I won’t be on this week, but join Mike Justice and Bill for the Drive-In Asylum Double Feature on Saturday at 8 PM EST on the Groovy Doom Facebook and YouTube pages.

Up first, Chosen Survivors, which you can watch on YouTube.

Every week, we talk about movies, show their ads and even have a cocktail that goes with it. Here’s the drink for the first movie:

Shelter Bats

  • 2 oz. Kraken
  • 4 oz. ginger ale
  • .5 oz. blue curacao
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • .25 oz. grenadine
  1. Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled glass.
  2. Stir and climb up real high before drinking with the many, many bats.

Our second movie is The Bat People. It’s available right here.

Here’s the second drink:

It Drinks By Night

  • 1.5 oz. rum
  • 1 oz. Kaluha
  • 1 oz. milk
  • 3 oz. cola
  1. Add all ingredients to a glass filled with ice, cola last.
  2. Stir and fly away to join your people.

Enjoy the movies!

Chattanooga Film Festival recap

The 9th annual Chattanooga Film Festival wrapped last week, and celebrated genre films, up and coming filmmakers, and a third successful virtual run.

The 9th edition consisted of 40 feature films, 72 short films, and plenty of filmmaker Q&A’s along with unique virtual events. Awards were handed out among the features and events, with Eric Pennycoff’s The Leech taking home the Best Feature prize. The film served as the Opening Night Film of the festival, and the commentary from cast and crew during The Leech Live Commentary event will serve as the commentary track for the film’s upcoming release via Arrow Films in the UK, US, IE and Canada this December.

CFF’s After Hours Opening Night Film The Ones You Didn’t Burn, written and directed by Elise Finnerty, earned the Best Feature by First Time Director.

Best International Feature was granted to filmmaker Nikias Chryssos’ A Pure Place, which was a buzzed-about film among attendees. Ryan Maxey’s One Road to Quartzsite was awarded the Best Documentary for its beautiful, poetic, and observational portrait of people trying to live outside of the constraints of American society, or to simply escape the winter.

Special Jury awards were handed out to not one, but two features this year.

First to Cryo, an ambitious sci-fi feature from student filmmaker Barrett Burgin.

The second jury prize went to the hilariously wonderful Make Popular Movies, helmed by Bryan Connolly. Shane Brady’s Breathing Happy took home the Audience Award for Best Feature. Critic Michelle Swope summed it up in her review, “Breathing Happy is an intimate, beautiful exploration of recovery and grief presented in such a passionate way. It’s very easy to fall in love with this film.” Clearly the CFF audience fell in love with the film.

On the short film side of things, Best Short went to Dirtbag from filmmaker Karsten Runquist, with the Audience Award for Best Short going to Anthony Cousin’s Every Time We Meet For Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes. Last, but certainly not least, Allison Shrum was awarded with the Tennessee Filmmaker Award for her short Roger Must Die and the Student Filmmaker Award bestowed upon John Otteson for Wish You Were Here!

This year’s Secret Screening was Rustic Films’ Something in the Dirt, making CFF attendees the second audience behind the Sundance Film Festival to feast their eyes on the mind-bending film from Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead and David Lawson Jr.

In addition to the Secret Screening, the audience was also able to view a snippet of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Yes, the CFF team Rick Rolled the audience.

Rustic Films’ David Lawson Jr. also spearheaded the 3rd Annual Pitch Competition, with help from filmmaker and journalist BJ Colangelo, who won the first year of the competition. From the submitted scripts, 7 projects were pitched during the live streamed event, with Wolfe Macready winning the competition for their unique project, The Dream of Drowning. Lawson says, “It was clear from the onset of Wolfe’s pitch that this story was incredibly important and personal. Their pitch was passionate and informative but most of all captivating. One of the real joys of working in film is our ability to create fantastic worlds that can help us explain or work through very real issues and situations. The pitch for The Dream of Drowning took me somewhere magical and then ripped my heart out. I look forward to assisting them on the steps of the journey.”

As for me, I had a blast watching the many films of this outstanding film festival. It was literally the best run fest I’ve done yet, providing an easy-to-watch interface, a lively Discord server and an overall friendly experience that felt so inclusive that I was spurred on to watch as many films as I could handle.

Here’s a recap of all the movies I watched. Click on any link to read the review.



You can also see a Letterboxd list of all my festival watches here.

Can I come back next year?

Chattanooga Film Festival: Something In the Dirt (2022)

Directors and stars Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Benson also wrote the script) also made SpringThe EndlessSynchronic and Resolution — as well as episodes of Marvel’s Moon Knight and Loki as well as Archive 81 and The Twilight Zone together.

This time, they play Levi and John, two neighbors in a Los Angeles apartment building who discover a paranormal event and decide to use what they’ve experienced to become rich and famous. The only problem is that dealing with the unknown — whether supernatural or between two people that barely know one another — can be dangerous.

This is a small movie with big ideas, a way of filming necessitated by being created in COVID-19 isolation, but what emerges is the idea that within ourselves and the world that there are so many layers yet peeling back those very same layers can have destructive results.

