Monday, April 16

2018 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – All The Creatures Were Stirring

2018 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Sunday, April 15th 2018

Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2018 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.

Well, the festival is over. I had a great time and saw a lot of films. I ended it on a pretty high note. Enjoy

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING – Directed by David Ian & Rebekah McKendry

I'm always a little weary of anthology films. They usually amount to a collection of short films that should be critiqued separately, leaving no room to know how to feel about the film as a whole. There are plenty of exceptions to this, it's not a rule. It's just something I feel. This is especially the case in anthologies that are compiled of films by different directors and crews such as V/H/S or THE ABC's OF DEATH. Those films are wildly inconsistent in their quality from one vignette to the next and usually the framing device, if there is one, is their weakest link.

I'm happy to report that this is not one of those cases. This film exists somewhere in between SOUTHBOUND (2015) and Michael Dougherty's TRICK 'R TREAT (2007). Every vignette was made by the same crew, just with different actors. This is surprising considering how stylistically different each one of them was. And the framing device was in itself a separate story that book-ended the whole film. This really worked out well. I liked some of the pieces more than others but each one displayed a different refreshing quality.

The shorts are framed around an awkward Christmas Eve date between friends. They find a local theatre production that tells the stories in a far less cinematic way than what we the audience are treated to. It was goofy and fun and the scenes that transitioned to the next short always had me laughing.

The first segment takes us inside of an office Christmas party. I've been to a few of these and I was already horrified before anything awesome even happened. Think OFFICE SPACE ('99) meets SAW ('04). The next piece shows us the dangers of the last minute gift run. This one was probably my least favorite part. It was small and quiet and clever but it just left a bit to be desired. After that, we get the dark comedy adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol followed quickly by a tale about the quickest way to make Santa's naughty list. At this point, I began to notice that each segment was getting more stylistic as we went on. Then the last one, which turned out to be my favorite, transitioned from color 16:9 to a beautiful black-and-white 4:3 to tell a spooky "Twilight Zone-esque" cautionary tale of why you should never show up uninvited during the holidays. 

The cast list is what will likely turn into a who's-who list of genre flick talent. Horror fans will have likely recognized many of them. Brea Grant, Graham Skipper & Chase Williams (BEYOND THE GATES) all show up as well as THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL's Jocelin Donahue. These are the types of actors that we keep seeing show up in better than average horror films in festivals and on Netflix. It's fun to wonder which ones of them will be around in 20 years, touting a storied career with tons of genre credits.

I wrote earlier this week about whether or not I expected SECRET SANTA to make the normal rotation of holiday themed horror. I don't really feel like I have to wonder with this one. It's got a lot going for it. Good production design, camerawork and acting along with a funny script and descent effects should all work together to catapult this film onto some sort of platform for us all to enjoy in about 7-8 months time. 

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