Well, that’s a wrap on the 2017 Telluride Horror Show. This horror film festival has quickly become one of, if not THE, horror destination for fans and filmmakers worldwide. This was their 8th year in existence, and having been in attendance for the past two years consecutively, I can safely say that this is the place to be in October. I was able to catch nine films over the course of three days, and I’m shocked to report that there was not one bad film I can recall. Having been to my fair share of horror film festivals, this is high praise.
This festival wrap-up will attempt to fill you in on all the dirty little details; with many more in depth reviews to follow. I would like to say that no amount of words can do the town of Telluride justice if you’ve never been. It’s a magical little mountain town that is almost too beautiful to describe. At this juncture I would like to point out that I’m not typically a guy who’s in awe of “god’s green majesty”, but I found myself speechless just looking around. It’s kinda one of those places you try to capture with your cell phone camera, and your then realize that it’s an impossible task. Even the six or seven hour drive from Denver is a gorgeous one, albeit a bit of a white-knuckler at times. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and I’m starting to feel at home in this historic little burg.
Day one had your intrepid reporter up at 5:30am for this little mountain jaunt, and I’ll have you know that wake up times this early are typically reserved for house fires or catastrophic events. However, I barely slept at all knowing the horrific joys that await me. The drive was spectacular and upon turning onto CO-145, a 15-mile mountain stretch, I could feel the atmosphere begin to change. Telluride is not a place you pass through, or come across by accident. This 15-mile road seems to lead nowhere BUT Telluride, so anyone on it is headed there. Once you make it into town, the large Telluride Horror Show banner hanging across the street near the Sheridan Opera House immediately greets you. The Sheridan is one of three theaters being used this year, up from the usual two.
I’ll spare you the banalities of checking into hotels, and get straight to the good stuff. My first screening was scheduled for Tragedy Girls at 4:30. This gave me plenty of time to check in, grab my press credentials, and attend the 3 PM ice cream social. You read that correctly, ice cream social. There’s just something great about having some free ice cream after a long trip with a bunch of other black-clad horror nerds. After meeting a few familiar faces, and some new ones, it was time to head over to the newest theater this year, The Palm. This is the first year the fest has used this venue and it was a welcome new addition. By far the largest and most modern theater, The Palm also got a temporary liquor license to serve the thirsty travelers. As the director, Tyler MacIntyre, mentioned during his brief intro “there’s just something incredibly subversive showing this film in a high school, but I love it”
“Tragedy Girls, a twist on the slasher genre following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small mid-western town into a frenzy and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.”
This was a fun and quirky way to start the fest. Basically two psychotic teens kidnap a hulking serial killer and pick his brain as to what they should do to gain murder fame. The film is witty and punchy with its jabs at social media and the Twitter generation. I will say that some of the humor was lost on me, since I’m not really a big social media guy, but the audience was in stitches. This film also boasts a pretty stellar cast including Craig Robinson, Josh Hutcherson, and Kevin Durand to name a few. The two female leads are also former X-men. This film is guaranteed to make its way to you, and I highly recommend it for some laughs with your gore.
Next up was a brief stop at the campfire tales. Every year a guest author is invited into the town square for a bonfire and the reading of a short story. This is one of the highlights of the fest to get you in the mood for all the creepy festivities to come. This year’s author was Jeremy Robert Johnson, and although I had to miss the story to catch my next film, people seemed genuinely grossed out.
“Stranded at the side of the road after a tire blowout, a group of friends become targets for an enigmatic sniper.”
This was by far my most conflicting viewing experience this weekend. Downrange is a bad movie…it’s also a fucking blast and had the whole audience laughing and gasping. The story is bit absurd, and the acting/dialogue was horrendous. However, the film is also mean as hell and pulls no punches. It’s gory, insanely gory. I caught this film because director Ryuhei Kitamura has a penchant for the bloody and the absurd. You can check off both of those boxes in your most permanent marker. I will also say that this ending was one of the best and most memorable of all the films I watched at the fest.
