2020 was a rough year for film festivals, and really everyone in general. But one of the few bright spots, at least for me, was the Chattanooga Film Festival. It was the first fest that was able to capture the community aspect of a film festival, but from a virtual setting; with many other film fests following their lead. It wasn’t an easy thing to crack, but the way the fest incorporated social media, video intros, live panels along with a solid slate of programming gave those who were missing that in person experience a close enough approximation, but from the safety of their homes.
This year, things are still very much in a transitional phase, thanks to the rollout of the vaccine. Chattanooga is playing it safe with another virtual edition this year that’s set to run from June 24th thru the 29th. Offerings are geo-locked to the United States and while the majority of the lineup is ticketed, some films and events are open only to badge holders ($65). That being said, expect another great program featuring such offbeat comedies as He’s Dead and So Am I (two ghosts stuck in purgatory hatch a scheme to find a missing girl, in order to earn a ticket into heaven), can’t miss docs such as Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror and Alien On Stage, and a host of other genre-bending selections.
As far as the films I am probably most excited about aside from those two docs I just mentioned is the CFF After Hours block that is bookended by a pair of films presented by horror streamer Shudder. Kandisha (the latest by the filmmakers of cult classic Inside) opens the block, and Teddy (think French Teen Wolf) will close out the block for the fest. Another big reason to pick up a badge is this year there will be three secret screenings — open only to badgeholders. They will consist of: one a hard-to-see classic, presented by a special guest, and two offerings so new, that the festival will be among the first chances any audience will have to see them available. Last but not not least, expect plenty of cool live virtual events and panels that coalesce into an end of the fest virtual after party with special guests Sanguisugabogg.
Check out the full line up below:
ALIEN ON STAGE — Southeast Premiere
Directors Lucy Harvey & Danielle Kummer | 2020 | 86 mins | Comedy/Doc | UK | English
Alien On Stage is a documentary about a unique crew of bus drivers from Dorset, whose amateur dramatics group decide to ditch doing another pantomime and try something different. Having never done anything like it before, they spent a year creating a serious adaptation of the sci-fi, horror film, Alien (1979); finding ingenious solutions to pay homemade homage to the original film. The show is a crushing flop but fate gives them a second chance to find their audience. Whilst still adjusting to the idea that their serious show is actually a comedy, the group find out they’re suddenly being whisked from their village hall to a London West End theatre to perform this accidental masterpiece for one night only. With wobbly sets, awkward acting and special effects requiring ‘more luck than judgment’, will their West End debut be alright on the night? This bus driving crew are our space heroes. Their bus station is our space station. Dorset is outer-space and where is the Alien? It’s behind you.
AN IDEAL HOST
Director Robert Woods | 2020 | 85 min | Horror/Comedy | Australia | English
Liz just wants to host the perfect dinner party but an unexpected guest sends the evening into chaos, with potentially apocalyptic consequences.
BLOOD CONSCIOUS — Southeast Premiere
Director Timothy Covell | 2021 | 81 min | Horror/Thriller | US | English
Kevin, his older sister, Brittney, and her fiancé, Tony, arrive at their parents’ lakeside cabin expecting a leisurely weekend getaway. But their holiday turns into a trip from hell as they enter the scene of a mass shooting where their parents and neighbors all lie dead. Terror strikes when they discover the shotgun-wielding murderer, fresh off a night spent battling demons… or so he claims. They pin him down and lock him in the cellar, but as darkness falls, Kevin begins to entertain the man’s ravings about possessed campers and demons in the woods. As unexpected and traumatic events continue to unfold, the family must find a way to survive the night without turning on each other, or becoming possessed.
BLOODSHOT HEART — North American Premiere
Director Parish Malfitano | 2020 | 90 min | Mystery/Thriller | Australia | English, Italian
A mild-mannered driving instructor living with his manipulative and jealous mother descends into obsession and psychosis when a tenant half his age moves in. As the lines between reality and fantasy twist and merge, he hatches a violent plan to win her love. ‘Bloodshot Heart’ is a journey into obsession, memory and delusion. In a world where the difference between reality and fantasy can be hard to discern, Hans, a middle-aged driving instructor, attempts to shake off the manipulative grasp of his Italian mother and pursue a younger woman, Matilda, a musician renting a room in their apartment. As jealousy and infatuation spill over into psychosis, Hans hatches a violent plan to win the heart of Matilda and free himself from his mother’s clutches forever.
