The Windy City Horrorama film festival, founded by co-directors Matt Storc and Alex Vazquez, celebrated it’s debut into film festival history this past April 27th-29th of 2018 at the Davis Theater in Chicago. With multiple international and Chicago premieres of both feature-length and short films, these are just a few of the shorts that were chosen out of the over sixty submissions to the freshman festival. And as one of your resident World of Death reviewers, I considered it quite the honor to let you ghouls know about these awesome flicks.
SOL – Director Carlos G. Gananian
An elderly woman is dealing with the possession and exorcism of a loved one in her home. While the priests assure her that her loved one will be saved, the voice in her head makes her question who the evil truly is? Everything works beautifully with this short from the start with the story, production design, simple wardrobe choices, cinematography and focus on a central location with even the minimal found-footage that many big studio films have done before, but not as well. The sound design is one of the finest I’ve ever heard in a film, feature or short, and the score that accompanies every scene is perfection. This is one of those examples of cinema where the less one knows about the subject, the better it will be for the viewing experience.The direction by Carlos Gananian as well as the phenomenal and natural performance by Sol herself, Thaia Perez, make this short an absolute MUST to view and was an obvious choice to include in the festival.
The Fear Within – Director Jo McGinley
‘Trapped below ground with an unsatisfied customer, The Architect must come to terms with the consequences of cutting corners, as they all come to realize there is only one way out.’
Director Jo McGinley exudes a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere for the viewer as soon as the door closes for three gentlemen touring a bomb shelter. The clean-cut direction and three-person cast make the focus on the situation these three men are in exacerbates the intensity with the minimalism. TFW has an immediate Twilight Zone feel to it, taking one back in time with the black and white aesthetic but more importantly with a focus on the story and performances that heighten the reveal of the moral of the tale the viewer is experiencing to a good level…
CauChernar Capitonne (Studded Nightmare) – Director Jean-Calude Leblanc
‘When J.F. is inexplicably drawn to the chair in which a man committed suicide, style isn’t the only thing the leather antique brings to his home. Suddenly, overcome by fantasies both nightmarish and erotic, he gets rid of the chair immediately, only to have it claimed by his friend Aly, who soon finds herself spellbound by shocking visions of her own violent death. As the horror escalates, it’s up to J.F. to save his friend before she is driven to a very gruesome fate.’
The concept of an object possessing its owner is reminiscent of a number of cinematic experiences such as The Conjuring films and the Friday the 13th television series, but what director Jean-Claude Leblanc does differently in this instance is his excellent use of imagery with little dialogue to capture the audience right away and hold them throughout the film with this essence of evil that is… a chair. The cinematography and editing are standouts especially during the erotic and psychotic hallucinations of self-harm. It is nice to see a director know when to stop and not do a typical ending for an evil object story.
The Blazing World – Director Carlson Young
‘Margaret has been plagued with dreams of a strange world since she was a little girl. After a mysterious man with a map visits her one night, she decides to give in to the incessant calls of The Blazing World…’
This short opens with a creepy sleeping beauty with Pepto Bismol and an old man handing her a symbol of a tree that, in my opinion, alludes to either incest or making roots of your own. Still on the fence with that. The next thing you know, you are viewing a Clueless/Baby Hit Me One More Time scenario with Catholic school girl uniforms and confusion that leads to a family dynamic no one wants to be a part of. Grab a bag, your cat and disillusion with the world you have always known and jump into that black hole of a better possibility. While I did not understand this short, I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow myself to take my eyes off of it for a second. The score by Isom Innis is hypnotic and the cinematography is exquisite. The film has a Sofia Coppola/Brian DePalma dreamy, adolescent innocence feel to it while set in a fever dream with instances that had subtle hints of Twin Peaks. Did I understand it? No. Could I break away from it? No. Will I be looking out and forward to whatever Carlson Young directs, acts in or writes next? YES.
We Summoned A Demon – Director Chris McInroy
‘They just wanted to be cool. Instead, they got a demon.’
Performances. Performance, chemistry and practical effects are what makes WSAD in a league of its own. When Kirk and Carlos perform a ‘simple’ spell to make Kirk cool, what they get instead is… a demon. Blood SO much blood. Kirk C. Johnson and Carlos Larotta are a fantastic comedic duo and the definitive standouts in this short. Their performances are so natural and effortless that it elevates the hilarity in the scenes between the two of them. McInroy’s direction is great, his writing is outstanding and simple and the unexpected practical effects get a big reaction when seeing this with a crowd. This was one of the funniest films I’ve seen and when funny is mixed with horror this well, it will be a safe bet that it is going to be one of my favorite shorts of the year.
From Canada to Austin, Burbank to Brazil, the range of films selected for this inaugural fest showcases the brilliance behind everyone involved but especially its founders, Storc and Vazquez. Impressive, unique, stylish and fun are words that will become synonymous with the films the Windy City Horrorama chooses and I look forward to what will be shown for the audiences’ frightful viewing pleasure in the years to come!
– Cati Glidewell