Mr. HoleHead’s Warped Dimension, the first-ever online film festival to be presented entirely through the Zoom app (and which our own Joseph Perry brought to your attention right here), is comin’ your way next Thursday, September 24th (though a free preview with trailers & talk is going down this Saturday, the 19th, at 5 pm PT right here) and ol’ your’s cruelly had a chance to slap his putrid peepers on a selection of sinister short films that are sure to melt faces and make the crotch of your trousers just a tad tighter (or wetter depending… look this is a collection of revoltin’ reviews, not a fuckin’ sex ed class… hell, I have no class whatsoever… )!
*NOTE: click on the fest’s name up yonder to check play dates for the following shorts!
Let’s say we kick things off with Lost Treasure of the Valley !
Lost Treasure of the Valley takes place in a retro-futuristic San Fernando Valley, a couple (played by Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?‘s Tyler Nash and All That‘s Lori Beth Denberg to the absolute hilarious hilt) relates the legend of a photographer named Jake (Everardo Barriga) whom was once their tenant and was saved by a rugged Adventurer (Greg Lee) from an ass-beating from a Warriors-esque street gang.
Anyway, this dynamic duo make a startling discovery; namely that all of the abandoned shopping carts in the valley point towards a cave containing a great treasure… only problem is collecting that booty will prove rather difficult as the loot is guarded by ye olde huge ass dragon (which looks rather bad-ass it must be said)!
Off beat, surreal and hilarious; Lost Treasure of the Valley is a heady combination of Back to the Future style 80’s adventure flick mixed with third-party NES game weirdness. Writer/director Robert Husted has created a whacked-out world with a great sense of mythology and world building… plus the affair doesn’t take itself seriously… no, strike that; it takes itself as seriously as the narrative dictates, and that is a wonderful thing indeed cats n’ creeps!
Next we look at Milicent; the tale of a woman being harassed at a 50’s era-tiki bar by some real Mad Men style rubes. Good thing for her the things she draws come true… and monsters are her muse.
Obviously (at least to the boils n’ ghouls that read my wicked words anyway) this is a fanciful look at Milicent Patrick; the un-sung genius who created universal’s iconic Gill-man featured in the Creature From the Black Lagoon trilogy.
Created by writer/director Laurie Garner, and shot on 16mm film, Milicent is full of lurid color, Halloween masks, and fantasy… plus it has an ass-kicking, drink slinging, Gill-man! It’s a fun, bite-sized treat featuring a legend of the horror biz, and I loved every second of it!
Next is Unagi, a terror treat involving a woman going on a psychotronic, body-horror laden journey after suckin’ sushi… eel based to be precise!
Featuring distorted visuals, enough color gels to make Mario Bava say “Damn dawg!”, and a goo-drippin, siren screamin’, elctro-shock givin’ heroine this is one tasty lil’ bit of creature feature finery… hell writer/director/producer Sam Fox even chucks in some humor and a message for good measure!
If it seems rather dizzying for a fright flick that runs six-minutes, you would be correct… but that’s also this thing’s charm and greatest asset as it never lets us catch our breath as we drown in the fever-dream proceedings that will tickle your mind and punch your face… and crotch… whichever you think most with…
Next comes writer/director duo Alexandra Emmons and Andrew Juhl’s surreal boardwalk-set thriller Lily in the Maze!
Lily in the Maze is the story of introverted, mysterious loner Will (Spenser Granese), a creature of habit who’s normal routine is shot to hell and back by the eponymous woman (Liv Lennon) from his past who suddenly appears back in his life.
As the title suggests, Lily does indeed fulfill the role of Pac-man surrogate as she finds herself in a mirror maze… and you can bet she isn’t alone!
Featuring an aesthetic that favors atmosphere over narrative (which works perfectly with the film’s ten minute runtime), and two solid performances from the aforementioned thespians, Lily in the Maze is a surreal journey into the gaudy boardwalk arcades that come to neon-soaked life after dark, and it boasts plenty of bright color to play against those dark themes!
Also this one features nice lil’ twist at the end that will have you wondering if this boardwalk is located someplace we may have visited before…
Can a jack-o-lantern topped skeleton and a translucent girl find each other, or does fate have other ideas?
This is the question (and the entire) plot to Copper Bones, an animated music video cum love story that presents a colorful nocturnal world that sees our heroes travelling on a strange train and ending up on the outskirts of a large city.
The entire affair is like a dream brought to life, and the melding of strange CG and deleriously odd imagery really gives the viewer something to behold as the song runs it’s brief course.
It’s a rather charming, if bizarre love story and is well worth a wicked watch, especially if you ever wanted to see Tim Burton take on a film like Tron (and that’s fuckin’ high praise indeed in my beastly book!