Closing Night Film
BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION — Southeast Premiere
Director Jacob Gentry | 2021 |104 min | Horror/Suspense | US | English
For three years, James (Harry Shum Jr.) has been haunted by his wife’s sudden and inexplicable disappearance. His best distraction is work — specifically, archiving old videos. While watching decade-aged TV news footage one night, he sees a video interference that’s deeply disturbing. And it’s not the only interference he’ll see. As his obsession over these strange clips increases, and he submerges himself into their mysteries, James discovers troubling connections to his missing wife. Which will these broadcast intrusions bring him, though: long-desired answers or a never-ending nightmare?
CLIFF: A PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST — World Premiere
Director Adam Brooks | 2021 | 48 min | Documentary | Canada | English
Acclaimed Canadian artist Cliff Eyland looks back on his life after a successful double lung transplant.
DANNI AND THE VAMPIRE
Director Max Werkmeister | 2020 | 103 min | Comedy/Horror | US | English
A madcap drifter tries to reignite a special feeling from her past by helping a vampire achieve his dreams.
DIMLAND — Southeast Premiere
Director Peter Collins Campbell | 2020 | 75 min | Indie Drama | US | English
In an attempt to shake off her melancholy, a young woman escapes the city to her family’s country cottage only to rediscover a world she’d long forgotten and the old friend who may convince her to leave reality behind.
DUEL ON THE RIVER — World Premiere
Director Isaac Rathé | 2021 | 80 min | Horror | US | English
A maniac in a boat terrorizes innocent kayakers on the Detroit River.
It’s DUEL… on a river… and it rules! Trading Plymouths and tanker trucks for kayaks and motorboats, Isaac Rathé’s no-budget debut is a rip-roaring tribute to the Steven Speilberg cult classic. But dispense all pretensions of production values aside; this vehicle is fueled entirely on DIY ingenuity and an inspired comedic charisma that sneaks up on you across an increasingly outrageous, and infectiously endearing trajectory. “Despite watching it alone in my apartment, I gave DUEL ON THE RIVER a standing ovation as its credits rolled.” — Peter Kuplowsky, Lead Programmer, TIFF Midnight Madness
EMPIRE OF THE DARK
Director Steve Barkett | 1990 | 93 min | Adventure Horror | US | English
A private detective searching for a killer comes across a satanic cult from another dimension, monsters called up from hell and murderous ninja assassins.
EVENTS TRANSPIRING BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER A HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL GAME
Director Ted Stenson | 2020 | 75 min | Comedy | Canada | English
As Middleview High School’s woeful boys basketball team prepares for another certain loss, several unusual dramas take shape around its periphery. Ken, a cantankerous referee, finds himself charged with minding his soon-to-be ex-wife’s pomeranian; Brent Davidson, the Middleview Ducks’ obnoxious assistant coach, lobbies to install a complex offensive system; third-string point guard Joel attempts to explain existentialism to his teammates; and a group of theatre students plan a confrontational protest after their “post-colonial” King Lear is banned by the administration.
FROM CAMERA TO CONSOLE
Director Dustin Kramer | 2020 | 90 min | US
CFF is proud to present a handpicked, mini-marathon of filmmaker Dustin Kramer’s meticulously researched and wildly entertaining web documentary series. Each episode finds Kramer taking a warm-hearted and never condescending deep five into the often weird world of films that have been adapted into video games. The result is sure to please cinephiles and gamers in equal measure.
HE’S DEAD AND SO AM I — World Premiere
Directors Gabe Casdorph & Gabe Martinez | 2021 | 86 min | Comedy | US | English
Two ghosts stuck in purgatory hatch a scheme to find a missing girl, in order to earn a ticket into heaven.
