FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Chaos Reigns Vol. 1

Get ready for another collection of shorts that I watched at Fantastic Fest.

The Blood of the Dinosaurs (2021): Once, we went to a Mystery Spot and after we walked toward the center of the room, it kept pushing us into the walls and I was young and trying to hold my mother’s hand and it made me cry. Then, we all got on a train and it went through a forest and animatronic dinosaurs appeared and the driver told us to reach under our chairs for guns to kill the rampaging lizards and I yelled and ran up and down the length of the train begging for people to stop and that we needed to study the dinosaurs and not kill them. This was not a dream.

Another story. I was obsessed with dinosaurs and planned on studying them, combining my love of stories of dragons like the Lamprey Worm with real zoology, but then nine-year-old me learned that they were all dead and I had to face mortality at a very young age which meant I laid in bed and contemplated eternity all night and screamed and cried so much I puked. This is also a true story.

The Blood of DInosaurs has Uncle Bobbo (Vincent Stalba) and his assistant Purity (Stella Creel) explain how we got the oil in our cars that choke the planet but first, rubber dinosaurs being bombarded by fireworks and if you think the movie gets boring from here, you’re so wrong.

Can The Beverly Hillbillies become ecstatic religion? Should kids have sex education? Would the children like to learn about body horror and giallo? Is there a show within a show within an interview and which reality is real and why are none of them and all of them both the answer? Did a woman just give birth to the Antichrist on a PBS kids show?

This is all a preview of Joe Badon’s full film The Wheel of Heaven and when I read that he was influenced by the Unarius Cult, my brain climbs out of my nose and dances around before I slowly strain to open my mouth and beg for it to come back inside where it’s wet and safe.

Badon co-wrote this film’s score and screenplay with Jason Kruppa and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next. Also: this was the Christmas episode of Uncle Bobbo so I can only imagine that this was him being toned down.

The Blue Hour (2022): Jeremías Segovia directed and wrote this short in which a young woman — La Chica (Lucia Blasco) — is on the beach, waiting for the crowd to leave so that she can bathe in the nude. She believes that it’s just her and the ocean and that’s when she realizes that a shadow known only as El Joven (Juan Diego Eirea) is watching. This begins a battle of wills between the two with her keeping her body inside the rapidly cooling azure waves while he never averts his gaze. Who has the longer endurance and patience?

Segovia also made the shorts La Mujer Ruta and The Tooth Fairy. This is an intriguing premise and a gorgeous looking short.

The Businessman (2022): Lola (Liviya Meyers) is on the way home from school when she meets a salesman (Steven Gamble) who looks to instill the fear of financial insecurity into her and convince her to sell ancient fashion magazines for him. Director and writer Nathan Ginter also made Last Seen and this has some great atmosphere and a genuinely strange feel throughout, feeling at once modern and out of time.

What if capitalism itself was the monster of a supernatural movie out to coerce teenagers to do its occult bidding? That’s this movie and it looks, feels and plays out so well.

Chicks (2022): Geena Marie Hernandez directed and wrote this tale of a “girly, cotton-candy colored slumber party” that transforms into an occult ritual when Polly (Nikole Davis) is invited to join the popular upper echelon of high school royalty for a sleepover. Yet Lizzie (Jena Brooks), Kelly (Maddie Moore) and Jazz (Lilliana Simms) have plans for her and honestly, I could see the witch elements rolling in but I had no idea where this was going, nor did I get the pun of the title until the end of the film. I’ll let you go in as blind as I was, but man, this looks great, like a pink candy nightmare and the end is wonderful. Well done.

The Community (2022): Milos Mitrovic and Eric Peterson also made Unidentified Objects, a great film that played Fantastic Fest. This is a 48 Hour Film Fest movie turned into a short that stars Adam Brooks (the director of Astron-6’s Father’s Day and The Editor, as well as Doctor Scorpius in Manborg and the dad in Psycho Goreman) as a man seeking something precious and using an informant (Mitrovic) to get it. It’s an absurd short that is quick and to the point, while being pretty enjoyable.

