SALEM HORROR FEST: Caprice (2021)

The road to recovery has been paved in blood for Rose Marlow — her own included. But as she’s tormented by the memories of her traumatic injury, she fights to keep herself alive. Cole, a mysterious stranger, comes into her life and offers help, which is a challenge for her to accept. But hiding below the surface, she worries that now that she has someone, she’s not the only one with something to hide.

A film by Renée Elizabeth Lavoie, Caprice becomes less part of our reality by the end of the film as colors become washed out, then dark, then even single hues and tones. It’s very much a low-budget shot on digital video film, but don’t hold that against it. I think that Lavoie has some definite ideas brewing here and I can’t wait to see what this effort leads to as her work matures.

Caprice is now playing Salem Horror Fest as part of the Showcase of Massachusetts Filmmakers series. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October.

You can watch the entire film here:

SALEM HORROR FEST: Brain Death (2021)

Directed and written by Wl Freeman and John Harrison (Hesse Deni, who plays Liv, also was a co-writer), Brain Death is a movie that’s either going to fascinate or confound you. It’s a movie that can be about long conversations about stealing standups of the Minions and Garfield phones — shout out for using the footage of the mystery of Garfield phones washing up on French beaches — at the same time that it features nightmarish footage, then literally screens on top of screens and enough buffering and artifacting that I was for sure that I had a bad copy.

I don’t think that I did.

The line for this one was “After the disappearance of her girlfriend, a young trans woman comes into contact with an ancient evil.” I have no idea if that’s what was happening. I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. This movie is really and genuinely all over the place, a kaleidoscope of images and what I imagine that it feels like to be inside the mind of someone younger than me that never had to do linear editing or not exist with screens all over the place, all blaring nonstop stimuli.

There’s also a great-looking record store in this that made me want to leave my house for the first time in many months, so I consider that a win for the filmmakers.

Brain Death is currently is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at this film’s official website.

SALEM HORROR FEST: 6:45 (2021)

Most Groundhog Day movies have some level of happiness to them. But what if you just kept reliving the worst day of your life. And even worse, what if you didn’t learn a single thing from it?

Every day, Bobby wakes up and the same thing happens. His fiancée, Jules, has her throat cut and when he falls to the ground in, stunned by the enormity of it all, he has his spine snapped. And then he wakes up and does it all again.

But why do the people in the resort town know so many personal details about both of them? And why is Bobby in a bar so often when drinking makes him argumentative at best and abusive at worst? Why have the couple had so many blow out arguments? Why would you go on vacation to a town named Bog Grove?

The worst part of it all is that Bobby knows that this death is coming every day at the same time. And he can’t warn Jules, he can’t stop it and all he can do is wait for it.

Director Craig Singer made Perkins’ 14A Good Day to Die and Dark Ride, which was also written by Robert Dean Klein. This film has a great look, a dark journey and no small share of surprises. I was expecting it to not pay off its concept, but it did a great job of landing the plane. Klein also recently scripted David DeCoteau’s Lifetime thriller, The Wrong Valentine.

6:45 played theaters earlier this year and is currently is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at this film’s official Facebook page.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: Wicked Games (2021)

When Harley joins her boyfriend for a long Halloween weekend at his family’s country estate, their romantic weekend is upended by a gang of masked freaks. But the intruders are shocked when Harley is no pushover; she has a history of violence that is going to make the games they’re playing that much more interesting.

Director and writer Teddy Grennan also made the movie Ravage. Here, he’s playing on a riff of You’re NextThe Strangers and A Bay of Blood, particularly the way the ending pays off. There’s plenty of blood in this one, as well as moments of great home invasion tenseness.

There’s some really nice cinematography on display in this film; it looks way better than a streaming or direct to WalMart feature. My only major issue with the film is its use of masks, which are either very Spirit store or actual luchador masks. It doesn’t take much production design to create unique looks for your killers. Seeing home invaders wandering around wearing Mistico and Rey Mysterio Jr. masks takes the viewer out of the movie, as these are beyond iconic masks; imagine if someone was walking around with John Cena’s face in a slasher film. You’d instantly stop thinking of the stalk and slash moments and keep thinking, why is John Cena’s face on display? The masks of luchadors are the very same and beyond; they are their soul and identity and their use in this film is beyond cheap. It’s lazy at best and disrespectful as well.

You can learn more about Wicked Games at the official site.

Wicked Games is now playing Salem Horror Fest as part of the Showcase of Massachusetts Filmmakers series. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at the Facebook page and official site for the movie.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: Snapper: The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made (2021)

Snapper is a fun short that tells the story of an unfinished 90s eco horror film, the work that went into it and why it ended. With behind-the-scenes set footage, photos, newly digitized film reels of daily footage and never-before-told stories from the filmmakers, this idea could have been real, but just didn’t make it.

