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July 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #24: Horrorant International Film Festival 7 report

Fright Nights - Horrorant International Film Festival 7

After two years of having to put Horrorant on hold due to the Covid-19 crisis, Greece’s prestigious international film festival returned, for 11 days, in several cities, with 62 films, among them 25 feature films – all of them Greek premieres – and with several guests that provided the audience with Q&A sessions. Here’s the report.


Horrorant found its home at the ΕΛΙΖΕ theater.

The festival was kick-started as usual, with the screening of the previous edition’s winner of the ‘Best Feature’ Award, namely Pledge (2018) and the Opening Ceremony feature, which was Post Portem (2020).


A good surprise the festival had in store was a special screening of a group of collected animated shorts including Coin (2019), Deeply Deep (2020), Gholu (2019), Knock Knock (2019), Las Putas Pastillas (2021), Mirror (2019), and Re-Animal (2021).


The audience experienced 11 nights of horror

Competition Horror:


Several interesting new horror films competed in this category, including The Last Thing Mary Saw (2021), Apps (2021), The Sadness (2021), Llanto Maldito (2021), Hambre (2021), Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019), and the ones reviewed bellow.


The Devil’s Tail (2021)


The mysterious patient Mr. Moore who had 80% of his body terribly burned, is going through a hellish hospitalization that includes strong medicine and restraining, until one day he disappears from his room with his bed intact. Several years later, a stereotypical nurse manager tells tales that are somehow connected with this tragic and uncanny event.


Although the anthology horror picture is a difficult thing to tackle with any success, especially in recent years (the British films from Amicus and the like in the 1970s are now considered classics, but they are the exception), an array of newcomers did just that with this co-production between Argentina and New Zealand. Most of the stories are functioning well enough to guarantee for a good viewing material, combining horror and humor, and they would all work well on their own, had they been offered as short subjects individually. It is not the anthology horror film that will take the independent film world by storm, but it is a very good addition to the much-maligned subgenre.


The 100 Candles Game


Four friends that look very ‘alternative’ – in conjunction with this modern horror trend which has the fans taking of over the filmmaking side of things – gather in a house and set-up a 100 candles game in which they each have to tell a scary story. This is another anthology horror co-production between Argentina and New Zealand, and its segments not only work, but are scary as hell, which is all you really need from such fare. It comes highly recommended.


Urubu (2019)


Tomas (Carlos Urrutia) a photographer, travels deep in the Amazonian forest to get the perfect picture of a rare bird, dragging with him his dysfunctional family that consists of his attractive wife Eva (Clarice Alves) and their daughter Andrea (Jullie D’Arrigo). The marriage will be tested as tensions arise in the first half of the film, but their problems will get much worse in the climactic second half.


Directed by Alejandro Ibanez (his feature length theatrical debut, as he had previously helmed only shorts and TV-movies) this is – as per the promotional material – a tribute to the cinematic legacy of his father Narciso Ibanez Serrador, and to be more precise, to the landmark film Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), although this is more prevalent in the second half, while the first half is mostly reminiscent of the Italian erotic thrillers from the 1970s.


This is cinema with guts, the like of which we unfortunately don’t see much of – or any – these days, and it is a pity that it won’t have the impact it should, as international genre cinema does not have the place that 1970s exploitation film had in the global landscape of theaters and home video. However, this doesn’t take anything away from the absolute thrill that it is to experience this masterpiece, and you should absolutely go out of your way to see it, as hands down it is my favorite piece that was screened during this year’s program.


Al Tercer Dia (2021) poster

Al Tercer Dia


A mother is looking for her son, but things gets worse when she becomes the prisoner of a religious maniac, in this Argentinean genre-bending outing from director Daniel de la Vega. Think of a cross between ‘torture porn’ and a creature feature, but with its biggest inspiration being the classic Don’t Look Now (1973), and you might get a vague idea of what this feature is like, but I recommend seeing it for yourselves to full comprehend its originality.


