Chattanooga Film Festival: Munkie (2021)

Jennifer Pan’s parents left Vietnam for Canada where they toiled at Magna International, an auto parts manufacturer in Ontario, working hard at car part manufacturing so that their children would have a much better life than they did.

They were also incredibly strict and had extremely high expectations. Jennifer was already training to be an Olympic-level figure skater and concert pianist by the age of 4. Jennifer was dropped off at school and picked up, monitored even when not home and not allowed to date boys or go to school dances. By the time she was 22, she had never been drunk, never gone on vacation without her family and never even been to a club.

All along, her parents thought that she had good grades. The truth was, other than music, she was a C-average student. To get around that, she continually forged her report cards and she even secretly taught piano and worked in a restaurant to earn money that she told them was a scholarship for her to study in the pharmacology program at the University of Toronto. She even bought textbooks and faked notes from YouTube classes to further allow her parents to think she was in school.

The truth? She was living with her mixed heritage — a big issue with her family — marijuana dealing and Boston Pizza-employee boyfriend. Her parents eventually found out when the deceptions grew too big to explain and it was discovered that she never even graduated high school. She was forced to break up with the guy, who got a new and younger girlfriend, and she went off the deep end, claiming that he had hired a gang of men to assault her and she was mailed one bullet by her lover’s new girlfriend.

After trying to pay a goth kid to kill her parents, she got back with the old boyfriend and they spent $10,000 to hire real hitmen to kill mom and dad, knowing that she’d get $500,000 in the will. That’s what we call business sense. Well, the killers did get her mother, but her father survived and when the case fell apart, she was convicted for 25 years in jail, never permitted to contact her family or lover again.

That story inspired Munkie, in which Stephen Chow directs the tale of Rose (Xana Tang), a young woman rebelling against her tiger parents. And by that, I mean paying to get them killed. Yet in the way that the film is made, you feel for her and understand perhaps what drove her to this point. You still understand that she’s not a good person, but again, she didn’t get to this point by herself.

You can watch the film here:

You can also watch this at the Chattanooga Film Festival. This weekend, you can buy a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies and see them until 6/29!  Get yours right here!

Chattanooga Film Festival: Sleep (2022)

Director and writer Alexandra Pechman (who wrote an episode of the lamented Channel Zero, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) has an audacious idea here: film Kate Adams (who was also in her film Thumb) for nearly four minutes in the same unmoving shot as she loses her mind at the sound of home invaders just feet away from her.

Bonus — many bonus — points given for ending this as a variation of the urban legend of the licking dog, yet adding plenty more to that tale. No spoilers — this is an inspired film that truly could only work as a short. Well done.

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Chattanooga Film Festival: What Happened to The Others? (2022)

With just 7 minutes and $6,000 in the budget to tell the story, Douglas Wicker (Bang the Drum: The Life & Death of a Small Town Music SceneBad People) deals with a family’s trauma by way of mysterious creatures that they’re been worrying about since grandfather first saw them fifty years ago. Now, it seems as if those things — whatever they are — have returned.

The best part of seeing this as part of the Chattanooga Film Festival was getting to see Wicker interact and explain more of the film, including behind-the-scenes shots. He said that the film is “a love letter to films with amazing folklore and creature biologists like Alien and Pumpkinhead, but also channeling a lot of emotional conflict and concepts I’ve struggled with in my life.”

He also discussed how the run time didn’t allow him to do all that he wanted to do, as he saw the first act as the setup, the second as a rescue mission and the third as a full-blown siege film. I’d love to see him expand this story and get to make this as a larger and longer film, because what is in this short has enough for three movies worth of effects-driven horror.

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Chattanooga Film Festival: The Woodsman (2022)

If you told me that a movie about a man struggling to sell the last three trees out of his lot on Christmas Eve would be one of the best films that I saw at a festival, well, I probably would have laughed. And then probably asked you to show me this magical movie.

I’m so glad that I watched the story of Bernie Davis, a Christmas tree salesman fueling his night with hard sell tactics and no small amount of Jack Daniels served into a coffee cup.

John R. Smith Jnr, who plays Bernie, is beyond fantastic, feeling like he’s lived these cold nights waiting for customers to rid him of the trees that he’s tended to for an entire year. He’s all carnie on the outside and frazzled neurotic on the inside, a man trapped by life to live in a trailer and keep selling these trees every year for some dark reason that we can never, ever know.

Kyle Kutcha also made Survival of the Film Freaks and Fantasm, a movie about the importance of horror conventions. He’s made something great here, a film that focuses its lens nearly throughout on Bernie and finds sad, hilarious, frightening and finally resigned moments in his very strange life.

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Chattanooga Film Festival: Box (2022)

Directed by Jonathan Shander, who wrote the film with Joe Wolff and produced it with Sage Bennett, Box starts Max Rubin as a doomsday prepper whose life is routine, routine, routine. Well, a strange box shows up and throws his whole life into a toe shooting off frenzy.

It isn’t about how the box got there or who sent it, but why the prepper had to even be there in the first place, as the film posits that once things were much more normal. I kind of get it through — I’m still eating all the hundreds of canned meat that I bought when the pandemic started.

