I’ll just preface all of these projected internal thoughts, in other words, mini-reviews, by saying that I thought this film festival full of horror/mystery/sci-fi/thriller short films and features was pulled off extremely well. To have the honor of viewing these fantastic pieces of art in a film festival environment, although I’m very sure it was much different than years past, was a first for me. HorrOrigins Film Festival was an incredible experience as my first foray into this world, with little to no pressure of finding the time to watch all of the great content. No lineups. No crowds. In fact, the only pressure I experienced was to consume all of the Pinot Grigio my wife bought me for the event. With my feet kicked back, I did just that, I finished all of the wine with a big, fat smile on my face. And yep, I kept it classy.
The first thing I was able to catch was a little mafia influenced zombie flick called
Directed by: Andy Palmer
With the catchphrase “sometimes the past comes back to bite you” perfectly suiting this film while giving you a little insight into what kind of story might be told here. Two rival mob families have been placed in a witness protection program, where they have been brought to the same city to live out this program. Reverting back to their rivalrous ways, the families chomp at each other’s throats while a zombie outbreak begins with a few tainted Italian sausages. Lead character Carlo, who is played by Robert Belushi (yes, that Belushi), owns a dog grooming business that tends to bring him quite a bit of joy, as well as his childhood romance, Gina. Instead, Carlos’ father, Mr. Serelli, has arranged for his son to marry the rival mob boss’ daughter in an attempt to keep the peace between the two sides. Things begin to get chaotic and flatulent hilarity ensues.
You may know director Andy Palmer from another low-budget indie slasher flick called The Funhouse Massacre, which has a great performance by Robert Englund at the beginning of the film and also showcases other great actors like Jere Burns and Clint Howard doing some despicable things. I believe the direction of this film is adequately realized, not breaking any new ground but delivering a pretty good time. A full-fledged ensemble cast seemingly having a great time together whilst making a zombie comedy film with notes of stereotypical satire that does in fact succeed at pushing a few loose buttons.
Really fun, gooey practical effects allow us to at least feel a little bit of, maybe tension isn’t the right word, but simply more cautious when the zombies are around even though many of the scenes are played for laughs. There is a fantastic scene that takes place in a bar a la Shaun of the Dead when we are introduced to Monique Coleman playing the sexy and powerful Rose giving off a Foxxy Cleopatra vibe while kicking some zombie ass.
This was a perfect way to start my film festival watch fest and a perfect way to have a few genuine laughs while sipping on a few tall glasses of that nice Italian produced Pinot Grigio as my eyes captured the images of a decent Italian inspired zombie comedy romp. All I was missing was a few Salsiccia Italiana.
Directed by: Kristine Gerolaga
In an attempt to climb up the ranks of a makeup pyramid scheme, Bless, played by Stacie Gancayco-Adlao, gets in touch with a past friend by the name of Ivy, played by writer/director Kristine Gerolaga. As Bless’ intentions unfold, she becomes increasingly hostile and unhinged and Ivy is forced to dismantle her beauty products one way or another.
I think that this short film has a lot to say about the pyramid marketing scheme scene that has been ravaging our social media timelines for years and years now. I also think that this piece has a lot to say about what lengths we will go to inherit beauty or to CONCEAL our true self. Kristine nails this piece here, the setting is precise, the camera work is beautiful, acting is incredible, especially from Stacie Gancayco-Adlao who looks very familiar but the name may not ring a bell but gives a ten-bell performance here that completely encapsulates the emotions of a woman who has been fed lies and condescended into this world of beauty products. Gerolaga is no stranger to creating a commentary on our social climate, as she has developed a bunch of little shorts that tackle the perspective of an Asian-American woman called Starring Kristine, in which she also plays the lead role. You can tell that Kristine was acting very genuine in this short, like this is exactly who she is in real life. A strong, independent woman who ain’t gonna fall into this web of lies and will do what she needs to in order to help her friend.
Directed by: Sarah Wisner and Sean Temple
Two young women are at the end of a long days drive, pulled over in the parking lot of a sketchy motel finishing up a conversation and getting ready to lay their heads before heading back out on the open road for an undisclosed road trip. An unsettling exchange with a stranger occurs as he leaves a rose on the windshield of their car, not thinking too much into it they leave the car and head inside their room. The night gets increasingly more unsettling until they twist the story on its head and the predator becomes the prey.
Although this is not my favorite of the shorts that were showcased at this festival, I can definitely see the appeal. Gwen (Sydni Perry) and Jade (Kathleen Burke) both seem like strong women with hardened shells and so as soon as the strange man played by well-known actor Tyler Buckingham creeps on them from outside their car, we immediately get a feeling that we may see some Black Christmas 2019-esque ass kicking. It’s shot with a beautiful red tinge and uses some amazing camera angles that manipulate us as viewers to become the voyeur in this flick. The setup for the plot is engaging and exciting, the execution was accurate but what I think lacks for me is the acting and the dialogue. There was some meta self-awareness that maybe I’ve stopped appreciating as much as I used to, and the ending which cuts off at a perfect time but still loses some of the seriousness it had built up in the previous five and a half minutes. I was left a little underwhelmed but all in all, this is done well and could definitely spawn a feature of some sort.
Directed By: Catharine E. Jones
Mary Burch is in possession of a highly sought after catalyst for your utmost desires. The pleasure giver itself feeds on the ever-growing appetite of its abusers, with the addiction trudging forward, visitors are beginning to sacrifice themselves for what this item provides. All while the lines of a surreal reality become immensely blurred.
Filmed in New Mexico and Colorado, these breathtaking locations are front and center of this expertly narrated piece of fantasy craftsmanship. The score is whimsical and inviting by composer Alec N. Brown whose only credit is in this film, and absolutely nails his debut. Incredible writing from Adam James Jones, setting up fantasy in a real-world setting, seemingly benign and childlike up until a point of no return. This is my type of fantasy horror, where our deepest and darkest desires drive us to the brink, where our addictions take over and we are left sacrificing our inner morals to feed these monsters. We must destroy this object but in doing so we must destroy a piece of ourselves.
I will release the rest of my viewings of this fantastic horror film festival in the coming days, but for now, please keep an eye out for these films, search around and take a look at these as I think we will be seeing more from these filmmakers and writers in the future. Support the genre that has brought us all together.