SHORTS BLOCK #1: “DEEP AND DECAYING”
Last night, Day 2 of the 2022 edition of the Buried Alive Film Festival began with a deep-dive into experimental and arthouse style horror.
The Deep End (Sean Pettis, USA)
A pathologist and skeptic begins an investigation into why body parts have been washing up on a family beach. Her research brings her in contact with an ancient evil from a dangerous forest. The grainy footage palette recalls 70s and 80s cinema, and was a great mood setter considering the topic. Horror has a long history of skeptics receiving their brutal comeuppance when proven wrong by the supernatural. Here it’s a bit more layered by the combination of commentary on modern man’s relationship with nature, mental illness, and even the phenomenon we’ve heard of people seeking out particular forests to commit suicide.
Death Walks on Nitrate (Kevin Fermini, USA)
No matter their station in life, everyone deserves to go about their everyday life without ridicule. Someone forgot to tell that to the main character of this short, a famous but emotionally aloof photographer who makes the mistake of taking pictures of an apparent homeless woman without consent. Said homeless woman turns out to be a spell-crafting witch and we’re taken on a Suspiria-style psychedelic ride where the photographer gets a crash-course on why it pays to mind your business.
The bright colors, witch cackling and frantic shot changes gives this a nightmare feel. And the use of a freeze frame image for the ambiguous final shot was highly effective in making this one memorable.
They Walk Among Us (Tomi Malkki, Finland)
Spirits of the dead exist all around us, and this one tells the story of one such spirit roaming our world. The nature landscapes look gorgeous and are a strong contrast to our mystery spirit, who’s clad in a skeletal jumpsuit we normally see kids wearing for Halloween. There’s no dialogue so interpreting the spirit’s wanderings is completely left to the viewer. The big issue for me is the 13-minute run time which gives the wanderings a repetitive and plodding feel despite the different settings.
Mermaid in a Jar (Malakias, Finland)
Our first animated offering brung us the weird story of a hateful girl torturing her pet mermaid. You’re waiting for a direct comeuppance for the malicious little girl until you realize this story is more about how we can grow to hate the most beautiful parts of ourselves and keep them locked away.
The Great Parody (Andre Carvalho, Germany)
Hollywood gets its pound of flesh from everyone who participates. In this nightmarish short, a film director falls asleep and dreams about the consequences of selling his soul for fame. He’s given applause for slicing body parts. Plucking out an eye. Receives flowers and applause on stage for getting sexually assaulted by a warped version of himself. The visual style is a callback to the Silent Film era, indicating this has always been the price of fame and always will be.
My Religious Family (Brandon Hicks, Canada)
We’ve seen first-hand accounts of life in a cult, but rarely one through drawn pictures. This fun, 3-minute film has a young man narrating his escape from his parents’ cult to an ancient deity known as The Destroyer. Each scenario is drawn by the narrator as he describes it, so you’re treated at times to unsettling images of animal and human sacrifice but also seeing it depicted by colorful, cartoon-like drawings. This builds nicely to a bloody conclusion that comes from outside the pages. The festival crowd loved this one and it was among the first to receive loud applause.
The End of All Things (Norma Vila, Spain)
After her parents’ death, a young girl is sent to live with a strict, distant relative who starts to be ailed by a painful toothache. The girl, who has a affinity for farm animals, begins to pray to an unseen animal spirit to free her from her relative’s rule. One of the longer slow burn offerings of this slot with a focus on youthful rebellion against authority and how we learn early on protect our personal desire even from family.
Mandatory Discord (Caleb Allen, USA)
We always wonder what goes on in the mind of our pets. This one has a talkative feline plotting how she’ll eat her owner after society collapses from the coronavirus. The cat’s given a sweet, girly voice making it all the more surreal that it has murder on its mind. We get a lot of time with the owner’s viewpoint as well, which gives some light humor on the hysteria the virus caused.
The Blood of the Dinosaurs (Joseph Badon)
When you see the name Joe Badon, just expect something you’ve never seen before. We first met him on this site a few years ago when he was in the early stages of his feature Sister Tempest. Today, he introduces us to Uncle Bobbo, who we never quite figure out if he’s just socially awkward or a serial killer hiding in plain sight. He does happen to have an Adult Swim style sketch show and he brings his cute young niece along to help explain various aspects of society. In this case, we learn where crude oil comes from. Imagine an updated Pee-Wee’s Playhouse with an unstable host.
