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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Best of the Fest: 2015 Atlanta Horror Film Festival

In the lead up to Halloween, Atlanta is always a good place to be. On top of the Little Five Points Halloween Parade, since 2006 it's been the host of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, which highlights both local and international horror shorts and features. This year included some fantastic programming–without further ado, the best of the fest!

dir. Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert, David Whelan, USA (82 mins)

This feature film is one to look out for: it is a faux documentary that tells the fictional story of a town in Arizona where overnight all but one of its population are brutally murdered. The lone survivor is an illegal immigrant who has been the only suspect in the case, but a border patrol officer and journalist think there's something else going on entirely. The key to the film is a roll of film purportedly shot by the suspect that shows the horrifying and possibly supernatural events that occurred on that night. The film is 95% believable, and I occasionally found myself forgetting that it wasn't real, and the use of the chronology of the photos to unravel the story is pretty brilliant. On top of the compelling narrative is some very well executed social commentary about immigration and the media. Savageland is haunting and genuinely terrifying, and is one of the most unique horror films I've seen in a long time.

dir. Jonas Ussing, Denmark (24 mins)

Copenhagen has been overrun with zombies and largely abandoned. A capable survivor armed with a bow and one arrow ventures into the heart of the city to find her boyfriend. The production value here is outstanding and impressive, and the story is well crafted and perfectly suited for a short film. The ending is very nice, but it's worth seeing for one of the best zombie deaths I've ever seen!

dir. John Zachary Thurman, USA (10 mins)

This short focuses on a projectionist with a guilty conscience. As he watches his favorite Charlie Chaplin films, the projector seems to take on a life of its own, showing him violent images of himself as his reality starts to unravel. Told entirely without dialogue, 35mm is a showcase for exceptional editing that superimposes layers upon layers in a really evocative way. A smart way to explore the history of film and the death of celluloid through a horror film!

Bad Guy #2 
dir. Chris McInroy, USA (10 mins)

This film combines a violent crime story with the comedic sensibility of Venture Bros. to create something pretty damn hilarious. When a young man suddenly gets bumped up to Bad Guy #2 by his sadistic crime boss, he's happy for the promotion, but concerned for his life. It is extremely clever and laugh-out-loud funny, and one of the more gory movies of the fest.

Larry Gone Demon 
dir. Matt Lawrence, USA (14 mins)

It's really sad that there hasn't been a truly great horror movie that blends the genre with heavy metal culture, because that's what this short does really, really well. A couple of metalheads all live in an apartment together, but things get tricky when Larry is late on his rent, and seems to be coming down with a severe case of demonic possession. Larry Gone Demon is fun as hell and extremely well acted–I found myself cracking up and really enjoying the metal references along with the over-the-top humor.

Hi, Neighbor
 dir. TC DeWitt, Kris Schulz, USA (8 mins)

Hi, Neighbor is short and sweet and one of the funniest films of the fest. Erin accidentally runs over her obnoxiously friendly neighbor (think Flanders on steroids), but finds him alive and well at home and as annoying as ever. It begins to drive her crazy, and she finds herself finding new and inventive ways to kill him, but nothing seems to stick. The hilarity of this short is due largely in part to the performances by Chad Halvorsen and Candace Ostler, but the whole package is one worth seeking out!

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