BUFF19: HOMEGROWN HORROR Unveils The Best Short New England Genre Efforts

A bedrock of the Boston Underground Film Fest is the organizers commitment to the local film community. Each year the fest contains multiple opportunities to showcase the work of the dynamic filmmakers around all of New England. It’s this commitment that foster the community relationship between BUFF and its patron

This past festival was no exception. This year brought the official premiere of Cape Cod filmmaker Skip Shea’s Izzy Lee debuted her latest short film Rites of Vengeance before Trinity while the premiere of For A Good Time Call anchored the transgressive Trigger Warning midnight short film block. Jim McDonough’s Idioms vol. II and Porcelain Dalya’s Calling All Demons were featured in the comedy shorts block.

The local highlight of BUFF remains the Homegrown Horror block. Programmed by our resident horror guru (and co-founder of All Things Horror) Chris Hallock, this staple of Friday afternoons spotlights the creepiest, scariest and sometimes most hilarious short genre efforts from New England based filmmakers. This Year’s program marked the strongest, most diverse set of films to date.

It’s a difficult task to review a whole. Lock of shorts. Instead of full reviews for each film, Here’s a brief rundown of the bulk of the program, with my personal three favorites getting a little fuller synopsis at the end.

The program kicked off with Hannah Neurotica’s 3 minute nightmare inducing LETTING. Set in a child’s bedroom, it finds her collection of toys springing to life in the middle of the night with murderous intentions. Kyle Johannessen’s LOOKER finds the omnipresent Diane Porter (who co-wrote the film) turning the tables on the various scumbag men who leer at her or make lecherous comments towards her each and every day. Stee McMorris’ STRANGE HARVEST brought a touch of the abstract to the program, as two humanoid forms find themselves about to be digested by some unseen force of evil. Brandon Taylor’s THE PRICE OF BONES contains a nice bit of misdirection. A tale about body dysmorphia, it highlights the extreme measures a pair of young women will go through to “fix” their broken selves and capture the perfect human form. PEPPERCORN HEART from Christine Louise Marshall offers a nice revenge tale for the geriatric crowd. Set during a memorial service, lifelong friends of the deceased use the opportunity to let his shrewish, abrasive widow know what they think of heron exacting detail.

Ben Swicker’s THE DISSOLVING MAN gave the crowd a wonderful, Bloody and hilarious ode to 80s fromage. This body horror short delights in torturing its hypochondriac lead after he finds himself stuck by a discarded syringe while giving a run down on all the horrors of life while out with his long suffering girlfriend.  The various ailments that crop up over his form Over the following days are almost a relief for him since they offer him karmic vindication for all the times he’s been told to stop being a stupid weak baby over whatever ailment of the day he’s fretting over. The gross out level is through the roof here, and Swicker adds in wonderful Easter eggs to beloved cult classics throughout the twenty minute short. It’s not the kind of film you can blithely munch popcorn through as pustules burst and ooze, goiters threaten to tear through the skin, flesh flakes and peels from the bone and very important appendages get hacked off in desperate attempts to stop the hemorrhaging

Anna Gravèl’s FRACTAL shifts the focus from physical to psychological trauma. With the insistence of her partner, a young woman heads out to return to her childhood home in order to retrieve personal belongings before it is sold off. The early moments hint at a deeper tragedy and a fractured relationship between the girl and her sister before Gravèl begins to toy with the audience perception of reality and which characters even exist. In a brief runtime Fractal explores PTSD and split personality disorders. The film has a gay TJ g, claustrophobic feel to it and Gravèl manages to build a tight layer of suspense that keeps the audience guessing and questioning what they’re being presented right up until the closing moments.

While we’ve seen a great number of adaptations of HP Lovecraft’s work on screen, it’s safe to assume that Nick Spooner’s THE CALL OF CHARLIE stands apart as a unique beast. Spooner reimagines the towering aquatic God Cthulhu as a bipedal white collar workmate who knows exactly the right gift to bring the hosts of a Friday night dinner party. Spooner takes what could have played as a one. It’s joke and exploits the various scenarios and outcomes surrounding it for huge laughs. The film sets the scene for a quiet dinner party that will double as a meet cute between the hostesses’ lovely blonde friend and her coworker Charlie. It’s the standard HOLLYWOOD romantic comedy setting with the added benefit of having an elder God play the male object of affection. An unexpected drop in by a former college dorm mate and her husband adds a few layers of welcome  snark between the ladies. Meanwhile the befuddled husband serves as the audience surrogate, voicing his mild terror and mounting incredulity at the scene unfolding before his eyes. The highlight of the short is the way  “Charlie” is brought to life. A full functioning animatronic head resting on top an open throated dress shirt and pressed khakis is an FX marvel to behold. From the blinking eyes and dexterous tendrils, the ingenuity behind the creation of this effect rivals that of a Hollywood full scale production.

Mike Snoonian

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since 2009 Mike has written about independent horror, science fiction, cult and thrillers through his own blog All Things Horror along with various other spots on the web. Film Thrills marks his attempt to take things up a notch, expand his viewing and writing horizons and to entertain and engage his audience while doing so. When Mike's not writing or watching movies, you can find him reading to his little girl, or doing science experiments with her, or trying to convince her that the term "chicken butt" comes from people putting chicken nuggets down their underwear. at age five, she's too smart to believe most of what he says.

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  1. Nick Spooner

    Great review, thanks! Just one note, though – the mask wasn’t animatronic at all. Fully practical (thanks to the folks at Basement FX) with little CGI “blinks” added in post. But we’re glad we fooled you!


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