Knoxville Horror Film Festival was founded by William Mahaffey, a local filmmaker and horror movie fan, to celebrate local and regional filmmaking. It also featured national and international works from the touring circuit. The 2010 fest also hosted the first scheduled Southeastern screening of Marc Price’s Cannes-approved zombie feature “Colin,” which was reportedly shot for less than $70.

The first annual Knoxville Horror Film Festival was held on October 23, 2009 at The Pilot Light, (a local bar located in the Old City section of downtown) playing to a standing room only crowd. This year’s venue was Relix Variety Theatre, a charming historical building located in a part of town known as “Happy Holler.”

The event was organized by William Mahaffey and held at the Relix Theater in Knoxville October 22-23 and 29. Here is the link to see photos from some of the winning entries.

I didn’t attend all three days, so I did not get to see all the entries. What I did see, I was really pleased with. Next year, I plan to attend the entire festival so I don’t miss out. I’ll bet there was plenty to see and appreciate that didn’t win awards. Here is my take on the ones I did see.

Off Season (UK)
Directed by Jonathan Van Tulleken
Voted “Scariest”

My favorite of all the films I saw. Story of a man robbing vacation cabins in a very remote area during winter. The continuous shadowy, snowy landscape builds a tremendous feeling of isolation and dread. Great character development with the man and his dog “Girl.” Really good pacing. From the broken glass and the dog cowering under a sofa, to an empty guest book and scribbles on maps, just so many great film elements that all added up to good story. The most frightening shots are brief but powerful. The ending maybe not all that plausible, but the rest was so good I did not care.

Directed by Richard Bates Jr

This was a winner from last year’s Knoxville Horror Film Festival. (Best US). Story of an emotionally/mentally disturbed girl and her sickly younger sister. The emotional pain in the face of the older girl is hard to watch, great acting, truly memorable. The ending is bloody and there is one shot that gets an “A plus” for lighting and composition.

Death In Charge
Best US
Best Performance/Marina Benedict
Directed by Devi Snively

Death comes to babysit a little girl. All interior shots in this one and well done. Dark and moody. Good acting by all, even the little kid. I have a problem not with the “how” of the death scene as much as “where.” Gravity and trajectory makes a difference so in that sense the ending could have better.

Nightmare at Number 92
Directed by Bryan Davis

A cartoon-like short film about Lizzie Borden. Kinda like “Yellow Submarine” with paper cut-out images. Made a lighthearted filler between the serious horror films. Made-for-family-television-type viewing horror. A fifth-grader could watch it in history class. Cute.

Nightmare at Bunnyman Bridge
Directed by Robert Elkins

Kids on the way to a music festival meet up with the Bunnyman in the woods. I didn’t care for this one much although the bunny suit was dirty and mangled, which was cool. That’s about all I liked.

The Horror of Our Love
Directed by Dave Reda
Voted 2010 “Funniest”

A silly, stupid, fun, MTV-ish short about a serial killer’s love for his victim. I was amused.

The Next

Directed by Sam Comer and Kevin Antoine

Dark story about a serial killer. Story premise not all that original, but had some good shots of the victim.

~Laura Long

Once again I had my foot in my mouth. Prior to attending The Knoxville Film Festival, I made a statement bemoaning the state of low budget horror. When digital filmmaking became commonplace in independent cinema, I saw a lot of pure crap. Everyone was getting in on the game and were becoming 'underground' filmmakers. Happily, The Knoxville Horror Film Festival proved me wrong. I enjoyed all of the movies we watched. Some more than others, of course, but I didn't dislike any of them. Clearly filmmakers--and audiences--have become more discriminating.

I also felt that Off Season was the highlight of the shorts we saw. In a brief running time, director Jonathan Van Tulleken established strong characters (yes, one of them was a dog), an oppressive environment, tension, fear, and some jolting shocks. Off Season is professionally made and it looks much better than most films at this level. This is a first-rate example of horror in the short form.

Exision was another well-made movie. It is dramatic and emotional, with an outstanding performance by Tessa Ferrer. She plays Pauline, a teenage girl with an obsession with anatomy and surgery. It's also a tale of domestic unrest. The story is peppered with shocking images that come in the form of dreams, but it culminates in genuine horror. Writer/director Richard Bates, Jr.shows enormous strength with this powerful film.

Death in Charge seems less like a horror movie than it is a parable. In it, Death visits a neglected child in the form of a mournful, misunderstood woman. The little girl she meets teaches Death about companionship and compassion. Yet Death has some cold lessons for the child in return. This is a touching, tragic story that worked quite well, thanks to above-average performances and innovative photography.

Nightmare at Number 92 is a clever animated movie about the legend of Lizzie Bordon. It inspired more laughs than screams from the audience, which I believe was the intention. A light, enjoyable interlude between the more intense subjects.

Nightmare on Bunnyman Bridge. Let's face it: It's hard to make a bunny scary. But despite my early misgivings, director Robert Elkins made his Bunnyman imposing and intimidating. Overall I found the cast members to be a little too exaggerated and obnoxious, but the disturbing Bunnyman's presence made this an enjoyable little slasher movie.

The Horror of Our Love was my least favorite of the films I saw, but everyone else in the audience seemed to love it, so don't take my word for it. This is a slasher parody love song/music video. Clearly The Horror of Our Love is an affectionate sonnet to the slasher genre, and for that I respect it.

My opinion of Sam Comer and Kevin Antoine's The Next is hampered by what appeared to be a poor sound mix in the theater. The accompanying music was quite audible, but I had difficulty discerning the dialogue. I liked the photography and the story seemed pretty intense. A man who was abused as a child has become a sadistic killer. His latest victim has an unexpected reaction to his house of torture.

William Mahaffey is doing something vital and cool for horror fans in Tennessee. He is providing a showcase for quality independent horror that can be viewed at a reasonable price, in a friendly environment. I was impressed by his entire operation and I look forward to future years of The Knoxville Horror Film Festival.

~Mark Sieber

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry