Chattanooga Film Fest 2020 - Day One Report

The Chattanooga Film Festival is an event showcasing some of the best genre filmmaking around. Because of the COVID-19 situation, it's being held online this year. This is my first time covering it, and so far the offerings have been highly impressive. In the days right before CFF, I was able to pre-screen two of the films having their World Premieres at the festival. You can read my reviews of them here:

  • Skull – The Mask
  • The Wanting Mare

    My official “Day 1” started off with Eat Brains Love, a horror rom-com from director Rodman Flender, whose 1999 picture Idle Hands is a cult favorite. If you can imagine Some Kind of Wonderful with zombies, you'd be on the right track. It's about two teens – outcast Jake (Jake Cannavale) and popular Amanda (Angelique Rivera) – who contract a zombie virus that is sexually transmitted. They go on the lam while being chased by government agents and a young woman named Cass (Sarah Yarkin) who can track them via psychic abilities.

    Eat Brains Love is very funny in the way it skewers teen movie cliches. Cass, for example, is the nerd-girl attracted to Jake – despite his bloodthirst – while he's obsessed with hot-girl Amanda. The central joke of “zombism” being an STD is very funny, too. On the gore front, the movie delivers real insanity. To avoid killing innocents, Jake and Amanda eat sex offenders instead, and one of their “meals” suffers a grotesque genital mutilation first. The whole thing is a lot of fun.

    Later, I checked out some of the short films available. Little Willy is like Wes Craven's New Nightmare-meets-Child's Play with a humorous tone. Writer/director Andrew Bowser plays a washed-up former child star who now goes to horror conventions with his Chucky-esque co-star. When he begins hearing the doll's sinister voice in his head, he goes over the edge. Horror legends Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) and Zach Galligan (Gremlins) co-star in this pleasingly kooky tale.

    Live Forever is a hilarious 4-minute short in which horror movie characters who die in familiar ways (axed by a psycho, possessed by demons, eaten by zombies), etc. sing about dying in cinematic style. Directed by Gustav Egerstedt, it's clever and funny. Brea Grant's Megan, 26, meanwhile, finds a woman's Tinder-like app terrorizing her. The 5-minute short is a great metaphor for bad dates and crummy men.

    Next up was an outstanding panel discussion called “Keeping Sets Safe: A Frank Discussion by Women About Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Film Production.” Moderator Jordan Crucchiola brought together actress Barbara Crampton, director Gigi Saul Guerrero, and producers Mynette Louie and Kim Barnard to discuss sexual harassment on movie sets. The women dissected the problem in detail and offered up some proposals for how to ensure people are protected on-set. The hour-long conversation was informative, important, and enlightening.

    My day wrapped up with the World Premiere of The Ringing Bell, director Casey T. Malone's visually striking story about a grieving man, Judah (Brandon Cole), who ends up in possession of a mystery box after a bank heist he carries out with his cousin. The character has a form of narcolepsy that renders him in a state where he's somewhere between dreaming and being awake. Gorgeous, atmospheric animation is used to replicate how he sees things. Malone's purposefully mysterious story deals with themes of grief and perception of the world. He's an incredible visual stylist, and based on this film, I'm excited to see what he does in the future.

    I'll have a report on my CFF Day 2 coming soon. For more on the Chattanooga Film Festival, or to purchase passes, please visit