breathe new life into old monsters that should never be forgotten.
FEATURE FILM #2: BAD CANDY (Scott Hansen, Desiree Connell, USA)
Bad Candy introduces us to New Salem, a community built on myth and the supernatural. The town’s annual Psychotronic FM Halloween radio show serves as the film’s narrating base. Although a full-length feature, multiple horror-style vignettes occur throughout the night. And unlike most films in this vein, characters from early on make cameos later, making the viewer realize we’re building to an important finish.
The other unifying force is the slasher-like clown that claims various victims in macabre ways. Other stories feature vigilante army buddies who clear the streets of pimps and dealers (which a little help from a Jeepers Creepers style monster), and a girl whose drawings come alive to protect her from an abusive father.
Although some stories aren’t as engaging (Spoiler highlight ->the necrophiliac “nurse” comes to mind), the variety of characters and the final tie-in to the radio hosts themselves makes this gory and fun ride.
Bad Candy stars Slipknot lead vocalist Corey Taylor and Zach Galligan (Gremlins, Hatchet 3).
Tickets for the rest of Atlanta Horror Film Festival are available at https://filmfreeway.com/atlantahorrorfest/tickets.