For eight days in South Florida, in the middle of the hottest period of the year, festival promotors Igor Shteyrenberg and Marc Ferman find a way to pack Savor Cinema in Ft. Lauderdale for their Popcorn Frights Horror Film Festival. I’m not saying the air conditioning, and cold drinks are the reason, but it helps. The real reason this festival is bigger and better than ever, now in its fifth year, is due to the selection of great independent horror films.
In total, 27 films, from five minutes long to hours long, play throughout the festival. Like an old, mighty oak with the hanging corpse of a witch, the festival first digs deep roots and over five years, those roots have grown down into the limestone foundation of Florida. To nurture those roots, the festival features a series of short films in a program called Homegrown. Each of the filmmakers calls Florida home, and the block of screen time is dedicated to their talents. And boy, does Florida have some incredible filmmakers.
What did Florida have to offer this year?
Call For A Good Time
Talk about doing a lot with a little. The entire film takes place in a bathroom stall with one terrified pothead and a human (presumably) covered in black oatmeal (?). Great sound, editing, and acting bring it all together into one terrifying little package.
A growing paranoia stems from the reality of our modern world. Our phones, TVs, cars, even some refrigerators have voice activation, which means that they’re “always listening.” It’s creepy. And this movie says, “Oh yeah, what if it’s even worse than we think?”
Amy Hoerler (The Last Movie Star) stars in this film about a girl lying sick in bed and her sweet mother trying to make her feel better. However, there’s more to this fever, as the girl explains. But typical of adults, they don’t believe until it’s too late.
The Final Girl Returns
A driver races away from an unseen horrific act of violence. He tries to get help, but the scene is clean. Day after day, the driver picks up a “Final Girl” who survived some unseen horror film. However, even the final girl sees her last day. Is The Driver the killer? Perhaps. Are they trapped in a loop of horror movie tropes? Seems like it. Does a dude with a machete and wearing a deer skull mask face off against a guy with a samurai sword? F yes.
Valerio’s Day Out
Art house horror at its finest, or is it a misunderstood documentary? It’s a collection of footage, one set of a jaguar at a zoo, the other of news clips about an escaped jaguar. Slickly edited, the unsettling yet somehow cute voice of the jaguar narrates what happened the day the powerful creature was free to be itself. It’s a night of murder worthy of any slasher film.
A Doll For Edgar
In the era of pop culture, dolls are a figurehead, unlike any other. From Funko Pop to Annabelle, we love little versions of ourselves. In this film by Anthony Dones, Edgar’s step-dad doesn’t like the little human under his care called Edgar. The little boy just wants to play with his Spider-Man doll but gets a macabre gift from his step-father instead. However, the dad’s plans to torment Edgar with this new doll don’t turn out as planned.
A masked rider named Caden goes on a deadly mission to rescue a woman in a post-apocalyptic world. Like watching an unknown player demolishing a level, Caden makes his way down a road of torches while tearing through minions. Reaching the limits of the path, Caden faces a dangerous nemesis, a sci-fi cult, orbital strikes, and finds the girl, but there’s a twist and a turn. The Limits feature some impressive action and gorgeous scenery on a shoe-string budget.
The Spirit #1
The film begins moving backward through a hallway and the message: “There’s a ghost in this hallway. Can you see it?” From the quiet, ominous start we meet three characters staying in a vacation home somewhere in the New England area. The lone woman in the bunch warns of the ghost in the hallway. An investigation of the house begins and doesn’t end well when finally see that mysterious hallway ghost.
Read more about Popcorn Frights here!