Knoxville Horror Film Fest: 28 Shorts in 28 Paragraphs

Published on October 31st, 2014 in: Film Festivals, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin


The Knoxville Horror Film Fest screened 28 short films this year. Here are mini-reviews of all of them.

INVADERS (dir. by Jason Kupfer) A home invasion goes amazingly wrong in this wonderfully silly gorefest. Well-crafted and lean, this movie makes its point and gets out. That’s punk rock, bitches. Recommended. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Touring Short.

HE TOOK HIS SKIN OFF FOR ME (dir. by Ben Aston) You know, some chicks dig that, but it can be very difficult when you’re the only man wandering about London with no skin. Sad without being insightful, this one is a bummer with an unsatisfying ending. Special Jury Prize: Jenn Cardno and her team for practical effects.

PAISLEY (dir. by Matthew Olmon) We know it’s meant to be a tribute to Gremlins; they even use the font from the Gremlins logo in the closing credits. However, the concept of cute furry thing becoming horrifying monsters is lost in intentionally poor special effects and unsympathetic characters. Points off for digital fire.

KNOCK KNOCK (dir. by Jeff Betancourt) A slumber party game goes way off the rails in a convincing fashion, and things quickly turn to matters of strange revenge. Good acting and one of the weirdest physical effects you’ll see this year make this a must-watch.

GOAT WITCH (dir. by James Sizemore) A companion piece to the feature The Demon’s Rook, this short exceeds the limitations of its low budget with visceral practical special makeup effects and even a new language. Extra points for full nudity. Winner: Weirdest Film Award.

TEASERS (dir. by Rafael de Leon, Jr.) Boys who are tired of getting teased by mean girls turn to black magic to teach each other a lesson they’ll never forget, instead of attempting to have a rational, adult conversation about expectations, misogyny, and misandry.

CRAZY FOR YOU (dir. by James Moran) A ten-minute short that deserves more time to develop its charming lead characters. Funny, moving, and gory, this one is a standout.

IT GROWS! (dir. by R. Cauchi & N. Stathopolis) This Little Shop of Horrors tribute fails to find its footing, and its uneven approach to the subject matter doesn’t help matters.

ABDULLAH (dir. by Evrim Ersoy) Less a horror short and more a meditation on Michael Mann’s films, this film follows a Turkish cabbie having either the worst (or best) night of his life.

SAY WHAT?! (dir. by Shane Nasmith) Obnoxious characters face the zombie apocalypse on one Sunday morning, and act just like people you don’t like would act.

WELCOME TO DIGNITY PASTURES (dir. By Brian Lonano) A concept that could have used more time, but presented in a way that feels cheap and sloppy. Points off for digital fire.

MR. DENTONN (dir. by Ivan Villamel) A malevolent storybook character comes to life to make the life of two young children a nightmare. Stylish, but marred by some cheap effects. Winner: Palm D’Gore for Best Short Film, Scariest Film.

BADGUY #2 (dir. by Chris McInroy) This organized crime comedy about a henchman who gets promoted is heavy on the gore. Certainly horrific, if not horror, and one of the best-received shorts of the festival. Winner: Funniest Film.

THE STOMACH (dir. by Chris Steiner) A visually disturbing angle on the old psychic story. In this one, the spirits manifest themselves in the medium’s stomach. It’s messed up, but never anything less than fascinating. Smart and scary. Winner: Best Scanario, Best Actor (Peter Marinker).

SHIT’S ABOUT TO GET DARK (dir. by Stephen Stull) A friendly poker game turns into a hilarious game of “what if?” Then it stops being funny and becomes something nicely bent. Fun and definitely lives up to its title.

DAISY (dir. by Chad Cunningham) A little girl contracts the zombie virus and her big brother has to do. . . well, exactly what you expect he has to do. Lots of product placement for a short film; apparently a whiskey called Sugarland Shine helps in making zombie decisions.

CANDEE NOIR (dir. by Kelly Shipe) A nice Southern gothic story with food as a main character. The movie is a pastel nightmare, with a great sad main character and a clean twist at the end. Highly recommended on the strength of director Shipe’s performance as Candee.

WHERE IS ALICE? (dir. by Zachary Beckler) When a man visits the former owner of his home, information about the house and its dark past manifests itself in scary and unexpected ways. This one made everyone in the theater shudder and hold their breath. Fantastic work. Winner: Best Regional Short Film.

DARK CORNERS (dir. by Sam Comer) Noises in the basement lead to not much of anything. Easily forgettable.

YOU WILL BE FED (dir. by Buck Kahler) A little hillbilly Lovecraft never hurt anyone, except the people who get trapped by cultists in the hills. Sounds serious, but it’s actually pretty funny. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Short Film.

MUMMY MEAT MUNCHER (dir. by J.D. Sizemore) Here’s a concept that shouldn’t work, but it totally does in one of the funnier shorts of the whole festival. What if mummy meat is absolutely delicious? Winner: Best Performance (J.D. Sizemore).

DEAD HEARTS (dir. by Stephen W. Martin) A Gothic heartwarmer, with a unique visual style, a twee script, and a gang of werewolf-masked hooligans who call themselves the Slaughtered Lambs. Good stuff.

AUTUMN HARVEST (dir. by Fredrik Hana) A film heavily influenced by Bergman that wants us to believe it is on par with Hour of the Wolf, but plays out more like a Swedish Hostel, right down to the heavy sweaters. Pretentious and unenjoyable.

PRANK (dir. by Alex Weight) This film takes too long to get going and by the time we reach the final twist, we’re in no position to really care. Less exposition and more action would have helped tremendously.

EROTOS (dir. by Gregory Montaldo) Cronenberg’s Crash, nine inch nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” video, and a ridiculous number of snails all come together uncomfortably in a mess of a film that looks like a rejected perfume advert. My least favorite of the fest.

COUNTER PARTS (dir. by Patrick Rea) Although I did appreciate the alexisonfire references in this short, it ends up being another example of fictional voodoo, so it is a little silly, with an unnecessary twist in the third act. Good attempt, though, and I would like to see more from Mr. Rea.

INNARDS (dir. by Bart Elfbrink) Apples from a local orchard may be causing digestive changes in consumers. This is a highly disturbing film with some fascinatingly unresolved body horror. Well done and creepy.

WATERBORNE (dir. by Ryan Coonan) Two words: zombie kangaroos. Oh, one more word. AMAZING.

2 Responses to “Knoxville Horror Film Fest: 28 Shorts in 28 Paragraphs”

  1. Brian Lonano:
    November 6th, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Ouch! Well thanks for watching anyway!

  2. Stephen Stull:
    November 10th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the good words! I’m glad I decided at the last minute to scrap the CGI inferno finale.

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