What did was a study of the Boston DIY horror and FX scene, as well as the friendship of Mark Veau, Michael Savino and Scott Andrews. Writer and director John Campopiano was also the creative force behind Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary and the same quality of that film is in this, which is a lot for a movie that ultimately never saw the light of day.

I found myself getting sad watching this, as Snapper feels like the kind of regional film that we would be watching and writing about with our site. Here’s hoping that someday it become a reality.  For now, we have this fun short to remember it with.

Snapper is now playing Salem Horror Fest as part of the Showcase of Massachusetts Filmmakers series. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: Seeds (2020)

Seeds is the second feature by filmmaker Skip Shea. An avid fan of folk horror films, Shea decided to follow up his first feature Trinity with a story about a pagan cult that is about to go to war with the Catholic Church. It’s also a very personal story Macha and Andrew both process the death of their daughter in very different ways. She’s lost and adrift, seeing images of her daughter, while he is driven to make a statement by writing a book about New England cults. And when one of them informs him that his uncle has passed on and left him a legacy, the opportunity to live his dream is closer than ever.

The cult’s religion is based around the metaphysical properties of the apple, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge from Genesis and the symbol of man committing original sin while gaining knowledge. As Macha discovers that she has a gift for seeing more than most people, her husband is being ensnared by the machinations of this secret church.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church, worried about the growing power of this secret cult, has sent a priest into its midst to learn all it can.

Shot on location in the Blackstone Valley, Seeds also uses the same locations that were used in another American folk horror film, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. It’s shot in black and white, which works for the darkness of the story, and features Suspiria actress Barbara Magnolfi.

Seeds is unafraid to take things slow, to build tension and to have conversations that feel improvised and fresh along the way. This movie is why independent horror exists; this isn’t a quick cash-in horror to get on the shelves of WalMart and content on Amazon Prime. This is a work of art and a labor of love.

Seeds is now playing Salem Horror Fest as part of the Showcase of Massachusetts Filmmakers series. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at the Facebook page and official site for the movie.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: Take Back the Night (2021)

Take Back the Night makes a pretty astounding choice as its main character Jane Doe isn’t completely heroic. I’ll explain in a moment.

She’s just finished her first art show, selling every work she’s created and enjoying the benefits of being a social media influencer and young person in the middle of a hustling and bustling art scene. She even helps a few people in much worse shape than her get home, but when it’s her time to leave, she’s all alone and in the exact situation women are warned to avoid. She walks down a dead-end alley and gets assaulted.

By a dark cloud of smoke and flies, no less. So when the cops ask her to detail what happened, she keeps referring to her attacker as it. But she also discovers that despite claw marks across her stomach and enough physical damage to land her in the ER, she can’t quite convince the police that she’s a victim.

And here’s where that narrative choice I began with kicks in.

Jane doesn’t tell the cops every detail. And by claiming that she was attacked by a monster — and not a man — her family’s past issues of mental problems come back in a bad way. Even her sister fails to believe her, but that may be because Jane doesn’t exactly go about things the right way. She demands attention, she rallies her social media followers, she goes to the news when the cops can’t help her. And the thing is, she just may be relishing all of the attention.

This film makes a big shot by naming itself after an organization, by tacking a hot button issue and by having a heroine who is not always reliable. That’s fascinating because this movie could have very much been a simple I Spit on Your Grave thriller instead of a movie that associates the lack of memory that assault causes and associates it with a monstrous shadow. The police and the way they handle things are just as brutal, if not more, than the creature.

Director Gia Elliot and writer Emma Fitzpatrick have taken some chances here. I really like how everyone other than Jane Doe is only known by their role or their job, as the facelessness of this situation reduces everyone to their most basic roles. This is a movie that made me think love after it was over. That’s the mark of a movie that works.

Take Back the Night is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at the official site.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: I Need You Dead! (2020)

While the logline for this movie says, “After a moment of total teenage angst, a young punk finds himself at odds with a psychedelic monster of his own creation,” the truth is that this film is a film within a film inside, well, maybe another film.

While the script started as Cop Killer, which followed Officer Pete Chambers as the film’s lead, it changed to be about Dood, a young punk who takes way too many dummy gummies, which has perhaps permanent psychotic effects, sending him into a tailspin of cops on his tail, romantic entanglements and even a monstrous creature that looks like a Boglin crossed with a Frank Henenlotter creature along with plenty of goo and teeth.

Rocko Zevenbergen wrote, directed, edited, produced and probably drove everyone back and forth to the set. This is his vision and with how dark things get, it feels like the act of creation may have taken its toll on him at some point. The film keeps breaking from the main narrative and revealing the pains of the creation of the movie inside the movie.

Just a warning to those with sensitive ears, this movie plays with some drone and whirring tones that may unsettle you. They totally fit the film, but the audio tone of this is incredibly abrasive in parts.

While not a perfect film — what movie is? — this is a great experimental narrative and really deserves to get a bigger audience to see it. Zevenbergen is definitely talented and I’m excited to see what he does next.

I Need You to Die! is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October.