What does Panic Fest have in store for its second block of short films? I was entertained, repulsed, and overjoyed with the shorts from the first block. What I was not prepared for was the badassery that was to come. We get John Wick with animation, a father/son reunion that goes awry, a trip into the weird side of the internet, and a Ferris wheel that must have come from Vendredi’s Antique. One thing is for sure, Panic Fest is two for two with short film blocks so far.
Directed by Matt Genesis
After gulping down a large jug of Sunny D, Xavier (Xavier Goodman) goes on a rampage of carnage to rescue Lareta (Gabby Thomas) from a mad scientist. Set to a song that sounds like a Childish Gambino song with a Tyler the Creator feature ripped right out of 2013, Tanjiro is an adrenaline-packed thrill ride. It’s like if Flying Lotus directed John Wick. Tanjiro does this beautiful thing of mixing film with animation which creates a whole new experience. It is maybe one of the best openers to a block of shorts I have experienced.
Written/Directed by Ellie Stewart
A coming of age story set at a 16-year-old’s birthday party. What more could go wrong? My issue with Pool Party is I think the concept is more intriguing than the script. I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to take a body horror angle, and I was kind of right. The disconnect for me was either unfortunate lighting or unblended SFX makeup. I didn’t dislike this short, I just think it fell flat at the stinger. As a concept the idea of an outsider trying to fit in while also hiding a secret is very poignant, if there is one takeaway from this film it would be the message. It’s okay to be different, to not be “normal” and I applaud this film for tackling that subject.
Written by Andrew Rutter and Chris Butler, Directed by Andrew Rutter
Imagine meeting your father for the first time in quite a few decades, now imagine he is something between Brendan Fraser in The Whale and the shunting from Society. Sounds like a fun family reunion! I was truly repulsed by this unhinged idea conceived by Rutter and Butler. It’s fantastically simple and provides ample horror in look alone. Add on top of that, the father’s abhorrent behavior and you have one of my new favorite horror villains. Huge props to SFX designer Dan Martin and SFX artists Roz Gomersall and Beth Leigh for bringing this creature to life. The pulsing pustules and sweaty sheen make this thing beyond grotesque.
The Internet Remains Undefeated
Written/Directed by Robbie Gibbon
It sure does. The internet can do wonders, connecting friends and family thousands of miles apart, it’s a vessel for vast amounts of research, and it’s a place to share your possessed dancing with the masses. A few years ago there was a short, 2AM: The Smiling Man, that went pretty viral and I think The Internet Remains Undefeated has a similar life to that one. They’re very complimentary to each other. TIRU takes the concept of this freeze-frame dancing and makes it absolutely frightening. The idea of almost real-life visual effects is crazy to think of and is pulled off very well. It’s funny when it needs to be, and downright horrific when it’s time. The comedy of TIRU doesn’t necessarily feel forced, rather I think the comedy of this idea creates a deeper level of terror.
Prom Car 91
Written/Directed by Brian Ottig
When Carrie (McKenna Marmolejo) and Don (Max Jablow) go to celebrate prom their own way, they witness something that changes them forever: a murder. That’ll surely ruin the mood, amirite? Prom Car 91 is a fun adventure full of fourth wall breaks and some pretty sick karate. With a name like Prom Car 91 I was expecting more of a “teens at makeout point” type story with a masked intruder trying to get them, but what I got was surprisingly fresh. Marmolejo and Jablow have some really great chemistry, plus they’re super cute together. I appreciate it when overly used ideas are presented to us and then take a complete 180.
Written/Directed by Adam Rose-Levy
I remember as a kid there was a seemingly unwritten rule to hold your breath when driving past a cemetery, and holding your breath when you go through a tunnel. Why? I wasn’t sure. Until now. A family is in their car en route to a hopefully joyous vacation. As they approach a tunnel the sister tells her brother a tale about a witch that resides above the tunnel, and he better hold his breath. The Tunnel is simple and incredibly effective. I love when a short film can be quick and as effective as this one is.
When the Time Comes
Written by Jondaniel Cornett, Directed by Jondaniel Cornett and Jonathan Frey
New zombie lore! I won’t talk about what the new lore is, but we have new zombie lore! That already pumps this film up a few points for me. Garold (Adam Kitchen) takes care of his sick wife Zoe (Rachel G. Whittle). Their house is boarded up from the inside, and there are shooting ear protectors hanging up by the door. When the Time Comes is more than just a zombie story, it’s really about the depths of love, and how Garold would put his life on the line just to make his dying wife’s last days a little better. Powerhouse performances from Kitchen and Whittle, and left me crying. This is the second Panic Fest short to make me cry this year!
Written by Nikhil Bhagat and Andrew Wong, Directed by Nikhil Bhagat
OOOOOOH I love a good ghost story. Megan (Molly Beucher) received a gift in the post from her husband Eric (Jack Baca). They deal antiques, so this mechanical Ferris wheel with an antiquated art design shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. What is a surprise is what the Ferris wheel brings with it. The amount of dread I felt throughout The Wheel was immeasurable. There is the perfect amount of showing us things and then taking them away from us, creating this surface-level tension that doesn’t ever go away. Add on top of that the design of the house, which looks like it’s falling apart at the seams, and you have the recipe for one creepy ass movie. The Wheel could easily be adapted into a feature, and it would absolutely kill. I’d step right up.