Directors Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury | 2020 | 85 min | Horror | France | French
It is summer break and best friends Amélie, Bintou and Morjana hang together with the neighborhood teenagers. At night, they have fun sharing goosebumps stories and urban legends. But when Amélie is assaulted by her ex, she remembers the story of Kandisha, a powerful and vengeful demon. Afraid, upset, she summons her. The next day, her ex is found dead. The legend is true and now Kandisha is on a killing spree. The three girls will do anything to break the curse…
LONANO-THON — A BRIAN LONANO RETROSPECTIVE
Director Brian Lonano | 2021 | 95 min | US | English
A collection of short films, music videos and other experiments from filmmaker
Director Robert G. Putka | 2021 | 96 min | Heartfelt Comedy | US | English
Two strangers wake up in the middle of the desert with no memory of anything — including their names. Are they dead? Or did they just party too hard at Burning Man? A warm buddy film at heart — but hopefully also a rumination on existential themes such as regret, cynicism, faith, and empathy — Mister Limbo is an odyssey evoking Waiting For Godot on drugs, with a soft spot for the short-lived TV series, “The 4400.”
MOM, I BEFRIENDED GHOSTS
Director Sasha Voronov | 2020 | 67 min | Drama/Horror | Russia | Russian
A small town in Siberia is trapped for many months of quarantine. People die from a mysterious disease, which comes from water. Survivors hide in their flats — but the running water is just as poisoned. Self-defense groups are moving along the empty streets and desperate loners are hunting for their fellows.
MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO
Director Jonathan Cuartas | 2021 | 90 min | Drama/Horror | US | English
Dwight (Patrick Fugit) prowls the streets after dark. He searches each night for the lonely and forlorn, looking for people who won’t be missed. Dwight takes no joy in this, but he needs their blood. Without fresh human blood, his fragile young brother Thomas cannot survive. Each death takes a larger toll, the burden of his crimes weighing heavier each time, threatening to crack his spirit. But Thomas (Owen Campbell) and his sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) are all the family Dwight has left, and as a fiercely private and close-knit family unit, they depend on him and the rituals they’ve learned in order to keep their secret. But while Dwight yearns for another life, Jessie needs them to stay together. And always the boy must feed.
NIGHT DRIVE — Tennessee Premiere
Directors Meghan Leon & Bradford Baruh | 2021 | 80 min | Thriller | US | English
Russell (AJ Bowen) is a driver in Los Angeles who’s reeling from a series of bad decisions. While his life seems to be caught in a downward spiral, a business proposition from an alluring but enigmatic passenger named Charlotte (Sophie Dalah) proves too good to turn down. A simple ride turns deadly, catapulting Russell into an even darker place, but Charlotte may be the key to a second chance he thought he’d never have…if he can make it through the night.
PARALLEL MINDS — Tennessee Premiere
Director Benjamin Ross Hayden | 2020 | 86 min | Sci-fi/Thriller | Canada | English
In the near future, technology firm Red-Eye is on the verge of developing a revolutionary contact lens that records human sight to replicate memories. The device uses an artificially engineered intelligence known as U.R.M. When the company’s lead researcher is strangely murdered at the time of the technology’s release, Thomas Elliot (Greg Bryk), an old-fashioned police detective investigates with intrepid researcher Margo Elson (Tommie Amber Pirie) who are drawn into searching deeper to apprehend the illusive digital shapeshifter.
Opening night film
SCENES FROM AN EMPTY CHURCH — World Premiere
Director Onur Tukel | 2021 | 98 mins | Comedy/Drama | US | English
In a locked-down NYC, two priests open their church doors to those seeking salvation during the most isolating of times. From the commonplace to the truly metaphysical, their visitors reflect the full spectrum of personal crises of spirituality. Throughout their encounters with the city’s sweetest, wildest and weirdest, the two priests learn the importance of connection, empathy and open-mindedness. Sometimes a little faith is all you need to make it through the bad times.
From writer/director Onur Tukel (Catfight), and featuring standout performances from Kevin Corrigan, Max Casella, and Thomas Jay Ryan, Scenes from an Empty Church is a uniquely timely and timeless spotlight on the search for life’s meaning, told with Tukel’s trademark wit and wisdom.
SECRET SCREENING 1
The secret screening has long been a tradition at CFF and this year we have THREE SECRET SCREENINGS. We’d offer you a hint, but we know you’re better than that, and you’d much rather be surprised.
