Writer’s Note: Catch up with our previous daily recaps here: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.
The Atlanta Horror Film Festival held its Day 4 finale last night with three short film blocks focused on high creepiness factor, “final girls,” and comedy. Let’s get right to our final film by film breakdown…
SHORT FILM BLOCK #7: CREEPIN’ ME OUT
Cottonmouth (Zach Wincik, Danny Salemme, USA)
This film treated us to scream queen royalty as it starred none other than Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street 1 & 3, New Nightmare)! She plays a woman convinced someone is sneaking into her room at night. Her evidence? Measuring a glass of water that someone is apparently drinking. Decades later, Langenkamp’s facial expressions are still great in conveying the confusion and fear needed for effective horror. She does it best when finally confronted by the humanoid creature responsible for the nightly visits.
Antique (Morten Haslerud, Norway)
Anjelica is an antique hunter who thinks she’s found a steal buying a vintage bathtub. Unfortunately for her, the tub contains an evil spirit looking to drown whomever is foolish enough to bathe in her domain. Awesome special effects on the spirit and when Anjelica is submerged in the monster’s cavernous lair. Worth tracking down.
Deep End (Anthony Sellitti, USA)
Keeping with the dangers found in bodies of water, a young boy makes the fatal error in testing out an abandoned swimming pool on a hot summer day. Turns out the pool is inhabited by a murderous, supernatural entity aiming to drown the boy. The subtleties, like the boy having poor eyesight and the monster being able to turn invisible outside the pool, worked really well in setting up the final scene. Life lesson — stay off other people’s property.
The Tooth Fairy (Tyler Edward Glodt, USA)
Amidst the U.S. gold rush, two miners fall victim to the suggestive influence of a random tooth. This was a weird one but in a good way. The setting was different and the tooth’s influence made for some wincing body mutilation scenes. But, I do think this could’ve been stronger with more interaction between the two miners together and the tooth.
Teething (Glen Matthews, Canada)
All children are precious, right? That even includes those bit by vampires and become bloodthirsty creatures themselves, yes? If you hesitated on that second statement, you understand the conundrum for a hospital janitor that becomes the caretaker of an abandoned, bloodsucking infant. We’ve seen versions of this plot before, but what makes this one distinct is showing the initial infection and fallout that lead to this poor man becoming the infant’s tortured provider.
No One Is Coming (Matthew Barber, Nathaniel Barber, USA)
This offering is in the slasher realm. A woman waits in a secluded cabin for her boyfriend when she’s forced into a cat and mouse game with a mysterious killer. No detailed explanation here, just the need for survival. Interesting thing you’ll note is the killer and choice of weapon will make you wonder if this is a tie-in from another well-known horror franchise. Good use of shadows and angles to make the cabin appear small and difficult to hide in.
The Chrysalis (Michael Squid, USA)
Make sure to check out my interview with Michael Squid. I’ve seen dementia dealt with in horror, but not combined with entomology. My favorite scenes are the shadowy images of the cackling mother that reveal her true self.
Seek (Aaron Morgan, USA)
Finally, a mischievous monster! When two sisters make a bathroom stop at a rundown roadside park, they’re confronted by a childlike monster looking to play a deadly game of hide n’ seek. Very creepy with some striking Nightmare Before Christmas and Lovecraftian elements within the creature design.
Morok (Maksim Kulagin, Russian Federation)
Perhaps we should leave the farmers to their own devices. Two officers respond to a 911 call where a woman reports her husband hasn’t returned from the neighbor’s house. Once they arrive, the cops soon realize they’ve ventured into a house of horrors including chops limbs and vacant stares. Movie quality-level production and you’re left wanting more of the backstory (likely the intention).
$trip (Craig Oullette, USA)
Penny (Yuwi Kim) is making her stripping debut at an underground club. She’s ready to go “all the way,” but little does she know about the horrors that statement entails. At a time when adult entertainment feels mainstream via outlets like OnlyFans, Oullette uses body horror to reflect the potential emotional toll of allowing strips of your flesh to be used for instant gratification. How much of your humanity can potentially be lost in this process? What initially looks absurd becomes more and more uncomfortable courtesy of Kim’s excellent depiction of Penny’s initial discomfort, anguish and final acceptance.
With her innocence gone, you’re reminded of a haunting earlier statement made to Penny by the den mother:
These assholes never get tired of flawless young flesh like yours…