My final day covering this year's online Chattanooga Film Festival was a little shorter than the first three, in that it fell on Memorial Day and I had plans with my wife and children. Nevertheless, I was able to get in three things that were easily highlights of the fest.
The first was screening The Beach House, a contamination chiller that is scheduled to run on the Shudder streaming service at some point in the not-too-distant future. Liana Liberato and Noah Le Gros play Emily and Randall, a young couple experiencing friction in their relationship. They head to his father's beach house to relax and sort some things out. Upon their arrival, they discover that his dad's friends, Mitch (Jake Weber) and Jane (Maryanne Nagel), are already staying there. The group collectively decides to share the place. They even split some pot-laced chocolate.
Something is in the water, though. In one awesomely horrific scene, Emily finds weird creatures washed up on the beach. Whatever they unleashed begins to affect everyone. Writer/director Jeffrey A. Brown hits the right balance between being suspenseful and gross – and grossness is absolutely a necessity in pictures of this sort. He's also got the benefit of a terrific performance from Liberato. This is the third time this year, after Banana Split and To the Stars, that she's blown me away. Keep an eye out for this picture and this incredible actress.
In the shorts section, I caught His & Herzog, a very funny 11-minute comedy from Gates Bradley in which a neurotic Husband (Max Silvestri) goes through a stressful week with his Wife (Amy Seimetz), who speaks in the distinct voice of director Werner Herzog. The beauty of the piece is that Seimetz (Pet Sematary) mouths along to actual sound clips of Herzog. That had to have been difficult to time, but she does it flawlessly. The movie ends with a suitably Herzog-esque joke, as well as a hilarious reference to his noted “frenemy,” actor Klaus Kinski.
Later in the day, I was able to check out CFF's top secret live event, the specifics of which were only announced a few hours earlier. Chad and Carey Hayes -- the screenwriting siblings behind The Conjuring, Whiteout and The Reaping, among others – dove into the subject of haunted house movies. They told some behind-the-scenes stories about the projects they've worked on, plus dropped a few tantalizing clues about an upcoming project. Hearing their philosophies on marrying traditional ghost stories with religious themes (a hallmark of their scripts) was enlightening; they view this approach as the ultimate “good-versus-evil” story. CFF deserves a lot of credit for putting together such appealing programs.
And with that, my 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival experience came to a conclusion. My impression is that this is a first-rate genre fest, clearly programmed by people who love movies of this sort. You can't get any better than that. I offer my sincere thanks to everyone at CFF for the opportunity to cover this year's event.
For more on the Chattanooga Film Festival, please visit ChattFilmFest.org.