Knock Knock (Nate Irvin, USA)
After hosting a Halloween party, a young woman returns home and is accosted by an otherworldly visitor at her door. This is another punchy offering in what could be viewed as nightmare horror. The franic shots and hazing imagery gives us a hint this is likely a drug or alcohol-induced dream courtesy of the earlier Halloween party. At least we hope it is for the young woman’s sake.
Reactory – Space Hex (Martin Junge, Germany)
Heavy metal doesn’t die in outer space, it just becomes more necessary when you’re fighting off flesh-hungry aliens. This short introduces us to a crew of space trash collectors who find themselves at ground zero of an alien invasion. Great combo of live action, stop motion and video game style kills all to a metal soundtrack. The aliens never stood a chance.
Hiya Janice (Rob Hayes, UK)
Microaggressions at work add up. Just ask Declan, who’s subjected to unrelenting belittling and condescending remarks from his “well-meaning” co-worker Janice. So when the zombie apocalypse hits, he has to pick his poison — holding up with Janice or fighting flesh-eating zombies? Poor Declan, but I fully understand his choice.
Your Houseplants Are Screaming (Benjamin Roberds, USA)
We spoke earlier about wondering about our pets’ thoughts, but rarely do we extended that courtesy to houseplants. Creator Benjamin Roberds would state his inspiration came from looking at his own plants one day and thinking, “It must suck to be them.” Hence the creation of this hilarious stop-animation plus live action film showing houseplants at different life cycles trying to reconcile their existence. They’re dealing with the reality of unnatural plant food, seeing us as giant deformed trees, and even rumors of a plant Promised Land (the forest where all plants sing and live in harmony).
You won’t ever let a plant die again on your watch after seeing this.
Michael Myerz – Don’t Give Up (Kevin Lonano, USA)
Rapper Michael Myerz (yes, there is an artist under this name with no relation whatsoever to the horror icon) finds himself in a tough boxing match with a bigger, masked foe called The Moxer (Monster Boxer champion). The rhymes fall under the inspirational themes of never giving up despite the odds. An interesting note is that Myerz has been very prolific over the last decade in having churned out over 30 albums.
The Finger (Shannon Chamlee, USA)
A man’s relaxing afternoon is disturbed when a sentient, severed finger shows up at his door. Despite his best efforts, the finger returns to the home despite being launched into nearby lakes and even a garbage disposal. Very funny with an ending that hints at the importance of the mental relaxation that comes when you make peace with your demons.
The Wet Nurse (Arnold de Parcau, France)
In the year 1900, Marie sells cow-milked derived pancakes in the open market. But when the cow runs off, Marie decides to use her breast milk for the recipe, which becomes all the rage among the villagers. However, the demand soon turns sinister as the villagers begin treating her like a cow to be milked when desired. One of the darker tales we experienced on Day 2 and has excellent sets that recreate the era.
Opening Night Feature: The Duyster(Thomas Vanbrabant, Jordi Ostir – Belgium)
The template of the found footage genre is hapless individuals sticking their noses where it doesn’t belong. That continues with Duyster, a “documentary” on three students searching for information on Johannes Duyster, a legendary 17th century executioner from the city of Antwerp.
A considerable amount of time is given to the backstory where we meet historians, museum officials and amateur collectors who’ve followed the Duyster’s history. Our trio of fiends have their own sub-history with the headstrong Nora (Maimouna Badjie) who keeps digging to her detriment, the lovesick Bas (Tristan Feyten) who previously had a one-night stand with Nora which he wants to rekindle to a full relationship, and Milan (Charles De Meester), the slacker of the crew who’s just along for a good time.
It takes awhile for the true horror to get going, but it goes full tilt via a third act time warp that we rarely see in the found footage genre. For all of Nora’s foolish bravado, you end up feeling for her as the betrayals and abuse center on her mistakes and misreadings of the danger. Badjie had the biggest load to carry in conveying the emotional/ physical horror and does an excellent job in showing multiple angles like hysterical fear to a cantonic collapse.
While not fast-paced, Duyster is a sound investment for found footage junkies looking a solid payoff.
Snowblind (Lucas Godfrey, USA)
Our closing feature brings us a heavy metal band that becomes cursed after stealing a golden pentagram from a dying man. Saying the band is likable might be a stretch, but it’s definitely fun to watch their reckless escapades into drugs, booze and partying with groupies. And there’s some novel kills here involving concert speakers, balcony falls and “ghost diarrhea.” Shot very well and a fun ride to close out Day 2.
Check back here for daily recaps for the remaining days of The Buried Alive Film Festival