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Chattanooga Film Festival: Smile (2021)

Six minutes, two characters and incredibly unsettling, Smile is a simple metaphor for depression told in an incredibly stunning way.

Anna (Konstantina Mantelos, who was in one of my favorite recent horror films, Anything for Jackson) is the only human we see in this movie — we hear Ashley Laurence (Kristy from the Hellraiser films) as the voice of her mother — and we’re with her as she struggles to smile and then deals with Moros (Tyler Williams), who in Greek mythology is the living and personification of impending doom and a demon destroys mortals fated to die.

Director and writer Joanna Tsanis has made several shorts, but this is the first of her work that I’ve seen. She also has the benefit of great cinematography by Jason Han and magical special effects makeup by Carlos Henriques.

You can get a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies at the Chattanooga Film Festival and see them until 6/29!  Get yours right here!

Chattanooga Film Festival: Off Limits (2021)

I live in the sticks, the literal south of Southwestern Pennsylvania and I’ve taken under five rideshares in my life. And I’m also a stocky and furrowed-brow-looking guy. But this movie made me realize the sheer terror women face getting a ride — hell, even just trying to exist — every single day.

Every driver that Charlotte “Charlie” Wilson (Mallory Rose Diekmann, who wrote the film) interacts with demands more — where do you live, what do you do, who do you date, why are you afraid — and her space remains invaded from the very opening of this short.

Director Megan Gorman does a great job of compounding that terror in every single successive scene until the worry feels oppressive. But isn’t that the point? Off Limits made me consider how women feel in the world and how lucky I am to never experience these feelings, all within the confines of a low budget short.

Well done and I am sorry.

You can get a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies at the Chattanooga Film Festival and see them until 6/29!  Get yours right here!

Chattanooga Film Festival: Streamer Stalker (2021)

Look, I know that we do a streaming show every Saturday night but man, I still don’t get Twitch streamers. Maybe I grew up in the 70s when video games were new and we wanted to fight people for the chance to be up next, but I despise watching anyone else play, much less talk nonsense the entire time. But hey, media changes and grows and gets dumber, so who am I to be an elitist?

Touchmytoaster (Connor Del Rio, who co-wrote the script) is a streamer so popular that people track down his house, ask for his blood and pay him money to even watch him sleep. Somehow, he still has an interesting partner named Meghan (Allison Landi), even if she sleeps in the guest room now that those streamers watch every single snore of her man.

Can fans go too far? Trust me, as someone who has been a pro wrestler — even on the indy and Japan level — for a quarter of a decade, yes, a thousand times yes. None of them have ever come to my house and ask if they can take a dump or get a hug, however.

There’s so much cringe in this in the best way, cringe becoming part of horror, the fact that we have to leave behind our screens to actually interact with humans and then remember exactly why we hide behind screens. Yes, I’m connecting with you, but please leave me alone.

Director and co-writer Gaelan Connell has somehow made a better movie in 14 minutes than the Tubi exclusive First Person Shooter did about the same idea and they had 90 minutes. And yet both films feature a very awkward bathroom scene.

That said — this has the most frightening use of a toaster ever.

You can get a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies at the Chattanooga Film Festival and see them until 6/29!  Get yours right here!

Chattanooga Film Festival: Livin After Midnight (2022)

Robyn Carmack (Robyn Carmack as Audrey DeRossett) is a non-binary vampire who is preparing for their next date, brushing their fangs and prepping themselves for not just romance, but the hunt.

They soon meet Tyler Cates (Evan Vihlen) but for most of the date, all they can think about is the time afterward, scratching and clawing and biting through Tyler’s flesh to his lifegiving blood underneath.

The problem? Tyler has the same plan. What happens when two vampires meet cute — or bloody — and have so many past romantic issues to work through? Can they at least enjoy a great meal — of sorts — together?

Directed by Tom von Dohlen and written by Brant Lewis, this has some twists you can see coming and a few you can’t. It’s certainly got some cute ideas and could lend itself to way more than just a short. With some more budget and time, I’d love to see that happen.

You can learn more about Livin After Midnight on the official Facebook page.

Plus, you can get a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies at the Chattanooga Film Festival and see them until 6/29!  Get yours right here!

Chattanooga Film Festival: Sucker (2022)

Two sisters — Sam (Sophia Capasso, East Enders) and Caitlin (Annie Knox) — end up battling one another as a leech creature begins to influence and control them both from within. Is it a metaphor for how real world events cast a wedge between families or just an opportunity to have horrifying creatures and no small amount of muck, bile and whatever fluids can be spit and puked up?

I mean, in a perfect world and in a great movie — like this short — it can be both.

Director and writer Alix Austin has done just about every job you can in film — acting, directing, producing, on the crew, second unit, casting, editing, writing and more — and if this film is any indication, we’ll soon be seeing a lot more of her talented work.

You can now get a back half half price badge to watch all of the awesome movies at the Chattanooga Film Festival and watch a whole bunch of movies until 6/29!  Get yours right here!