[Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival] Short Films: Grindhouse (Midnight Program) - Reviewed

Grindhouse is a collection of narrative shorts that were screened as part of the midnight program at the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival.

The Film Festival's midnight program looks to deliver some of the most disturbing and messed up pieces of cinema from around the globe. There's a reason why these films can only be shown at midnight, this is some of the most messed up pieces of cinema featuring an assortment of violence, sexual situations, and potentially offensive material. As a purveyor of filth, I’m always searching for films that push the boundaries of weirdness and taste. While this program had its share of duds, there were a few that caught my attention and deserve significant praise for being unique, gross, funny, and so much more.

Simple Procedure - USA – Directed by Kayden Phoenix  – What looks to be a simple medical procedure is something far more sinister and out-of-this world. Looking like it could be contained within the V/H/S anthology series, the quick and effective short is a hyper-edited callback to the VHS era, with some decent looking effects and a twist ending.

The Scarecrow – USA – Directed by Leah Pollack – A farmer has something buried beneath his scarecrow in this take on Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. This supernatural story has a decent black and white look to it, but the effects are not the greatest.

Body Image– USA – Directed by Kim Garland - A woman is consumed with her body image and staying thin, as we see the nightmare of how she sees herself. This is a quick and effective examination of the world of eating disorders, turning it into the realm of body horror. With the use of solid editing and a rock score, we alternate back and forth between perception and reality into something that is reminiscent of the Saw franchise. 

Flow– UK – Directed by Shelagh Rowan-Legg – Even in a war-torn environment, two female rebels can't help but argue about feminine hygiene.  

Too Deep – Mexico – Directed by Gerardo Herrera – The answer of what lies in the deep dark web is discovered by a man searching for pornography on the internet. What he finds is a creature feature the likes of something from an H.P. Lovecraft story. The practical effects look decent, but are hampered by poor looking digital effects that have been added in.

What Metal Girls Are Into – USA – Directed by Laurel Vale – Three female metalheads travel to the desert for a Metal festival. They discover something in their rental's freezer and are faced with a dilemma that forces them to choose between missing the concert or notifying the authorities. This short has a dry and dark humor that reminds me of some unexpected combination of an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Strangers, which shouldn't be too surprising for a grindhouse program. There is a minor amount of gore-type special effects, although maybe not enough to impress some horror fans.

Doris – UK – Directed by Hayder Hasen – This is a cheeky British short that combines Brit-sitcom humor with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, as a single mom and her infant child visit her neighbor Doris and are in for a rather unexpected surprise. Doris, wonderfully portrayed by Mary Sheen, is totally bonkers in a disturbing and darkly comedic fashion. Add in the rest of the wacked out family and an eclectic group of additional weirdos and you have a rather unique take on crazy, with some great special effects as well. Doris is definitely someone I would love to see more of.

The Dark Hunger – USA – Directed by Anthony Williams – Only known as Dead Fred, a man has his life and memory taken away as he's kept in a prison to feed on the flesh of the dead. Only vengeance and his dark hunger will provide him with the answers that he is seeking. There's excessive violence, gore, an outstanding and haunting synth score, terrific camera angles and lighting, crisp editing, and the perfect lead actor in John Crosthwaite. This zombie version of Oldboy or John Wick is a must see and is a world that deserves to be further explored.

Salient Minus Ten – UK – Directed by Emma Dark – This sci-fi/horror short blends The Running Man with a Black Mirror episode, as a man is forced to play a mind-bending game of time and chance. Director Emma Dark's previous short film Seize the Night was a major success and this one is sure to be as well, delivering stunning cinematography from Philip Bloom and a fine performance from Star Wars actor Alan Austen. 

Whimsy & Hester – USA – Directed by Jeffrey Garcia – A pair of conjoined twins try to lose their virginity on prom night. This film is the perfect finale to this midnight block of short films and is my personal favorite, combining the fucked up characters and families that John Waters created in films such as Pink Flamingos with a coming-of-age tale similar to the comic book adaptation Ghost World. It is super quirky, potentially offensive, and downright hilarious and features a whole cast of absurd characters, dialogue, and situations. Amazingly shot for roughly $300 with no crew, what can Garcia possibly do with more?. I cannot wait to see what he brings us next. We may very well have the heir apparent to John Waters.