by Allison Yakulis and Hunter Bush
The films that screen at the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival, by and large, are difficult to pin down. Organizers prefer to think of it as an "Alternative" film festival, though a lot of the movies do tend to fall under the umbrella of "horror". But you may as well just classify them all as "movies" and call it a day for how unspecific that is. Hence the "Unnamed" part of the PUFF moniker; it's not just that they were too lazy to come up with a name.
Allison & Hunter were lucky enough to, between them, see all the films great and small shown at PUFF proper. As mentioned in PUFF Part 1 - Prologue, the short films on hand were largely broken up into blocks, though there were a few that played before the features like a film appetizer. Below we've got a round-up of what we saw and, in brief, what we dug about it:
Straight Edge Kegger
Writer / director Jason Zink puts the time into the first two thirds of Straight Edge Kegger, making sure the audience understands the ideological differences between the opposing punk subcultures and how they arise, so that the third act can focus on fun kills when the straight-edge guys assault a keg party. Of course, a lot of the narrative momentum ends up falling to the wayside as a result. Still, a decently enjoyable time even if in our opinion the post credits sequence was too mean.
Straight Edge Kegger was preceded by short music video Flamethrower by Kevin Decky that was f*ckin' awesome. Crudely animated though it may have been, it was also just really really funny. And catchy!
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Without getting too descriptive, it seems okay to explain that "Antrum" is a film "from the late 70's" wherein a young boy and his older sister attempt to dig a hole to Hell, that is purported to be "cursed". Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made is that film nestled within the framing device of a documentary about the film's deadly legacy. More often than not, such meta trappings collapse under their own weight but here not only do they hold up but they actually elevate the whole shebang! Lots of creepy fun here!
Antrum was preceded by short film Mama's Boy, which presented an interesting spin on the particular psychosis of Norman Bates.
The Bizarre Block
The Bizarre Block presented three short films of varying lengths. While Digits of Pi was interesting conceptually and The Watering Room had an almost Neil Gaiman parable quality to its story, the standout was Bunny, a maverick love letter from a young man to his mother, the performer The Goddess Bunny.
A very personal, yet still fantastically relatable film about wanting to belong and wanting the world to meet you on your own terms. The characters are amazingly well-rounded and well-realized (honestly, there's not a weak performance to be found) and not only does it make Dungeons & Dragons oddly poignant, but it features an absolute killer of a Violent Femmes needle drop!
Happy Face was preceded by the hilariously off-kilter short Chowboys which combines cowboys shooting the breeze by a fire with Santa Claus in... the weirdest way. Perfect editing makes this one a splattery, laugh out loud good time.
Echoes of Fear
Though it starts off in extremely familiar waters, Echoes of Fear steadily takes you into uncharted (or at least unexpected) territory. Most impressively, it keeps the scares coming with a relatively small bag of tricks which feels like a deliberate choice rather than a failing. The only complaint from us is that the inconsistent lighting at times masked what seemed like well composed shots.
The Man in The Mask
A documentary crafted over five years by first-time filmmakers, The Man in The Mask is a remarkably unguarded look into the life of Kip Weeks, who nearly made it big as the lead masked intruder in the 2008 thriller The Strangers, only to slide back into relative obscurity as time went on. Click here for Allison's more in-depth write-up on this film.
Widow's Point is an ambitious flick, attempting to boil an entire novel filled with spook-a-rific backstory down to essentially one location, told over a weekend, and made (irl) with some space and budgetary limitations and to that end it's a solid effort. The acting is a bit stiff and it takes a while for the ball to get rolling so to speak but once it does, the latter half of Point is pretty fun! Bonus points for claymation as well!
Widow's Point was preceded by the short Doll Baby, a genre-swerving revenge story that plays out in about 3 minutes; simple, ultimately surprising and well-planned.
The Invisible Mother
The winner of the PUFF Best Feature award (a stylish tiara), The Invisible Mother is gorgeous and meticulously set designed technicolor spook house flick populated with memorable performances and (thank you Satan) practical effects! Filmmakers Diebler & Gillman combine a wealth of disparate inspirations & influences into an amazingly cohesive whole that feels familiar and inventive at the same time. It's spooky eye-candy with laughs and heart and it's Hunter's favorite movie of the year. Watch Moviejawn for his more in-depth write-up on this film, coming soon!
The Invisible Mother was preceded by short film Your Man, a peek into a truly cringe-worthy bad date that had excellent use of color, lighting and music!
The Saturday Shorts Block
The Saturday Shorts Block covered a *LOT* of ground, thematically: existential dread in haiku (Tales from Outer Space), monster hunter franchise kindling (The Hunted), technology run amok (Headphones), reanimation riff (Half Cocked), poignant character piece (Captain Kinesis), 80s workout horror (Hexercise) and even supernatural vacation (Gothic Springs). Some appealed to us more than others but all were extremely well-made.
More blood spattered than blood drenched (thank goodness!) The Furies is a seductive slasher with a fun premise. While not for everyone as it does have a fairly high gore-quotient, there's enough artful editing and distracting plot development to keep this from feeling like a snuff film. We were pleasantly surprised! Watch Moviejawn for Allison's more in-depth write-up on this film coming soon!
The Furies was preceded by short This is it! (Vol. 1) which was divided into three vignettes of seemingly unrelated, seemingly random bits of conversation or dialogue depicted onscreen almost like interstitial segments from a particularly misanthropic children's network.
You Go To My Head
Breathtakingly shot on-location in Morocco using almost entirely natural light, You Go To My Head is unquestionably gorgeous to look at. It's a slow burn of a film that appears deliberately languid and sensual. While the nuances of the plot aren't going to sit well with everyone (they mean it when they call it a "twisted story with love") it certainly courts the discussion of gender politics, identity, and choice, and that's not a bad thing.
The Local Shorts Block
The Local Shorts Block featured nine films (Murder Below the Line, Don't Wait for Milly, Fish Out of Water, Lost at Sea, Two Birds, Santa Slays, Ways to Look at the Moon, Repetition Rhapsody and The Reparation) that, if nothing else, reaffirmed that filmmakers in the Philly area are out there scraping projects together by hook or by crook and making something happen. That's exciting! Fish Out of Water, a brief scene betwixt mermaids that teases world building to come, took home the Best Short Film award (a stylish tiara), so congrats to them!
Lake Michigan Monster
The closing film of PUFF had everyone in attendance cackling, chuckling, chortling and guffawing in equal measure. An extremely silly, tangential monster-hunting farce masterminded by one man with four names (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) Lake Michigan Monster feels a bit like being told a bedtime story by a drunk uncle who keeps getting sidetracked before moving the story along, but he's probably your favorite uncle because he cusses a lot and will let you sip his beer. It's a well-crafted, gloriously unusual flick that will leave you with a big grin.
Our PUFF Experience
In conclusion, we'd like to say a few words about the PUFF experience. Everyone we met while at PUFF were darlings, enjoying the films and sharing the general friendly and accommodating vibe. The staff was packed with film buffs, usually with some degree of involvement in creating independent films and/or efforts to have them shown. Several directors/actors/writers etc. of the films large and small were in attendance, available for Q&As after the screenings and usually willing to chat informally about their work and film in general if they were able to. Father Evil introduced films on Friday and Saturday and stayed to watch the screenings (probably quality control to make sure the were sufficiently spooky and sinful).
To sum it all up, we had an amazing time and we hope the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival continues to grow. If you missed it this time around, keep a look out for next year (we'll remind you right here on Moviejawn) - you can bet we'll be keeping a count down.