Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: 3:00AM

We made it! It’s October 31st and our month-long horror celebration is complete!

Today’s film is one that will definitely put a jump in your Halloween. “3:00AM” is a wonderful short that makes incredible use of its sound design. All too often in horror, sound is an abused element. It has the power to be a powerful building block for the execution of tension and effective scares. But we see time after time directors who just go the cheap route and throw in lazy jump scares rather than working to craft a truly scary situation.
In “3:00AM,” director Lee Matthews skillfully uses some pretty freaky sound design to add to a very unsettling atmosphere. The simple premise of a woman alone in a house in the middle of the night becomes something altogether terrifying when you layer in the various sound elements at play. 
Watch it loud – trust me, it’s worth it.

3:00AM from Lee Matthews on Vimeo.

Thanks for hanging out with me for short film funtimes over the past month! Happy Halloween!!!

Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: Lights Out

Halloween is creeping closer and closer, and “Lights Out,” is guaranteed to get you in the proper mood. A friend recommend this one to me and even though I watched this with my lights on, it still scared the living piss out of me.

It employs a great use of suspense and really taps into every fear you have ever had about being home alone and what else could be lurking in the shadows. Pull the covers up right for this one, kids!

Lights Out – Who’s There Film Challenge (2013) from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.

Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: Game

Written and directed by Josh MacDonald, “Game” is a fun spin on hillbilly horror. It opens on three redneck cannibals chasing a woman through the woods as she attempts to escape. Particularly notable is the tension built over the first few minutes, as she attempts to stay quiet and hide in the woods, as well as the makeup effects that come into play in the later half of the film.

Game (short film directed by Josh MacDonald) from Angus Swantee on Vimeo.

This one is a lot of fun, playing with established tropes and delivering something completely unexpected at the same time.

Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: Buried

This is a really short, really simple film, that manages to be quite effective in the little time it has. A simple premise that really raises more questions than it answers, “Buried” is a good exercise in setting tone and atmosphere. While the action onscreen is minimal, the soundtrack comprised of long, low tones, combined with the rhythmic sound of the man shoveling, create a suspenseful mood though very little is actually happening in the shot.

Buried from Ian Langenhuysen on Vimeo.

Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: Paralyzed

Sleep Paralysis is some seriously fucked up shit. It is a known condition that affects thousands of people, and is seriously one of the most terrifying sounding experiences out there. Aaron Sims captures the phenomenon all too well in his short “Paralyzed.”

Check it out, Then we’ll talk.

PARALYZED from Aaron Sims on Vimeo.

Okay, now that we’re all suitably terrified, it’s time to realize just how close to true those 8 minutes were. Go check out the Wiki article.

Seriously – holy shit. I have known people who have suffered from this condition in the past, and it is every bit as terrifying as it sounds. I don’t know about you guys, but I am about two steps away from downing coffee grounds and diet coke like Patricia Arquette in Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

Review: Laggies

Lynn Shelton has thrived in independent cinema thanks to her incredibly grounded, yet accessible take on relationships and human interaction. Films like Your Sister’s Sister and Humpday are nontraditional takes on what could, in different hands, be very conventional rom-com storylines. How often do we see the love triangle presented in Your Sister’s Sister as a part of the romantic landscape? Under her writing and direction though, it transforms into something much deeper – a realistic and often hilarious portrayal of the complexities of human emotion and relationships.

Kiera Knightley plays Megan, a woman who finds herself at a bit of an impasse. At 28 she finds herself with a longterm boyfriend, a group of friends who have been there for each other since high school, a Master’s degree, and absolutely no direction. No idea where she wants to go. She holds a sign on a street corner for her dad’s (played wonderfully by Jeff Garland) accounting business before flopping on her parents’ couch to watch TV instead of going home. She knows she wants something different, but she just hasn’t found it yet.
All of this comes to a head when her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes to her one evening. Not knowing what to do, she makes a quick escape in an effort to stall the situation. At a local grocery store, she is approached by a group of teenagers led by Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz). After agreeing to buy them beer, laughing whole-heartedly at their jokes and playing around on their skateboards, Megan proves herself to be a cool adult, worthy of their time. A relationship is formed; and really, it fits – they are teenagers looking for someone to look up to, and she is a woman sort of stuck in this regressed state. They meet on common ground.

Megan decides that this new friend could be exactly what she is looking for. She asks Annika if she can just crash at her place for a week while she gets her shit together and begins to sort out her life. Naturally, the plan isn’t in effect very long before Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell), discovers this 28-year-old interloper crashing in his daughter’s room. He’s a good sport about it though (as Sam Rockwell usually is), and Megan continues her period of panicked soul-searching to discover who she really is and where she really wants to be.
The film is an interesting next step for Shelton, who, until now, has largely written and directed her own story. This script is the first feature for writer Andrea Seigel. The result of this collaboration is a film feels much more scripted than Shelton’s previous more mumblecore entries. The dialogue feels much less naturalistic from what we have become accustomed to with her films, and while the result is not necessarily bad, it definitely has a different vibe than what audiences might be expecting.

It also weakens the story a bit. The concept of an adult woman shacking up with a teenager and her single father is a little ridiculous (the script even takes a couple of shots at it), but you laugh it off and climb aboard largely because you are drawn to the characters. But there are definitely moments that feel a little forced and shoved in for the sake of the script, rather than the story, which is where the film falters a bit. It plays a little to the “quirk for quirk’s sake” rather than the higher level “strange but ultimately relatable”.

One of the biggest selling points in this film is the incredibly dynamic performance from Kiera Knightley. This is a type of role that we really haven’t seen her in before. Megan’s stunted emotional development and complex character really give Knightley a lot of room to stretch as a performer. She has a history of more buttoned up roles, and while she performs fantastically in them, Laggjes really gives her the opportunity to explore something else. She is marvelously unguarded and at times, outright goofy. It’s a wonderful transformation to watch and she really throws everything into the role, allowing Megan to be part adolescent and part grown-up, but always relatable.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell provide fantastic supporting pieces, with Moretz functioning as something of a mirror to Megan, living her teenage years and all of their challenges for the first time while Megan treads over the same territory in her own life. Rockwell is, always, wonderful. His Craig is a stable point in Megan’s little adventure, simultaneously a potential love interest and a voice of (often sarcastic) realism. His interactions with both actresses are so fun.

All in all, Laggies is an entertaining film, but not the step forward that one would hope for from Shelton. Though the story is enjoyable, it doesn’t challenge as much as her past efforts, and seems less an exercise in emotional exploration and more just an indie-lite, fun couple of hours. But in that, it succeeds.

Horrorella’s 31 Days of Halloween: Hallowed In

Hey guys! We are getting closer and closer to The Big Day. Halloween is creepying towards us, but there are still plenty of days left and plenty of frights to be had. Like today’s film, for example. “Hallowed In” is an homage to John Carpenter’s seminal classic, Halloween, examining just how Michael Myers spends his time preparing for the greatest day of the year.

Hallowed In from ReelyBored on Vimeo.