Ex (2021)


Entrapped in a virtual world where sharing everything is more important than living anything in real life, this is about a group of teenagers that get in supernatural trouble once a ‘memory’ picture is shared on social media.


By combining elements from modern ghost story films and hip subjects such as the dangers of social media, this is doomed to be dated not long from now, but if seen today – like we did at Horrorant – it is quite an enjoyable experience and quite scary at times. Directed by Evgeniy Puzyrevskiy, this is a Russian production, probably the last one that managed to get internationally screened before the widespread cancel.


Christos Mouroukis presents Troma's award

#Shakespeare’s Shitstorm


And speaking of Russia, Troma let us know via one of its several introductory videos that it stands with Ukraine (yes, our beloved Toxic Avenger can stop tanks!). Other videos included Lloyd Kaufman’s greeting to Horrorant (needless to say, we are proud for this), as well as the Troma’s now-classic short Radiation March.


The movie itself as you might have guessed is another take on the works of Shakespeare – this time it is The Tempest, but Troma had also notably adapted Romeo and Juliet to Tromeo & Juliet – albeit one with a New Jersey spin on it. What’s this spin? The corrupted ‘Big Pharma’ industry is putting lives in danger, essentially allowing dope to destroy our kids in exchange for big profit. What’s more, a family beef and a new drug called The Tempest that just hit the streets generate a shitstorm! It is up to the social justice warriors and soft activists to save the day.


#Shakespeare's Shitstorm

With Lloyd Kaufman at the helm, as well as in several roles, this will have the New York legend going out with a bang if he decides for it to be his swan song. It is an absolute chaos, of seemingly endless scenes of people partying with drugs, vomit, blood, piss, semen, and excrement, but Troma as always is keen to offer well-masqueraded social commentary as well. This time the target is the ‘politically correct’ obsession, the capitalist threat, the Big Pharma, the media, the white house, the social justice warriors, and everyone that would stand on Toxie’s way and beyond! This is a masterpiece that is firing on all cylinders, and I consider it to be one of the most important works of art of recent years.


La Forma Del Bosque (2021)


This co-production between Argentina and Uruguay was directed by Gonzalo Mellid, is your typical ‘cabin in the woods’ story in which two siblings and their weird grandfather have to face a paranormal entity. Although no masterpiece by any stretch of the word, it is an enjoyable effort that at its mere 87 minutes of running time, it never outstays its welcome.


Offseason (2021)


Upon receiving a letter, a young woman (Jocelin Donahue) arrives at a small seaside town where she gets entrapped in a horrible nightmare. Directed by Mickey Keating, this Shudder Original may not be very original, but it is thrilling, tense, and most importantly scary. It is not the horror film that will change the history of the genre, but it is outstandingly eerie, coming highly recommended.


The Red Book Ritual (2022)


Another co-production between New Zealand and Argentina that opts for the anthology format, this time revolving around the titular game that is about to unleash an evil witch. Not a game changer, but a very welcome addition to the subgenre, this is enjoyable enough and at a mere 83 minutes long it never outstays its welcome.


Konstantinos Chatzipapas and Filip Jan Rymsza

Mosquito State


Wall Street wolf and computer engineer Richard Boca is working on a ‘model’ that keeps on resembling the operational methods of mosquitoes, essentially driving him deeper and deeper into madness, as well as the nightmares of body horror. Although too original to be pigeonholed to any genre, this resembles a distant cousin of an orphan David Cronenberg film, but its constant social commentary elevates it to something really outstanding. Directed by Filip Jan Rymsza, this is one of most unique U.S. films I’ve seen in many years.


Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

Luz: The Flower of Evil


Set in a Columbian mountain (where this Columbian production was shot on location), this tells the story of a local priest who introduces to his community a young boy as their savior, but it looks like he brings doom and despair with him. Directed by Juan Diego Escobar Alzate, this indie production has become a film festival sensation around the globe, thanks to its awkward stance on female sexuality and the overall peculiar shooting style. It is a masterpiece, it is original (the screenplay in particular is odd and genious), and it deserves to be seen by a wider audience.


