Welcome to Day 3 of Portland Horror Film Festival, the first all-horror film festival to take its program online. 60+ short and feature films that were shown on June 17-21st, 2020. Ticket sales also benefited the historic Hollywood Theatre, a beloved non-profit movie palace in the heart of Portland, currently closed due to the pandemic.
Today I am reviewing the films from June 19th, 2020. The evening began with 8 amazing and diverse short films. My top favs were Stucco from directors Janina Gavankar and Russo Schelling, Hide and Seek from directors Thomas Nicol and Andrew Gleason, Make a Wish from director Dihn Thai and Exit, a Russian entry from director Ivan Basov.
Stucco is about a young woman trying hard to move forward after an abusive relationship. Now agoraphobic, she is not coping well. While hanging a painting she knocks a hole in the wall and what she finds is disturbing, to say the least. With some of the craziest (and humorous) body horror I have ever seen, it was incredible to watch her mind unravel. The special effects were sublime!
Hide and Seek is about two sisters who start playing what seems like a harmless kiddie phone app with a bunny. Things escalate quickly and they realize that Hide and Seek now has way higher stakes than they could ever have imagined.
Make a Wish took making a wish for your birthday to another level. When a husband comes home to his childhood bully wrapped in a bow, ready to be played with, he isn’t sure what to think. Does he run away, or is the best present ever?
In Exit, three construction workers discover an impossible space in a house they are building. A closet seems to be getting bigger, but how can that happen? The guys decide to go into the anomaly to see what is there. With a rope around his waist, the first goes in and comes out insane. Things only get worse from there. This bizarre story was original and beautifully shot.
The feature film was Making Monsters.
Directed by Justin Harding and Rob Brunner, this film really rocked my world. It is an insane story, that yes, may sound familiar at first. But, trust me, it goes off on a tangent that even if you think you know what is coming, think again.
Synopsis: When a celebrity couple, famed for their YouTube scare-prank channel are invited to a friend’s converted church in the countryside for a weekend getaway, a series of startling events unfold that spiral them into an inexplicable nightmare. Their idyllic country vacation is turned into the ultimate video prank, where the stakes are life and death.
The opening shot will leave you breathless, as a bloody and naked man runs across a field, an armed man on a quad coming up behind. We have no way of knowing at this point what happened to the naked running man, but when he is in the unknown man’s crosshairs, it’s pretty easy to figure out it’s not gonna end well. As the killer drags the lifeless body back to his lair, it is easy to imagine there will ultimately be more victims.
Cut to a bridal shop where Allison, (Alana Elmer) fiancé to Chris (Tim Loden) is trying on wedding gowns. Chris and Allison have a successful YouTube channel that consists of Chris constantly jumping out and terrifying a very gullible Allison over and over. The wedding shopping day being no exception.
Allison is tired of it all and is ready to settle down to have a family; we see the couple picking up the fertility meds that Alison will begin taking. There they run into Jesse, (King Chin) an old friend of Chris’s. He is an SFX artist and apparently he and his partner bought and refurbished an old church. Jesse invites them to come and stay with them. A weekend getaway sounds like a great idea, they can relax and get ready for the job of trying to make a baby.
When they arrive, they find out their friend is running late and David (Jonathan Craig) his fiancé, is there to entertain them. After a tour of the eclectic house filled with creepy movie props, they settle down to a crazy evening of alcohol and drugs, including mushrooms. David has everything they need to party down, but despite all the karaoke and fun, they are left wasted and very vulnerable.
In the morning things are not right. The power is off, their phones missing, the car is gone, and David is nowhere to be found. Allie, who we learned earlier comes from a family of mediums, has had some gnarly and bloody supernatural visions, and she ends up naked, outside in the snow. When they figure out days have passed, they know the idyllic getaway has turned into a nightmare and they need to get the hell out of there now!
Even though this is not a new scenario, Making Monsters is a fresh look at the genre and has its own special twists and turns. Paced perfectly to keep my ADHD brain engaged, I loved every minute. The cinematography was fantastic, the acting amazing, and the brutal and bloody gore especially realistic. If the SFX had not been so good, this film could not have worked! Plus, I felt, really felt the terror exactly the way the victims would have. It was a very visceral experience.
Brutal and horrifying, this is such a deranged film, and I suggest all horror fans find it! In a story where the traditional monsters (in this case a ghost) are the good guys and the real monster is human, you never know what might happen next.
When a prankster gets pranked (or in this case hunted) by a sadistic killer, well all I can say is if this creepy channel were real and got air time, YouTube would never be the same.
Making Monsters is currently available to see at horror film fests.
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Thanks for the mention of Exit. Can’t describe how meaningful it is for us yesterday’s film students to get positive feedback from a professional source in the US. Cheers from Moscow.
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