Concert/Film/TV Reviews

ATL Horror Film Festival 2021 Day 1: Animated Trauma, Body Gore and Merciless Wolves

Recap of the first day of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival

BLOCK #2: RUNNING WITH THE WOLVES

Self-explanatory title and considering how the werewolf subgenre doesn’t get a lot of love these days, it was cool to see so many filmmakers offer modern interpretations of the legendary character.

Diary of a Mad Black Werewolf (Mark Cheng, USA)

I half-way expected a comedy from the title but what we got was black, female werewolf using her affliction to terrorize the KKK in 1955 Mississippi. Those knowledgeable of history know this is the year and location of the infamous lynching of 14-year old Emmett Till, so having the werewolf as a justice figure is highly novel and appropriate. Adapted from a graphic novel, the animation is clean and reminiscent of a PS4/PS5 cut scene.

With the slew of “racial horror” following the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and HBO’s Lovecraft Country, there is always the possibility of audience fatigue, but this is a story with potential as live-action mini-series.

Self-Actualization of the Werewolf Woman (Conall Pendergast, Canada)

Ever wonder how a conversation would go between a vampire and werewolf on ethics? This film answers that question from the female perspective as both debate on what constitutes ethical slaughtering and preserving the food chain. It’s not murder when nature is simply following its course, right? I got an Adult Swim vibe so those who love those type of shows should get a kick out of this.

Vagrant (Ben Trandem, USA)

An inmates dark werewolf secret comes to life due to a callous prison guard. This is memorable for a bloody and agonizing transformation in the vein of American Werewolf in London. Really impressive special effects and among the best in this block. It takes awhile to get to the gory finale, but it’s worth it.

Where is the Wolf? (Jonathan Norberg, Sweden)

A sweet grandmother named Maj experiences the greatest terror of all, the loss of your mental faculties, after an apparent tragic accident. I say apparent because Maj is an unreliable narrator so we’re never sure if the accident and the ensuing fallout with her family is what’s actually happening. Aside from her daughter being a bit too calm about everything for my liking, the ending shot showing the blurred visions of the mind is my favorite from Day 1.

Wolves (Desmond Jackson, USA)

Count me among those who had no idea there’s an established mythology of werewolves in Haiti. A rebellious teen gets into a heated confrontation with his superstitious mother, who believes werewolves are after him. High production value on this one and it could easily pass for the start of a movie. Mirlande Amazan’s turn as the equally overbearing and unsettling mother is the standout performance.

The Wolf (Timothy Barnett, USA)

A woman is confronted by the ghost of her past lover while fleeing a bloodthirsty wolf. The subplot involves the woman taking shelter in an abandoned store while also looking for medicine. But is the medicine to help a family member or for the mental episode she’s experiencing? Or is it not a mental episode and the ghost of her old lover real? Lots of ways you can take this one and all would lead to an engaging storyline. The production quality does a great job of adding to the brooding atmosphere.

Bushwacker Blues (James Campbell, United Kingdom)

Two lowly thieves named Luke and Butch Walters get their comeuppance when they rob an unconscious preacher who turns out to be a voracious werewolf. The thieving brothers are real dirtbags so it’s one of the few times where we’ve gotten immense enjoyment from the protagonists being brutalized. Even more impressive is the fact they nailed the Old West setting despite being a UK production.

The Wereback (Estrada Brothers, USA)

The southern US border becomes a massacre as a truckload of undocumented immigrants unwittingly has a werewolf among them. Excellent special effects and a subtle message about the mentalities both sides of the border issue. The immigrants themselves, perhaps subconsciously knowing all of them won’t make it across, have to adopt the American mentality of “self over community” to survive. And on the US side, those against immigration are represented by the lone military figure who combats the werewolf. Among my favorites in this block.

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