Cruise (2022): I worked in a survey research telemarketing place before I got into advertising and it’s the kind of job that still gives me nightmares. We had a set script that we had to follow, a mysterious room had people listening to us and you didn’t even get to call the number. It would just ring, you’d ask someone if they got their sample of laundry detergent, then they would call you an asshole for ten seconds, then you’d start all over again for ten hours at a time. Often, one of those mystery people would tell you that you were off script and take over and show you how. The worst was if you made a human connection at any point, they would terminate your call. I still wake up thinking that I’m late for my job there, a room of cubicles and no windows and people plugged into headsets as blood for the machine.

Cruise, directed and written by Samuel Rudykoff, finds telemarketer after telemarketer trying to sell a cruise and failure means death.

These days, when scam likely comes up on my phone, I don’t get mad or rude to the people on the other line. I was once them. It was not fun. And, as this movie will show you, you may end up getting them shot right in the head.

Deerwoods Deathtrap (2022): Shot on Super 8, this tells the story of Jack and Betty Gannon, who were on a trip to Cape May, New Jersey in 1971 when they somehow survived being hit by a train. Even wilder, everyone in the car, like an elderly grandmother, an infant daughter and a young son — director James Gannon — all lived. Now, fifty years later, they have returned to a place they barely lived to tell from even if they can’t agree on what really happened.

This is an incredible short, filled with humor and darkness. But the best part is the closing line: “Guess what?  People do get hit by fucking trains.”

This definitely made me rethink when I cross those tracks down by Sheetz.

East End (2022): Director Grant Curatola’s East End looks like a late 70s to early 80s slasher and does something wonderful: It takes a crime in a small town and inflates it via the telephone game, as what may not be the worst crime of all time eventually becomes a horrific story that the entire town can’t stop talking about, all set to the music cues from Psycho. A fun idea, told well.

The Event (2022): Co-directed by Frank Mosley and writer Hugo De Sousa, who also appear in this film along with Jennifer Kim, this has Vincent (De Sousa) and Jack (Mosely), roommates and best friends, going back and forth over a short film that Vincent has made. Why hasn’t his friend watched it? Sure, it’s 2 AM, but come on, it’s the greatest thing he’s ever made, the joy of his life. And if he has a long way of explaining things that involves pasta, then so be it. But man, let Beatrice (Kim) sleep!

This hits harder than I would like to admit, because I want my wife to appreciate the work that I do or things that I write and she just says, “OK,” as she looks up from some phone game. Heartbreaking.

Everybody Goes to the Hospital (2021): This is an absolutely terrifying movie, the stop motion animated story of 4-year-old Little Mata (writer/director Tiffany Kimmel’s mother, as this is based on a true story) as she gets so sick that she has to go to the hospital in late 1963 with appendicitis and things get worse from there.

I don’t even know how you can recover from getting every single one of your organs taken out of your body and cleaned, but somehow this brave little child did. I was completely not prepared to be repeatedly emotionally barraged by this well-crafted short.

I just spent some time with my dad at an appointment in a hospital after watching this and man, I kept remembering the details of this movie. It stays with you.

Ex Creta (2022): No pun intended, but holy shit, this movie was great. Seriously, so unexpected and yeah, it’s a four-minute-long movie about a scatological artist but I don’t care. It made me laugh more times in a short period than some full-length movies dream of being able to do. Also: the dog!

Olivia Puckett, Emily Kron and Gabrielle Anise are great voice talents as well, moving the story so well while director and writer Jon Portman has crafted a singular work of art.

Buzkill (2022): Let me tell you, when you start your animated short off with a logo that says Canon Pictures and looks like Cannon Films, I’m going to love what comes next.

That said, it’s easy to love this movie, which is the story of Becky (Kelly McCormack, who is Jess McCready in the A League of Their Own Series) and Rick (Peter Ahern, also the director and writer), who return to her house after a date and their moment of romance is interrupted by an insect crawling out of her eyeball.

The animation is gorgeous, the story is amusing and I just loved the way that it all pays off. Buzzkill gets in more gross-out and laugh-out-loud moments in its short running time than most movies get in two hours.

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