SECRET SCREENING 2 with special guest Amanda Reyes
Again, the whole nature of the secret screening thing is that we’ve got to be willfully vague here, and honestly, we feel kind of guilty about that, but what are we supposed to do? We’re trying to make things fun over here! We can’t say much about this one, but we can tell you it’s extraordinary, and your chances of seeing it elsewhere aren’t great.
INTRIGUED? Mysteries are fun.
SECRET SCREENING 3
Our third secret selection this year hails from a land very far away, and our screening will be the first time an audience in North America has had a chance to see it! We have zero doubt that this movie is going to explode onto the festival circuit.
SHE WATCHES FROM THE WOODS
Director Beau Ballinger | 2020 | 89 min | Crime Drama/Horror | US | English
A troubled artist with a dark past struggles to make peace with her dying mother while investigating the sinister death of her sister.
TEDDY — Southeast Premiere
Directors Ludovic & Zoran Boukherma | 2021 | 88 min | Horror | France | French
In a rural French town, twenty-something Teddy is scratched by an unknown beast and slowly undergoes frightening changes.
Director Steve Barkett | 1982 | 95 min | Sci-Fi/Thriller | US | English
An astronaut battles mutant cannibals after returning from space to find earth ravaged by nuclear and biological war.
Director Caleb Michael Johnson | 2021 | 77 min | US | English
Alice is vegan, but she hungers for her partner Bret voraciously. Bret is completely consumed with caring for her dog Harvie, whose convalescence and rigorous medication schedule leaves Alice feeling neglected, physically and emotionally. She can’t sleep, and when she does she sleepwalks, waking up in random places unable to distinguish disturbing dreams from reality — and finding herself increasingly drawn to the meat section of the supermarket. When Harvie mysteriously goes missing, the two women must search for what they’ve lost in this compelling hybrid of dark comedy, psychological thriller, and drama.
THE OLD WAYS
Director Christopher Alender | 2020 | 90 min | Fantasy/Horror | US | English
When Cristina Lopez, a Mexican American reporter, goes to her ancestral homeland of Veracruz for a story on witchcraft and faith healers, it’s not long before she’s kidnapped by locals. They claim that she is possessed by a demon and they must exorcise her before they can set her free. As she tries to find a way to escape she eventually comes to believe that they may be telling the truth. So along with her captors and estranged cousin Miranda, her fight for survival turns into a fight for her soul.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR — Southeast Premiere
Director Jane Schoenbrun | 2021 | 86 min | Drama/Horror | US | English
Alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.
WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR — Southeast Premiere
Director Kier-La Janisse | 2021 | 194 min | Documentary | US | English
WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED explores the folk horror phenomenon from its beginnings in a trilogy of films — Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) — through its proliferation on British television in the 1970s and its culturally specific manifestations in American, Asian, Australian and European horror, to the genre’s revival over the last decade. Touching on over 200 films and featuring over 50 interviewees, WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED investigates the many ways that we alternately celebrate, conceal and manipulate our own histories in an attempt to find spiritual resonance in our surroundings.
CFF 2021 EVENTS
CFF Salutes Short Filmmakers
Filmmaker, and CFF alumni, Izzy Lee joins us to host this hybrid Q&A/AMA/group therapy session that will allow us to shine a spotlight on the talented filmmakers whose work makes up our CFF 2021 shorts program! Izzy, whose prolific body of films has been screened at film festivals worldwide, will present them with practical advice on everything from navigating the festival circuit to an opportunity to pick her brain on the pitfalls and pleasures of making, finding funding, and audiences for short genre cinema all while celebrating their work that’s screening this year and giving us valuable context and behind the scenes peeks at their filmmaking process.
A Conversation with Gary Sherman
CFF Fan Favorite and bonafide American Treasure filmmaker Gary Sherman (Dead & Buried, Vice Squad) returns to CFF for a deep dive conversation that will span his whole career. Not many filmmakers can boast of having gone from performing with the legendary Bo Diddley to directing Poltergeist 3. That’s just one incredible story in a life and career packed full of them. Moderated by producer David Lawson Jr.
First Time Feature Filmmakers Panel Presented by Rustic Films
We’re excited to welcome celebrated filmmakers Gigi Saul Guerrero (Culture Shock), Jill Gevargizian (The Stylist), Carlo Mirabella-Davis (Swallow) & Zach Lamplugh (15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot) join CFF for an exclusive chat on their experiences creating each of their acclaimed first features. We hope you’ll join us for these true tales from the trenches moderated by producer David Lawson Jr. (After Midnight, The Endless).