Competition Panorama:


Several new independent features competed in this category, including Nikolina (2020), Dark Cloud (2022), Glasshouse (2021), and the ones reviewed bellow.


Emboscada (2020)


Bodies are lost and found, appear and disappear, under mysterious circumstances in this Mexican thriller from director Rene Herrera. Peculiar in terms of storytelling and awkward in terms of execution, this is difficult to get but it is an enjoyable journey. I only wish it had downplayed the gangster element and went for a more full-on horror approach, but it is still quite strong as it is.


Slumber Party Massacre


Trish Devereaux [Schelaine Bennett from Monster Hunter (2020)] the sole survivor of a serial killer’s 1993 rampage (as seen in the same-titled 1982 film and re-enacted masterfully here in a pre-credits sequence) lets her teenage daughter Dana [Hannah Gonera from Spell (2020)] in present day Los Angeles to go on a field trip with her girlfriends, but unbeknownst she goes to the exact same location to face the same serial killer [Rob Van Vuuren from Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018)] who is alive and killing according to a famous true crime podcast. Will the lot kill him or be killed?


Director Danishka Esterhazy [I Was Lorena Bobbitt (2020)] perfectly captures the tone of the franchise (which it wasn’t that easy, considering that the original series ran from 1982 to 1990, and the second rendition from 2003 to 2011) and does so with plenty of affection for its spirit. Essentially a feminist slasher (like the original), it somehow goes a step further to objectify the male figure and create a free-for-all homoerotic fantasy. However, this being the fan service that it is (it pays its respects by including several ‘Easter eggs’ not only from the original film, but also its sequels), only super fans will ‘get it’ and the rest will be dumbfounded by the sheer stupidity of it all.


Muerto Con Gloria (2021)


The titular young woman is working in a bookstore and has no real personal life with sex being absolutely absent from her life. That is until one night she is visited by an invisible ghost with the most and has passionate intercourse with her.


Directed by Mauro Sarser and Marcela Matta, this is mainly a comedy with only the ghost aspects giving it some elements of horror, but light as it is – especially in comparison with the context of Horrorant – it is enjoyable, it works, and surprisingly never gets tiring even at almost 2 hours long. It was a nice break from the constant horror we were experiencing for eleven days.


Vivian Papageorgiou receives Hansel's award

Greek Shorts:


Horrorant always showcases Greek horror short films, and this year we had the pleasure of watching That Night (2020), Stay Safe (2020), Love (2022), Wicca Book (2020), as well as the ones reviewed bellow.


Hansel (2020)


Written and directed by Vivian Papageorgiou (her second short subject to be screened at Horrorant Film Festival) this is about a young boy facing a mysterious man that comes from the nearby forest. Seemingly inspired by the works of Tim Burton; this excellent dark fairytale benefits from stunning production design.


Michelle Coverley receives The Wick's award

International Shorts:


Horrorant always showcases international horror short films, and this year we had the pleasure of watching Noite Macabra (2020), T’Es Morte Helene (2020), La Penumbra (2021), Hopes (2019), Casa (2020), Nuisible(s) (2020), Guardian Angel (2019), Mama (2021), El Bosque Del Silencio (2019), Aamama (2020), Horrorscope (2019), Part Forever (2021), Stalker (2019), as well as the ones reviewed bellow.


Lili (2019)


The titular actress is auditioning for a role, until the man behind the camera becomes a creep and harasses her. But she just won’t take it. Directed by Yfke van Berckelaer, this excellent one-shot (we need more of these) is a perfect #metoo-inspired addition to the revenge horrors cannon.


