Though I wasn’t able to attend the whole Media Film Festival, a festival that is going on its ninth-year in a row, I still managed to catch the Friday Horror Fest, presented by Baker Street Tattoo. As I walked into the theatre with a good buddy of mine, we couldn’t help but notice most of the people leaving were on the older side.

Even when we got seated there was probably only a handful of people my age and mainly people in their mid-30s upward. However, being the horror buff I am, there was no way I could pass this up.

“How Olin Lost His Eye,” an Irish black and white short, was the Horror Fest’s opener. The theatre’s crowd seemed fairly underwhelming, as empty seats were scattered among the 20 or so attendees.

With its short run-time of only six-minutes, the playful piece managed to encapsulate the curiosity of a young boy. With its complete lack of any dialogue, the audience is left with a tense wonderment of when Olin, who is assumed to be the boy, is going to lose that eye of his.

As mentioned before, with no dialogue and only one environment, the short is stripped to its bare bones. Although with its minimalist nature, the director manages well when these variables are implemented.
“The Eves” mirage of allure was brought before I stepped into the theatre. Reading the description of a spoiled child wishing for Santa to take him away conjured up thoughts of possible campiness and humor, all while remaining well-done.

However, once the poorly dubbed acting began, I knew this wouldn’t be a pleasant ride. As if the poor choice of not using subtitles wasn’t enough, the awkward, crudely done CGI tried to mask its extremely ambiguous plot. This could’ve been respectable if everything about it didn’t seem so forced.

Halfway through the film, there occurs an even more poorly done animated scene that makes a 13-year-old’s video game fan art look good – I don’t really have much to say about this part except dreadful. The only seemingly redeemable scene is literally the end where the present unwrapping isn’t exactly what he had wished for.

Third in line was a paranormal film from India, “Awakenings.” The anxious soundscapes and smart camera work were barely able to cover up its fairly bland and unoriginal plot. While it wasn’t necessarily bad by any means, it had no character.

It fell susceptible to using a fair amount of horror clichés, including waking up from a dream the audience thought was real and kids drawing creepy pictures, among others. While at times horror movies can be self-aware of their use of clichés and make something campy and good, “Awakenings” appeared to take itself too seriously.

There isn’t really much to say about it because of how absolutely conventional and vanilla it was. The most positive thing I can say about it is at least it didn’t succumb to the overuse of jump scares.

My absolute favorite of the night was “Chateau Sauvignon: terroir,” the only American short. It was easily the most impressive, bringing forth a lot with only a 13-minute runtime. “Chateau’s” simple yet impacting plot of a rural family who makes wine out of something unlikely and a son who wants to care for his ailing mother kept me intrigued from start to finish.

The tasteful use of gore, clever writing and excellent production quality made for a refreshing palette cleanser from the couple that were unmemorable. Even with its few scenes, “Chateau” had nearly all of the audience wincing at times.

I truly wish there was more I could say about it without giving anything away, but what I will say is if you get the chance to see it, do. I certainly hope to see a lot more from up-and-coming director David E. Munz-Maire.

Last was the longest film of the Friday Horror Fest, “The Hitch Hiker,” done by Canadian director, JP Marchant. The film begins with a mechanic named Pete whose car breaks down, as ironic as that may seem.
He gets picked up by a mysterious and seemingly fearless man, Frank. After hearing a radio broadcast stating that several people broke out of a mental rehabilitation center, the audience begins to piece together that Frank, the driver, might not be all that he seems.

When I first assumed what the “big” twist might be, I began to get discouraged. The twist I thought it would be was an extremely under-whelming one, and something that even the most casual fan of film could be unsurprised by.

However, the grand reveal near the end was one of big surprise, and makes great use of a cast consisting of barely five actors. While a lot of the dialogue seemed unnecessary and at times the acting itself was somewhat awkward, the short was a fantastic closer, especially for its length. I found myself getting bored at “Awakenings,” which was 13 minutes, quite easily.

Yet, “The Hitch Hiker’s” run-time was nearly 30 minutes, and I never really found myself feeling weary. Nearly 90 percent of the movie takes place within Frank’s car, and with the use of clever camera work, a lot of the scenes are extremely intimate and can cause minor anxiety and tension within each viewer.

Overall, it seemed like a graduate of film’s final project for class, but it still proved to be something I would grade a B+.

Watching a great horror movie is truly a feeling like no other. Getting genuinely scared from merely staring at a screen is a tough feat, and when it is done, it is extremely impressive. Although I would consider only one out of five of the short films that I viewed to be truly great, the others were mostly worth a watch. I still had a complete blast.

Zach Ritz is a third-year student majoring in communication studies.  ZR812833@wcupa.edu

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