Written and directed by James Allen Smith, Haskell is a small part, or three small parts, of what feels like a much bigger story. The story deals with time and how it affects people, especially the man who can manipulate it and those around him. The story is one that is multi-layered and deals with plenty to become a full length feature easily. The way it’s written does make it feel like it’s a part of something much bigger and perhaps a proof of concept for a feature film. However, it does still work as a short where not everything is explained and the film works with some mysteries not explained.
“Mune: Guardian of the Moon” draws obvious influences from the likes of Studio Ghibli and Laika, and it’s a rather entertaining gem of an animated fantasy that I couldn’t help but enjoy with a wide smile. After “The Emoji Movie,” it’s very calming to know that there are still studios out there trying to deliver quality family animated entertainment. Dubbed over from the original French track, “Mune” translates well for domestic audiences, and I didn’t have a very tough time following what is a pretty nifty premise based around mysticism, nature, and the like. It also sports the classic hero’s journey trope, which isn’t so bad when it’s handled subtly.
A family expecting their second born is surprised to have a mutant child as it arrives in this world and kills all in its path when scared. As a baby, being scared is something that happens quite a bit, creating a mounting body count for this tiny tot.
Written and directed by Larry Cohen, It’s Alive is a tale inspired by pollution and environmental effects on humans’ reproductive systems, eventually leading to a damaged progeny trying to survive when it’s scared and ready to kill for survival. The film takes this and turns it into an easy to watch horror film about a newborn mutant monster that can easily be taken as just that, a monster film, but is much more once one delves into the environmental message. Here Cohen creates a tale that is deeper than it seems and works with monster film tropes to pass along its message and entertain at the same time.
Written by Justin Benson who co-directed with Aaron Moorhead, The Endless is a slow slow burn of a film that takes its time to set-up the weirdness going on and creates a sort of mindfuck as it goes along. The film takes a few known ideas such as cults and time warps and plays with them until they connect and make sense. The co-directors having worked together on other features, they clearly know how to work together and this shows in how the film is directed, being a way that looks seamless between the two of them and what they each directed, something that is not always well done, but is great here.
With the outstanding success of James Gunn’s blockbuster films “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it’s the right time to re-visit the roots upon which Gunn established his film career. Gunn is of course a student of Lloyd Kaufman who began his filmmaking career working at Troma, and eventually worked his way up to his first feature film debut in 2006, directing the schlocky and fun “Slither.” Gunn’s 2006 science fiction horror thriller is very much what you would expect from a Troma alumni, as Gunn conjures up cult stars, and builds a premise that’s ridiculous but oddly entertaining. Scream Factory takes it upon themselves to not only deliver a deluxe edition on Blu-Ray (after originally being ported to the now obsolete HD-DVD), but to celebrate everything weird and wild about James Gunn.
Kokone escapes everyday life by dreaming about Ancien, a princess in a land ruled by a car-obsessed king. In her real life, things take an odd turn when her father is arrested at the start of her last summer before graduation and just a few days before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. This leads Kokone to use skills she didn’t know she had and come into her own.
Last year saw the first time where the programmers at the fest felt a need to have a short film block dedicated entirely to women-made short genre films as they had received a big selection of very strong titles. This year continues this with its second edition or the 2017 edition. Here are short reviews for each film involved in it this year (in no particular order).