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Chattanooga Film Festival 2020

by Rob Humphrey
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Like most events scheduled for 2020 the Chattanooga Film Festival found itself in an awkward position as it drew near. There was no way that they were going to be able to host the festival in the traditional fashion. The organizers were faced with a choice, they could find a way to make it happen without gathering large groups of people or they could pull the plug on it. Luckily for us, they found a way to put on the festival without anyone having to leave the comfort of their couch to attend.

CFF has been on my radar for a few years but I have never had a chance to go. I was thrilled when I learned that they would be bringing the festival to me this time around. I paid 30 bucks for the all-access pass and waited for the fun to begin. Unfortunately for me, I ended up having a busier weekend than I anticipated and I didn’t get to see as many of the films as I had hoped but I enjoyed everything that I did watch. Here’s a recap of the movies that I saw during the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival.

THE BEACH HOUSE

The first movie that I decided to watch was The Beach House. It’s about a young couple who head to the beach for a romantic getaway. When they get there, they discover that there is an older couple already at the house. I expected the older couple to be crazy and for the film to turn into a fight for survival. I could not have been more wrong. It goes off in a crazy direction…in the best way possible.

The Beach House is filled with beautiful scenery and wonderful performances. I’m hoping that a larger audience gets a chance to see it because it deserves the attention.

HOMEWRECKER

Homewrecker is purely a good time. It’s the story of a lonely woman who is seemingly obsessed with a woman that she eventually kidnaps. It turns out that there is a lot more to the story than that but I don’t want to give anything away. This is a smartly crafted screenplay and it would be a shame for me to ruin it.

The two lead actresses are the only ones on-screen for the vast majority of the movie and they do a fantastic job. Precious Chong is chewing up the scenery and it looks like she is having a blast doing it, while Alex Essoe does an excellent job of shifting from uncomfortable to annoyed to down right terrified as events unfold. It’s worth checking out this film just to see these two at work.

SCARE PACKAGE

Like all anthologies, Scare Package has segments that are wonderful and some that are forgettable. Overall, the entire thing works together well. Scare Package is not just a horror anthology it approaches the anthology with a specific purpose in mind, it wants to scare you but it also wants to make you laugh. Scare Package is entirely made up of stories that make fun of horror tropes while also managing to be scary.

I can’t think of any reason why a horror fan wouldn’t love this movie. Not only are the segments laugh out loud funny but it is full of Easter Eggs and fun bits for fans of the genre and there is a cameo that you don’t want to miss. That’s all I’m going to say about it. I believe this one is coming to Shudder soon, check it out.

THE 11TH ORDER – BEST STUDENT FILM

Not everything that shows at the Chattanooga Film Festival is horror. I debated about including the non-horror films that I saw and decided that it was worth it because all of these works deserved to be mentioned. The 11th Order is a short film about a group of Marines stationed in the Middle East, more specifically it is about how quickly things can change for those soldiers.

Of all of the shorts that I saw this one is the one that I think could easily be turned into a great feature length film. I was captivated by the characters and their stories. It is beautifully shot and the performances are top notch. Short films don’t get a ton of love but it is worth the effort to seek this one out.

LA SIRENA – BEST TENNESSEE FILM

La Sirena is the touching story of a boy who shows up in a small town. I don’t want to say too much about it because it pulls on the heart strings and is well worth a watch.

One thing that impressed me throughout the entire festival was how good most of these films looked, the shorts in particular. La Sirena is one of the short films that helped set the bar. Not only does it look great but wait until you see these actors go to work. This cast is impressive.

THE GIRL IN THE HALLWAY – BEST SHORT FILM

Never would I have expected the term “animated true crime story” to exist. I don’t know if it did before The Girl In The Hallway but it does now. It’s not surprising that this won Best Short Film at the festival. Not only is it an incredibly inventive way of telling a story, the story is griping and heartbreaking. There’s more than one lesson to be learned about the way that we treat each other in this one.

THE WANTING MARE – BEST FEATURE FILM

The Wanting Mare is described as a “dark fable about multiple generations of women who have the same dream.” That is a pretty simplistic explanation of the film but I’m not sure that I could give a better one. In all honesty, I need to see this probably 3 or 4 more times before I can properly discuss everything that is going on in it. It weaves an intricate tale and I can’t help but feel like I missed out on some of it along the way.

Like everything else in this festival, The Wanting Mare is stunning to look at. This is one of two movies that I wish I had been able to see on the big screen just to take in the visuals. It may have been a little over my head but I can’t imagine that I’m going to see many films that are better in 2020.

JUMBO

The basic story of Jumbo is a young awkward woman, who works at a theme park, falls in love with one of the rides. I have to be honest, I expected to laugh like crazy at this movie. It’s not played that way and it’s better for it. The filmmakers played it completely straight and told a story that is full of heart and humanity.

This is the other film that I wish I could have seen in a theater just to soak in the sights. As far as performances go, you would be hard pressed to find many better than Noémie Merlant as Jeanne. She makes this film by not only making the audience believe that she is in love with this machine but by also making us believe that she believes the machine is in love with her.

SKULL

I was up against the clock when I started Skull. I didn’t know if I would have time to finish it before the festival came to a close. Thankfully I decided to try to squeeze it in because it can only be described as super fun. The story is about an ancient mask that is unearthed and takes possession of a guy and immediately turns him into an unstoppable killing machine.

This is one that every horror fan would love. The violence is over the top, the kills are inventive and the effects look great. Skull hits all the right notes and was the perfect way to wrap-up the festival and the weekend.

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