Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival: 2019 Preview

by Allison Yakulis and Hunter Bush

PUFF Part 1 - Prologue

For this, the fourth annual Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival (or PUFF), Moviejawn contributors Allison Yakulis and Hunter Bush are going to check out all the delicious independent genre films and shorts that are being screened in our own backyard. PUFF will be rocking and rolling from September 26th to September 29th at the 2223 Theater in Fishtown. There’s also a pre-PUFF event on September 25th that will include a screening of The Blair Witch Project with director Eduardo Sánchez in attendance (it’s the 20th anniversary of the film!) and a screening of Legacy Award to Exhumed Films winner Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural with its director Richard Blackburn there to introduce the film. Lemora is also going to be screened in 16mm, which is rad for all you format freaks out there.

PUFF is still growing, and this year will be screening 10 feature length films. There are also over 20 short films, broken up into blocks (you can catch Bizarre Shorts on Friday, International Shorts on Saturday, and Local Shorts on Sunday). Allison & Hunter couldn’t find a listing of the shorts that will be featured, but we did get to check out some synopses and trailers for the feature length films. Between the two of us we’re hoping to bring you full coverage of the festival proper after PUFF packs up.

So consider this a PUFF Prologue and if you’re in the area and want to check it out, tickets are available HERE. We’ll be back after the fest with some thoughts on the movies and the event itself. For now, read on to see what we’re looking forward to:

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Straight Edge Kegger
Like any and all subcultures, punk has a lot of off-shoots, some of which don’t get along too well. Here, it looks like they’re playing with a few punk subgroups to ostensibly further the plot, but the trailer makes it look like the film may not be diving as deep into these different ideologies as you might want them too. It shows what seems like a lot of the movie’s plot, but is comparatively light on discussion of beliefs. And let’s not kid around - the soundtrack had better rock! Both Allison and Hunter are cautiously interested in this movie, but if punk just ends up as window-dressing it’s going to be really disappointing.

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Antrum
This looks fun! In this, the year of our dark lord 2019, it’s all too easy to fact check the trailer’s claims that Antrum dates back several decades but I ask you: where’s the fun in that? The whole “cursed found film” schtick that they’re doing is totally going to draw comparisons to The Blair Witch Project (which we mentioned is screening Thursday night), but the trailer makes it seem like Antrum is bringing it. Taking a big swing by adding a metatextual layer to the scares in your film is admirable if nothing else. But that’s just the sizzle, not the steak. We’ll have to wait and see what else this intriguing offer has in store.

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Happy Face
Everyone loves a compelling underdog story, and serious facial deformities tend to put you squarely in that camp in our beauty-obsessed culture. A young man fakes a deformity to join a support group in an effort to become closer to his dying mother (exactly how the former will accomplish the latter isn’t discussed in the trailer). The description sounds like a hardcore bummer but the trailer looks really fun! Hunter said it gave him John Waters vibes. This looks poised to be thoughtful, nuanced, and darkly funny and we’re looking forward to it.

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Echoes of Fear
Neither of us are sure how to gauge this movie. The trailer was extremely bland - it looks like any haunted house movie, of which there are so many already of varying quality, with a couple neat-o scares and a lot of stale in-between bits. But it’s been getting a lot of buzz at other film festivals so maybe there’s a compelling hook that’s been left out of the promo? We’re totally prepared for this to go either way.

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The Man in the Mask
Allison loves documentaries, gang. Loves them. So a doc about the guy who played the burlap bag-headed guy in The Strangers (2008) has her over the moon. Hunter is also interested, although as we were unable to see a trailer his expectations are more reserved. Still, Kip Weeks made his role iconic and it will probably be interesting to see the man behind the The Man in the Mask.

Also, PUFF notes that this will be the World Premier so can you say exclusive?

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Widow’s Point
Remember how a few paragraphs ago we said Happy Face sounds like a bummer but looks fun? The opposite is happening here. An author (played by Craig Sheffer of Nightbreed (1990 fame) is locked in a purportedly haunted lighthouse as a publicity stunt. Upon watching the trailer, however, the sets look rough, Craig isn’t doing it for either of us, and the lighthouse on titular Widow’s Point doesn’t even look remote in the away shots - it’s on the edge of a whole town. Overall, not looking substantially spooky. Prove us wrong, Widow’s Point. Prove us wrong.

Also, you can participate in a Q&A with director Greg Lamberson after the movie, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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The Invisible Mother
No idea what to make of this but it looks fully bizarre! In a good way! The relatively short trailer doesn’t give much context for the day-glo cartoon nightmare visuals but, looking at the synopsis it might be because of drugs or ghosts or both. At any rate, this seems to have a strong visual style that has us excited for the screening.

Apparently this is the “North East Premier” (whatever that qualifier is supposed to mean), so check it out before those losers in...Connecticut I guess?

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The Furies
Although Allison and Hunter are both totally down for a variety of horror subgenres, we tend to draw the line at the more extreme end of the gore spectrum. Violence can be fun and gore can be good, but it needs a little flourish and some artful framing for it to go down smooth. As a concept, eight women being hunted by- and potentially kicking the asses of- eight bespoke masked antagonists (think of it like Slipknot starring in The Most Dangerous Game) is one we can get behind, but this film’s execution seems potentially ...yucky. The pull-quotes in the trailer revel in using the word gore as a selling point (which it is for some folks, no judgement) and comparing it to Hostel. Allison might give this a try, but it’s going to have to keep its high-concept trappings throughout if it’s going to satisfy her.

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You Go To My Head
Oh my, this looks visually gorgeous! A woman suffers a bad car accident and wakes up with amnesia with some guy who tells her they’re married. But he’s a little...off. This has some beautiful desert vistas with lovely lighting, thoughtful blocking and framing that have us itching to get our eyeballs on more. The story seems like it’ll be a slow burn and very dramatic, which we’re definitely into.

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Lake Michigan Monster
Y’all. Y’all! This looks so nuts and fun and silly and unique and crazy! We don’t really know what it’s about, something about boats and monsters and a scientist? It’s shot in black and white with a ton of added grain and film jumps and other trappings of old movies. It’s got intentionally bad sets and overacting for comedic value. It looks triumphant and sounds like an olde tyme radio show! This film is closing out the festival so it’s probably strategically designed to have everyone leave with a big smile on their face and we for one (two?) cannot wait!