On Sunday, Oct. 30, the St. Olaf Film Production Society hosted the second annual Halloworst Film Festival, a short film-screening that featured intentionally terrible student-written, directed, acted and edited horror films.
As a horror movie buff myself – I’ve seen about one third of “The Shining” from between my fingers and I watched a few scenes of one of the Chainsaw Massacres because it was reflected in the Hoyme lounge window – I attended the festival as Halloworst’s most seasoned reviewer. For the second year in a row, Halloworst lived up to its title; none of the movies will be headed to the box office any time soon. The event itself appreciated significant success compared to last year with about a third of Viking Theater full, longer and more intentional submissions than last year and no repeated submissions.
The festival kicked off with a short and (literally) dark, film titled “The Thing We Fear Most.” The movie portrayed a student walking across campus at dark, nervously twitching at each bump in the night. Behind him, you see a man stab another man and drag him off screen, our protagonist oblivious to the murder. As he approached Regents I was sure that the murderer from before would be waiting there for him, but in a comedic twist, our hero is not murdered but instead realizes he forgot to put on pants. I guess that’s the “thing we fear most.” A debatable claim, but I laughed a little. Two out of five stars.
Next up was a series of three, together called “I Am Afraid” by returning director Jack Schoephoester ’19. The first installment was one of my favorites of the night. Two socially awkward characters got stuck in a loop of “How are you?”s and ended it by killing each other. I appreciated the hyperbole – we all feel that way during small talk to some degree. The second in the series featured another uncomfortable situation, getting caught pooping in a public restroom.
The third in the series would have served better as a stand alone. It was very dialogue heavy compared to the other two and introduced very different characters, but I appreciated it nonetheless. The main character signed a blood contract with a skeleton, selling his eternal soul in exchange for a finished term paper. During the suspenseful contract signing, the main character dipped a french fry into the fake blood, obviously ketchup, and in that moment the film acknowledged itself as being comedically awful. How meta.
Together, I would give the series a four out of five.
The most plot heavy film of the evening was “The Trees” by returning director Chaz Mayo ’18. The storyline featured a young man who was seemingly possessed, his concerned mother and a well-meaning priest. Upon following the young man while he sleepwalked, the mother and priest discovered that the young man was not, in fact, possessed, but instead sexually attracted to trees. I appreciated the classic horror film plot elements – the concerned family member, the stupid and egotistical priest figure and a troubled child in denial. The having-sex-with-trees issue definitely drove home the comedic aspect of the film, but it was a bit over the top for my taste. I personally preferred Mayo’s 2015 submission, the artful and ominous “Vend.” Three out of five for the elaborate production and too-obvious humor.
In the end, the Halloworst Film Festival definitely proved itself as a lasting event, drawing more talent and better quality than it has in years past. I can’t wait to see what atrocious films await me next Halloween.