Holy hell, this is a strong line-up so far eh my cats n’ creeps? Let’s see if our next film will continue the good vibes!
Malakout tells the tale of a Victorian musician who makes a Faustian deal with a demonic monk to restore life to his beloved. Naturally a sacrifice has to be made for that magic to be effective, and that comes at the loss of our heroes hands… and that is just the beginning of this dude’s preternatural problems!
Combining stop-motion and splashes of traditional animation, Farnoosh Abedi’s Malakout is an absolute jaw-dropper of a film, filled to the brim with Gothic ambiance (and architecture), dark shadows, arcane dealings… and the hero of the piece looks like Vincent Price playing Edgar Allan Poe, and fittingly this tale would fit in nicely with the latter’s oeuvre!
The craft, presentation, and pure Goth vibe make this fright flick an absolute demonic delight, and one that made yours cruelly howl for more!
I’m giving it 5 skulls… my highest rating, but honestly it deserves many, many more! A complete masterpiece!
Next comes an animated music video for NOBRO and their song Don’t Die.
This is a live-action/animation from director Greg Doble, and it is absolutely charming as well as rad-ass awesome; a heady concoction indeed, and believe me your’s cruelly drank long and deep on this poison punch!
Think Merrie Melodies (or Cuphead for you young ass mother fuckers out there) meets the raw punk, hook laden groove of The Runaways. Throw in some skeletons, a graveyard, and a leering moon and you have yourself one awesome mother fuckin’ video!
Empress Eura, ruler of the planet Adin is forced to confront her prejudice (and those of her subjects) and put trust in a giant monster that arrives on her world bearing a message that could spell salvation or eradication for her people!
Combining elements of Manhua, with a dash of Peter Chung, and a pinch of Journey to the West, writer/director Gene K. Kim weaves an epic tale of warfare, monsters, anthropomorphic animal soldiers, giant tortoise battle machines, and so much more!
This animated, twenty minute short manages to create a fully realized high fantasy environment populated with memorable characters, amazing environs, and a well-realized mythology… just absolute world building perfection done to a turn, and presented in a manner that leaves the audience wanting to spend more time in it’s universe!
Next I put another music video under the monstrous microscope!
Presenting visuals to accompany Dinner And Whiskey Next Week’s tune Fucking With a Robot, Yann Giroud (with the help of Ben Stevenson) bring us a voyeur watching both stock footage of a dystopian society as he munches on popcorn. this is cut with footage of the band performing.
This starts of prosaic enough, but soon ends in a combination of Twilight Zone twist mixed with early Shinya Tsukamoto cyberpunk nihilism. Not my favorite of this batch, but solid all the same.
I’m beginning to think these ratings are becoming superfluous with the killer quality of selections on display here… anyway, moving on we have Flick; the tale of a Gamera lovin’ dude (Nate Pringle) who just can’t seem to stop pickin’ and flickin’ those nostril nuggets.
Well one day our unhygienic hero picks a booger he simply can not flick aside… literally. this begins to take a serious psychological toll on the lad and his measures of removal grow ever more extreme as his life spirals completely out of control.
There’s nothing like a spot of gross-out humor, and Flick presents that in spades! Writer, director, and editor Ariel Zengotita actually manages to illicit a ton of audience sympathy for this hapless mother fucker, and his plight actually manages to be engaging no matter how ludicrous the scenario presented may be!
A huge reason this short is so effective is that Zengotita has the aforementioned Pringle as a leading man. Our hero here is an overly smug buffoon, and Pringle attacks the role with near slapstick physicality that brings to mind our beloved horror biz icon Bruce Campbell, and you fine fiends know I love that mother fucker to paranormal pieces… so ultimate praise there!
If you dig on Evil Dead and Troma (and who reading this doesn’t), you will definitely pick up what Flick is laying down… low-brow done to pitch perfect perfection!
Next up is Ajay Madala’s Stay Inside; a kaleidoscopic journey into a major case of cabin fever (which at the time of writing is ultra-relatable thanks to the Covid crisis currently crippling our planet).
Presented as a swirling mass of color, we follow a man (presented in a genius stroke of red and blue images reminiscent of the glasses used to suck us into the hyper-reality of a 3-D movie) becoming unstuck in his never ending, one room existence from which he can not escape (though technology seems to offer a fabricated escape)… a non-stop assault of repeated routine and words that become mantra.
The end result is an under two-minute spiral into a delirious descent into how our home sweet home can become an inescapable prison thanks to the madness that lays just beyond the four walls of your bedroom!
This brings us to writer, director, and editor Laurie Garner’s Deerly Beloved, a tale of a faun, Bigfoot… wait… and Krampus… double ‘wait’ with a splash of “what the fuck now”… and a Leprechaun… okay, what in the hell… aaaand it’s over.
