The Newport Beach Film Festival is in full swing for 2017 down here in Orange County so naturally, out of the 350 films being shown this year, I decided to pick the scariest ones I could find and go see them on a Saturday night. Because the only thing better than Christmas in July is definitely Halloween in April. My final choices were the “Nightmare on Short Street” series of horror shorts, and the horror spotlight film “Lake Bodom.”
Long story short, it was a total gory-jumpy-screamy blast (with some solid laughs), and I’ve compiled short reviews of all the films below, with links to more information and how to see them in theaters (or online). Have a super spooky time!
Full disclosure, clowns are the scariest. When I saw “Kookie” on the lineup I panicked because, well, that sounds like the name of a clown. I was right. The film was an absolute blast, though, and the young actress, Ava Jamieson (who we found out in the following Q&A was 8 and had never even been on camera before), nailed her part as the equal part bratty, sassy, and then totally creepy cookie-obsessed protagonist. I also love watching people smash things, and this movie had one of the cutest little total-destruction scenes I’ve watched (I’ll put it up there with “Office Space” on my list of favorites). Combined with the little snips of classic movies thrown in throughout, this was definitely one of my favorites from the night.
With creepy puppet babies modeled after a combination of a critter and C.H.U.D. , we have a clear winner here for best ‘special effects’ of the night (even if ‘special’ is just someone hiding under a sink with their arm in a baby puppet. that counts). It started off with bizarre and totally embarrassing parents, was filled with 21st century boy and texting jokes, complete with auto-correct, and ended with the best (most notorious?) one liner ever. “Feeding Time” was perfectly balanced between SURPRISE!! and ANGSTY TEENAGE BABYSITTER DRAMA!! and was fun and twisty from start to finish.
I have this weird feeling that this short film will stick with me for a while. It asks a lot of interesting questions (“Pig to pork. When does the change happen? In death it’s a dead pig, but at the market it’s a pork product. When does the transformation occur?”) and wrestled with the distinction between alive and dead, animal and meat. It was equally adorable and deranged, cute and psycho. The set design and filming locations were stunning (the LA DWP in Downtown!) and although I wouldn’t label it a classic ‘horror’ film, it’s sparks the kind of uneasiness and neurotic tension that has potential for real long-term effect. Very much bravo, very much.
The best part about this film is that it lives out everyone’s inner fantasies of literally just bludgeoning everyone in your life that annoys or inconveniences you. (And in that process you meet the love of your life. It’s a fantasy, duh.) It was a blast from start to finish, and if you’ve ever spent any significant time working in the service industry this film will give you the greatest satisfaction you could ever receive (without going to prison, of course).
Here’s “The Lock-In” on Facebook.
“The Scared One” (L’EFFRAYÉ)
“The Scared One” was beautiful and haunting twist on the classic “monster in my bedroom” film. Shot in black and white, the shadow play throughout the film was stunning. Angled from the perspective of the child, the choreography of the characters was ultra-terrifying from those scary low/obscured angles. The only problem was that closing your eyes doesn’t even help because the sound effects alone were enough to give you nightmares. Beautiful, haunting, don’t put scarecrows up in your yard.
Here’s a link to watch “The Scared One” online.
“The Cleansing Hour”
A very modern twist on the classic exorcism film– what if they were broadcast live to millions of people every week? Complete with all the ‘reality tv’ behind the scenes work you’d expect, a douchey lead character, and a hashtag (tweet your prayers to @cleansinghour #PrayForSabrina !!!!!), this film explores what happens when reality tv gets a little “too real.”
Lake Bodom is the slasher film we all deserve and have been waiting for. It riffs off of the Bodom murders (real murders that happened in Finland in the 1960s, the killer is still unknown), and follows a group of teenagers as they venture to the scene of the original murders to reenact the night and attempt to discover what really happened. Twist after twist after twist ensures there’s never a dull moment, and the backstory and subplots of all the characters are explored in just enough detail to keep you changing alliances until the end. The color story throughout was terrific (the film was nearly monochromatic, blacks and reds rule, but there’s always a light), and the cinematography was equally jarring and beautiful (the underwater shots alone are worth watching the entire film for). There’s more than one explosive murder sequence, and a tow truck scene that will make you reconsider asking for help getting out of a ditch for the rest of your life (but so much fun in the moment). It ends exactly where it begins, the cyclical plot is more than enough catalyst for unrest. And the bottom line? High school is terrible and it’s surprising that more of us don’t end up this way.