Scriptum (2021)


Directed by Marco Leonato, this horror short comes from Spain and it is about an author who is suffering from a writer’s block much to his editor’s angst, until one day he finds the inspiration he was searching for, but it may prove deadly. Clocking at a massive 20 minutes long, this manages to never drag. It wears its Alfred Hitchcock inspiration proudly on its sleeve and it benefits from ace performances from the two female leads.


Tebori (2020)


Directed by Silvana Zancolo, this highly erotic Italian horror short is about a hip couple that gets entrapped in the dangers of social media when they get involved in a dodgy auction. Scary, sexy, and above all enjoyable, this was a joy to watch.


Sonrisas (2020)


Directed by Javier Chavanel, this horror short comes from Spain, and it is about a young man who upon accepting his girlfriend’s invitation to meet her family he gets introduced to some very strange people. Eerie and in the spirit of a Twilight Zone episode (if you could imagine one with gore), this is well-made and enjoyable.


El Juego (2019)


This stunning monster movie from Peru is effective, atmospheric, and scary. Directed by Rogger Vergara, there is not too much plot to speak of, but surprisingly for a short film the special effects are stunning (and mostly of the practical variety, as we like them) and the mood is eerie.


Koreatown Ghost Story (2021)


Although technically a U.S. production, this short – as revealed by its title – has a full-on Korean flavor and it is a Faust-like story about a woman that accepts a macabre deal in order to make her life’s dreams come true.


Salpicon (2021)


Hailing from Mexico, this 8 minutes short by director Marcos Munoz is about a zombie breakout from the perspective of a man trapped in a public bathroom and suffering from diarrhea.


No Podras Volver Nunca (2020)


Coming from the renowned horror-producing country that is Spain and directed by Monica Mateo, this is a very interesting short about an interracial couple that upon saying goodbye during a totally conventional day, something will put them in a horrifying reality. This is one of the most well-made and intense shorts I’ve had the pleasure of watching at this year’s fest, and it’s a shame that I can’t tell you more for fearing of getting into spoiler territory.


La Tueur Du Lac Maudit (2020)


This French short from directors Laurent Ardoint and Stephane Duprat (the two of them also star in it) is a fun meta-take parody of the slasher tropes and the film festival circuit.


The Wick (2020)


Set in 19th Century England this British short film tells the eerie story of a witch trial. It is always hard to make a period piece in itself, let alone in the short film form, but this one does this really well. Based on a real story and inspired by the many similar cases through the ages, it provides us with stark realism, resulting in eeriness. It is an important work that I would love to see in feature length form.


No Apto Para Menores (2020)


This sweet and humorous short from Spain was directed by Daniel Noblom and it tells a story from two perspectives.


Closing Ceremony feature:


Meander (2020) poster



Following a hitchhike with a mysterious man (Peter Franzen), Lisa (Gaia Weiss) wakes up in a block of miniscule tunnels full of deadly booby-traps. Will she manage to get out in one piece, or alive at all?


Writer/director Mathieu Turi [Hostile (2017)] employs the setting of Cube (1997) and the ethics of Saw (2004), albeit in sci-fi manner, and I only wish he had a larger budget to pull it off, as the potentional was there and begging for it. It premiered at the online version of the Sitges Film Festival.


The Awards:


K. Chatzipapas at the opening ceremony

Best Feature (International Competition): Mosquito State (Filip Jan Ryszma)
Best Feature (Panorama): Las Noches son de los Monstruos (Sebastian Perillo)
Best Director: Filip Jan Ryszma (Mosquito State)
Best Screenplay: Piros Zankay, Gabor Hellebrandt & Peter Bergendy (Post Mortem)
Best Actor: Carlos Urrutia (Urubú)
Best Actress: Mariana Anghileri (Al Tercer Día)
Best Cinematography: Nicolas Caballero Arenas (Luz: The Flower of Evil)
Best Special Effects: The Sadness
Special Mention Lifetime Achievement Award: Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Entertainment

Best International Short: The Wick
Best Greek Short: Hansel
Best Animated Short: Mirror

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