**Spoilers for some films below**
In its 19th year, The Boston Underground Film Festival has become famous as a local showcase that exists to give a platform for many an odd film to be seen in a public manner, as they were always intended to be. This festival is a delightfully eclectic collection of the weird, the creepy, and the fantastically counter-Hollywood. I had the pleasure of attending this year’s segment of Homegrown Horrors, a collection of short, New England-made horror films on Friday, March 24th. The segment was made up of 8 shorts that touched on all of the horror tropes that modern horror fans (myself included) have grown to love over the years and growth of the genre; demonic doll possession, serial killers, torture, classic body horror, monsters, split personalities – you name it and it was represented. Unfortunately, due to the lovely city of Cambridge’s parking meters, I had to dip out of the screening right before the final film, which was titled Peppercorn Hearts, and for that I’d like to take the time to apologize to director Christine Louise Marshall (if she stumbles across this article that is). I’m deeply sorry I missed your film, and will try and watch it on my own time. I’m sure it was excellent, seeing as it was chosen to close out the screening.
Anyway, reviewing a collection of short films is a difficult task to do as a whole, so instead tackling the entire event I have selected my three favorite films out of the seven I saw to highlight in this article. Those films are (in order of my favor): The Call of Charlie, directed by Nick Spooner; The Dissolving Man, directed by Benjamin Swicker; and Fractal, directed by Anna Gravél.
The Call of Charlie was a delightful horror comedy that played on H.P Lovecraft’s classic The Call of Cthulhu. It took the concept of that story and placed in the context of a modern blind date situation. Charlie (Cthulhu) is invited over for a dinner dinner date set up by one of his coworkers and her husband, who as it turns out are also servants of his, whose duties are to help to appease him with sacrifices in order to save the world from his demonic wrath. The woman who he is meeting is to be one of his sacrifices. Director Nick Spooner’s vision was clearly well thought-out, very well executed, and most of all wildly original. The film was very fun, and it managed to showcase low-level CGI effects (Charlie’s monster head) with the utmost success. If you’re a fan of great short films, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. It is definitely a must see if you can find it or hear about it screening elsewhere.
The Dissolving Man was an excellent homage to the classic body horror genre. The film centers on a man who, as his girlfriend points out, is a horrible hypochondriac. This poor man pricks his thumb on a syringe in the park, and then over the course of five days, well, dissolves. The film plays out like a fever dream, leaving the audience to wonder if it is all blown out of proportion in his head, or if he really has contracted some horrible flesh eating disease from the syringe. The Dissolving Man was the longest film screened on Friday, having a total run time of 20 minutes, but it’s excellent pacing really made it fly by and fit right in amongst the shorter films of the night. The film is well thought out and executed and it is one hell of a fun time for anyone who loves the classic gory horror films. To really top off a gore fan’s fancy, this film used entirely practical effects and make up for all of it’s gross out body stuff. I actually was lucky enough to work on set for this film, and I have to say, seeing how great the final product that came out of the seemingly endless amount of hours we put into the production was truly made me feel giddy with excitement. This is another short that I highly recommend people to track down and watch.
My final pick of the screening was Fractal. This film, though not my favorite of the screening, certainly piqued my interest the most as it left me piecing together the small details even after it was finished playing. The film centers on a young woman who needs to return to her childhood home to take care of some things. The woman’s endlessly supportive boyfriend tags along with her. As the film progresses, the audience learns of tragedy that tainted the woman’s childhood and leaves the home feeling haunted. The woman is initially presented as having an adult sister, but as the tragedies unfold we learn that she is a hallucination brought on by the protagonist woman having a severely split personality, the cause of which I will not say as I urge you all to watch this short. It is tense, it is creepy, and director Anna Gravél has done a wonderful job of creating the overall atmosphere present in the film, as well as leaving the audience in total suspense up until the end. As I mentioned earlier, I found myself trying to piece together how everything presented was connected, which is nice, but personally I felt that this took away from the film, seeing as it was a short film. It felt a little too convoluted for a short film in my opinion, as there were a pretty large number of separate moving parts to the film, but in the end the film left me curious about what a longer version of this film might be like.
The Homegrown Horrors screening was a blast overall, and I am so pleased that BUFF exists and accomplishes exactly what it does. I have always been a fan of weird and uncomfortable films, and it’s nice to have local festival that shares my love. I can’t recommend this festival highly enough; everyone who missed it this year should definitely try and get some tickets for next year. I am very excited to see what the rest of this festival has to offer, as well as what future years of this festival bring to the table as well.