Screenplay Pitch Workshop
One of our most popular film education offerings over the last few years has undoubtedly been producer David Lawson Jr.’s (Synchronic, She Dies Tomorrow) screenplay pitch competition. We’re excited to have David return, along with last year’s winner, filmmaker B.J. Colangelo (Power Bomb, Deathcember), for an all-new edition of an event packed with practical information for filmmakers of all experience levels. Filmmakers interested in submitting their script as a part of this year’s competition should keep an eye on CFF social media for more details on how to enter.
Taboo Cinema with Heather Buckley and Eric13
CFF is thrilled to have an opportunity to bring back one of our favorite filmmakers/human beings working in the genre world today, producer Heather Buckley (The Ranger, Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson). Joining Heather for a skull-shattering but still scholarly chat on TABOO CINEMA is iconic musician Eric13 (Combichrist, Sex Slaves).
The Nights that Panicked America: A Brief History of the Golden Age of the Made for TV Genre Movie from Amanda Reyes
Amanda Reyes is an academic, author and historian from Austin, Texas. She is the editor and co-author of Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964–1999 (Headpress, 2017). She’s been a guest speaker and lecturer at international film festivals, movie screenings, and academic conferences in such places as Australia, England, Scotland, Germany, and stateside in Los Angeles, New York and Texas. She has written about television for several publications, including Fangoria, and has contributed commentary tracks for the home video releases of The Spell (Scream Factory, 2017), Someone’s Watching Me! (Scream Factory, 2018), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Warner Archives, 2018), and Nightmare in Badham County (Kino Lorber, 2019), among other titles. She is a featured guest speaker in several genre film documentaries, including Eli Roth’s History of Horror (AMC, 2018), and Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (Severin, 2021). She has also curated and presented the Alamo Drafthouse’s quarterly Made for Television Mystery Movie series (2018–2019), and has presented TV movies for the Austin Film Society (2017–2019).
The Pumpkin Pie Show: Chattanooga Style — Clay McLeod Chapman
From the ashes of the pandemic, one (virtual) rigorous storytelling session shall rise…
It’s The Pumpkin Pie Show, the 25-year-old theatrical skull-hump, ready to present a fresh steaming batch of story-performances for your corn-holes and ear-holes. Join raucous raconteur Clay McLeod Chapman as he rips through stories of madness and perversion, served up with a smile… plus a bonus reading from Chapman’s new novel Whisper Down The Lane.
Welcome to the Final Girl Support Group — Grady Hendrix
Bestselling author Grady Hendrix (Paperbacks from Hell, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) welcomes you to a very special support group, so have a seat, coffee’s in the back, and remember there’s no cross-talk. Also, please remember that unless you’ve fed them through a wood chipper or burned them to ashes, the killer is never really dead! Prepare yourself for a therapy session from Hell all about slasher movies and murder books, ranging from the 19th century to the modern era, with all the astrological assassins, dope-dealing neo-Nazi bodybuilders, and primal hamster trauma that has turned every Olympic training camp, summer camp, sleepaway camp, and band camp into a killing ground for very slow-moving killers armed with extremely inefficient weapons.
CFF 2021 Virtual Afterparty with special guests Sanguisugabogg
Just because we can’t be together, it doesn’t mean we all can’t still get gently wasted and celebrate a rad band together as CFF tradition dictates. Pronounced San-Gwee-soo-ga-bogg and meant to conjure visions of toilet demons. We knew we loved Sanguisugabogg the moment we saw their trilogy of video collaborations with Troma. The videos, which featured everything from murderous sentient genitalia to a nightmare vision of what a world without weed would look like (also, SGT. KABUKI MAN !!!), horrified us, made us laugh, and more importantly, made us desperate to share the humor, brutality and the good old fashioned ickiness of this fantastic death metal band with some similarly warped folk that we knew would appreciate them — they’ll be joining us for both a CFF exclusive live set and a special screening of the Troma-kissed trilogy of videos off their recently released debut TORTURED WHOLE. Tune in for this one, kiddos; the festival might be virtual, but this party is REAL.