Festivals

{Panic Fest Tricks and Treats} Shorts Volume 1

As the curators at Panic Fest set off to prove that Halloween was indeed NOT cancelled Adam and Tim focused on the two areas that have perenially made Panic Fest special. First, a full slate of top notch podcasts that tied in all of the faces and voices of Kansas City’s horror and true crime communities. Second, Panic Fest Tricks and Treats focused on providing short films that showcased up and coming writers and directors. These shorts have always been the jumping off points for budding writers and directors with Kansas City’s own Jill Gevargizian and her award winning short turned full length feature The Stylist tearing up the festival circuit. There were too many shorts of merit to shrink into a single entry so there are two volumes of short film goodness that absolutely should be on your radar.

Bitch, Popcorn and Blood

Perhaps the most fun short film in the bunch Bitch, Popcorn and Blood introduces the audience to a movie theatre that also feels like a strip club all under the veneer of a 1950’s Americana but filtered through the lens of an Eastern European gangster film. Everything about this short was charming from the setting to the costumes to the kills which seemed more a function of its noir like quality than a horror movie. Director Fabio Soares has a vision and a clear aesthetic. If its your thing than you will be as excited as I am to check it out.

Unmade

Directed by Steven Sheil Unmade feels in many ways like the opposite of Bitch, Popcorn, and Blood. It feels very traditional in a spooky story sense. It made it the perfect play for a Halloween weekend. Often using settings that felt more like The Conjuring, or Ouija 2 Sheil worked hard to situate this movie in a older time period and it helps add to the movie’s creepiness. It is unabashedly a gothic movie that surrounds a séance gone bad. The plot is interesting enough and uses a set of tropes that horror movie fans will recognize quite well. The real highlight of this short is how the set is created and lit. Unmade is a showcase on how to light a scene and its use of shadow and light makes me thrilled to check out what Sheil will do next.

Nova

Perhaps the crown jewel of the first block of shorts was the absolutely beautiful Nova. Nova is one of the shortest films of the entire festival and packed with a punch that was brutal, disgusting, and absolutely perfect for a child who grew up watching Event Horizon and playing the Dead Space franchise. So here’s what makes it so interesting. It is mostly an exposition dump where a scientist makes a confession in a space laboratory as something continues to make her sick. Its high concept science fiction in a low-fi world. This low fi world doesn’t use a ton of special effects, nor does it provide any real background to the laboratory, our main character, or the alien that plays such a key role in the film. It lets all of that marinate together and the audience the freedom to draw our own conclusions. Director David McAbee set out to make a short about a killer alien, the ethical dilemmas scientists face, and maybe even motherhood. It is a short everyone must see and as a proof of concept hopefully propels McAbee into a full length project.

The rest of the shorts in the first block were all excellent and the ranged from a Spanish zombie romance satire in Together Till the End to the Read Window esque Acedia which spoke to the unique hell of Apartment buildings. As always there was something for every horror fan and each scare seemed to speak to the whimsy of the Halloween Season. Each of the three films mentioned above deserve a longer cut. That full length feature could be a slightly kitschy gangster film (think Reservoir Dogs). A new American Gothic (think The Conjuring). Or a high concept space thriller (think Alien). Each is there for the development and I eagerly await the news.

You can check out volume two of my short film reviews or other panic fest reviews here.

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