Ever want to experience The Bard’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream by way of the Patterson–Gimlin film mixed with 90’s creature-feature insanity? Well Deerly Beloved is the film for you… and with a runtime of just over a minute, this is like a rabbit punch right to your monster kid sweet spot
An absolutely over-the-top injection of cryptid-based poetry, Deerly Beloved is a must see for those of us that grew up with Bigfoot and Wildboy and Masterpiece Theater.
Again, 5 Skulls doesn’t cover this awesomeness, but it’s the best I’ve got!
Ever wonder what it would be like if Lucio Fulci directed a S.O.V. fright flick? Well you fuckin’ should have… and if you did, Lee Garcia’s short film Machine Wash Cold is the short fright flick for you!
A couple find themselves at the mercy of a wicked washing machine that readily exudes the crimson it so craves… and this insanity is presented with the low-res charm of the aforementioned shot on video horror biz smashed-up the aesthetic of spaghetti shockers (think extreme close-ups and colored gel lighting), and the batshit subject matter of your average 42nd St. grindhouse picture.
This is psychotronic fare amped up to the nines, and should prove irresistible to fans of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Rubber!
Moving on we have Devil Snail; the crowd pleasing tale of Lucifer bringing a Christian-killing snail and a Satan worshiper together to form a murder machine par excellence!
If you can imagine Ben Wheatley directing a reality TV series produced by Robert Eggers, you will feel right at home with Devil Snail; a prime slice of deviltry mixed with earthy spirituality by way of junk food programming.
As you can surmise from my sinister synopsis, director Sean Pettis has one hell of unique style, and he presents this insanity to the hilt, but yet as fever dream as this material gets, it remains grounded to nature. It’s a strange dichotomy to be certain, but it just works so goddamned well!
We’re in the home stretch now, let’s see what’s next in our ghoulish grab bag!
Our next short, Lost Lula, is pound for pound the most straight up beautiful and abstract selection I’ve slapped my eerie eyeballs yet in this collection (and that’s saying something considering all of the splendor presented up yonder).
Featuring smooth as silk animation, Lost Lula presents a series of images showcasing the female form juxtaposed with birds and other organic shapes… and all of it flows and changes to the musical accompaniment.
It all results in a soothing, beautiful viewing experience, and I give the highest praise to animator Steven Vander Meer. Visual splendor done to perfection!
Next we have a flick nestled deep within one of my fav universes, that of The Witcher!
A town is suffering at the hands of creatures summoned by a vengeful witch that resides in a nearby mine shaft. Naturally the town big wig calls for a Witcher to trek down there and hand those vile villains their asses!
Filled to the brim with showstopping visual effects, impressive creature design, stunning costumes, and fantastic locations, filmmaker Mikko Löppönen has crafted a pitch perfect journey into the wutcher mythos with Mines of Eeclor … and I haven’t even mentioned the top-shelf acting and action sequences.
To say I was impressed with this flick would be a titanic understatement, and honestly Netflix would be doing themselves a huge disservice if they don’t contact Löppönen to helm an episode of their Witcher series!
Speaking of Mikko Löppönen, our next nugget o’ horror is from him as well…
Brazen – Demon Huntress tells the tale of the titular Brazen (Bianca Bradey), a bounty hunter with a real knack for knocking off monstrous maniacs for fun and profit… which usually goes swimmingly, except for the this one time…
Now Brazen is in for the fight of her life against her disgruntled, and inhuman employers!
Packed to the brim of it’s four minute runtime with action, monsters, and fun Brazen – Demon Huntress is like a bad-ass outlaw comic book come to life… and that makes for one hell of a highly watchable film let me tell ya my faithful fiends!
Also on point is Bradey (Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, Rendel) as our ass kicking, demon-eyed heroine… a great performance loaded with attitude and physicality!
Bottom line, Brazen is the shit, and you need to see it!
Finally we have Salton City!
Salton City concerns a boy making a strange discovery on a beach adjacent to a mobile home court… namely a skeleton buried in the loose sand. Our hero absconds with the skull, and soon that beastly bone begins speaking with it’s psychic powers! What follows is an off-kilter journey into a world of talking dogs, strange conspiracies, and even a dash of social commentary and pitch black humor.
All of this delightful madness is brought to life in an animated visual style that’s like Killer 7 meets Sin City; high contrast lighting and truly unique character design collide in an absorbing story that constantly bombards the viewer with totally bonkers concepts that are a ton of fun to behold!
Filmmaker Gary Hebert has created a surreal universe with Salton City, and I’d love to have further adventures in this amazing world!
Pound for pound, Mr. HoleHead’s Warped Dimension has the best line-up around in my not so humble opinion, and I urge you cats n’ creeps to click that link above and check out the offerings for yourselves!