Shot with a crew of three — Benson, Moorhead and producing partner David Lawson Jr. — this is a hang-out film of two people confronting a gravitational anomaly within the walls of a no-lease apartment complex that seemingly also keeps them within its gravitational orbit, too focused on making it or working to escape but trapped forever within the same four walls.

From seeing the same shape throughout Los Angeles to followers of Pythagoras and cats using parasites to increase mental illness, there are secrets within every story told. There are even conspiracies between the two leads, as Levi has a criminal record that he doesn’t want to discuss and John is part of a religion that could very well be called a cult, even if his  homosexuality may not allow him to be fully part of the sect he’s grown up in.

I saw someone comment that this is Under the Silver Lake for poor people and that makes sense. It never reaches the mania of that film, but it does expand in ever stranger circles, using multiple film techniques and media — even old home movies — to get to the truth, which even by the end of the film is only known by one of the leads and there’s no way he can explain it to the other.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Gateway (2021)

In an abandoned house on an ordinary street, a gang of criminals hide out from a big boss who wants them to either pay up or die. Perhaps this hidden space is the place where they can grow marijuana and pay off their debt. The only problem is that the house may be using them more than they’re using it, as it has a void within it that reaches out to each of them and replays the bad choices that their lives of crime have led to.

From the first frame — a quote by Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracian that says “Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.” — Gateway doesn’t seem like the first full-length from director Niall Owen. It has more poise and willingness to slow burn. It’s not a race to jump scares; the human horror at its center is the real star.

The true monster in this movie are the lives and choices within them of each character, moments that while enduring must now be experienced again, old wounds torn apart and not many can survive reliving such experiences.

You can learn more at the official site.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Split Ends (2022)

Isa worries that her abuela is forgetting her thanks to dementia. Meanwhile, on a whim she decides to chop off her hair, which upsets her mother and then worries her — what if this makes her aunt forget her even more? All of the grief and worry powers her hair as it crawls back from the dead and up the drain pipes, confronting her with her impulsive decision.

Split Ends is more than just horror. According to the filmmakers, it’s “a commentary on Latina beauty standards — especially ones that concern women’s hair and are perpetuated by mothers.”

Director and writer Cookie Estés said of making this film, “I’ve leaned very heavily on the making of this film for the last few years, in all of the varying shapes and forms it’s taken on, as a way of processing the anticipatory grief of losing my abuelita who raised me. She passed away peacefully in April of 2021 and this film is dedicated to her.”

I love when horror can help us process emotions that aren’t always easy to articulate. What an interesting film and a cultural experience that I would be ignorant of without getting to watch movies.

Chattanooga FIlm Festival: Skeletons (2022)

Skeletons, directed by Steven Hedrick, has a father taking his son through a haunted house. It’s only three minutes long, so it doesn’t have much time to build much of a story other than the mood and attitude shift of the father. That said, it looks pretty nice and I’d like to see what could happen next given more time and budget.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Why Is It So Warm on Christmas? (2022)

A movie star named Eugene gains superpowers and sets out to become a superhero. He may not have a tragic origin or a team to help him, so he has to reach out to others online to learn how to best use his powers. This allows everyone he meets to form a community that helps one another instead of just beating up super villains.

Choi Woo Gene’s film presents a more grounded and humanistic take on superheroes. At 27 minutes, it’s not far from being able to be expanded into a much larger story.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Cycles (2022)

Jake (Jake Cash) is a young man in his mid-twenties dealing with multiple traumatic events all at the same time. Meanwhile, as he navigates these experiences, something has taken root inside of his mind and is growing into something that he may not be able to control.

Cycles is body horror as way of dealing with emotional trauma and would really work well as a full length film. Director and writer Jakey Lutsko has created something really intriguing here and I hope to see it expanded at some point.

Chattanooga Film Festival: Nahrani (2021)

In Afghanistan, development aid worker Carina Nowak and a squadron of Bundeswehr — German army soldiers — walk into a trap set by the Taliban. Only she and young soldier Luca survive and they both have to fight to reach their own goals.

Nahrani is a short film produced by students of HFF Munich and the final project of director Simon Pfister. It was shot t in Andalusia with a crew of 35 people from Germany and Spain, with six of those days in a set built for the film Exodus and later reused for Game of Thrones.

It looks gorgeous and way better than you’d ever expect a student film to look whole presenting a story of different goals in the face of the chaos of war.

To learn more, visit the official site.

Chattanooga Film Festival: The Rotting of Casey Culpepper (2022)

Daniel Slottje directed, wrote and co-stars — as the father — in this film about a young girl (Lilliana Ketchman) battling leukemia and being haunted by a sinister being she calls The Tumor Man (Kelsey Strauch).

You must decide if this monster is real or a metaphor for the pain that Casey, the little girl, is enduring. Slottje — who had a hormone-based disease in his childhood — is now developing the story into a feature film. I can’t wait to see it.