Leaving the theater the crowd was laughing and pointing out all the absurdity we had just witnessed, but the mood was great! Everyone had fun, and wasn’t sure if the bad acting was intentional. This one would be the topic of discussion for much of the weekend. This was the one and only showing for this film, so I needed to be there and I’m glad I did. I have a hunch the subject matter is going to drag this film into distribution hell, but I’ll get in to that in the in-depth review.
This weekend was an exercise in picking & choosing. The program was so strong; I had to narrow my choices down to the films I thought would be more obscure or difficult to find after the fest. It’s for this reason I chose my last film of Day 1, What The Waters Left Behind
“A group of young people that take a trip to the ruins in order to film a documentary about Epecuen. Ignoring the warnings, and after a brief tour, they get stranded in the abandoned village. Contrary to what they thought, they begin to realize that they are really not alone.”
This film comes to us from Argentina and from the minds of The Onetti Brothers. I reviewed Francesca on this site, and I have quickly become a fan of these 2 auteurs and their attention to detail. This is mean and nasty little piece that’s a huge departure from what the brothers have given us in the past. The best description I can give this film is the Argentinian Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a splash of The Hills Have Eyes. Brutal and unrelenting, this film saw at least four walkouts that I saw. I always find this to be a good endorsement for fans of the hard stuff. If your film has walkouts at a horror fest, it struck a nerve. The film also takes place in the abandoned ruins of Epicuen, a flood ravaged seaside town in Argentina. A freaky place, even with nothing else added to the equation.
Day 1 concludes with karaoke in the Sheridan bar, and the drinks were aplenty. This is where things get hazy…
Day 2 had your trusty reporter sleeping in a bit, as altitude and alcohol are known to do. I wandered around downtown, which is basically one street, before finally deciding on a little Mexican joint for lunch. My next scheduled showing was at 3pm.
“A mother takes her son and her best friend on a trip into remote wilderness to scatter his father’s ashes; they must confront their fears when a lone hiker begins following them.”
Desolation was a tight and to the point 78 minutes, without rushing or neglecting character development. What plays out is an examination of our collective fears and insecurities, under the guise of a cat & mouse slasher flick. Great performances, and moments of serious tension gave way to one of the more memorable and authentic films over the weekend. The movie leaves a lot of room for interpretation as to the motives of the lone hiker, but as director Sam Patton mentioned in the Q & A, this was by design. The focus is on the life struggles of our protagonists. The motives of the hiker are a way for them to manifest their darkest fears.
A brief walk down to the Oak, a bar in town, for the annual pig roasts and it was time for the next film. The pig roast has become a tradition with the festival, and the meal is free for all pass holders. I mean, who says no to a free pulled pork sandwhich??
“Facing difficult times and with their glory days long gone, the eight undisputed British vampire overlords gather up for their semi-centennial meeting. However, before the break of dawn, there will be blood. And corpses. Lots of them.”
This was definitely the funniest film of the bunch, and a kick-ass vampire film to boot. Screen actor Jason Flemyng (Google him) directs an ensemble cast in this play on vampire politics. As the masters of the British vampire society look to recruit a new member, a group of Vatican hired mercenaries aim to spoil their evening. Only problem is that vampires are REALLY hard to kill! This one was a lot of fun and poked fun at vampire tropes in the most loving of ways. Great cast, and a really good story.
“1976: Two young journalists leave for the French-Swiss border to investigate a strange case of cattle mutilations and record testimonies for a TV channel. Yet, once they get there, the scientific team they were supposed to meet has gone missing. Escorted by a first-aider, a British biologist and an American forensic investigator, Melissa and David will go looking for the missing team deep into the mountains.”
This was one of my most anticipated films. Being that it hails from France, and reportedly bothered Festival Director Ted Wilson, this was a must see. The movie poster is a bad-ass 80’s inspired piece of art, and I also really like found footage films when they’re done well. This one did not disappoint and brought some good scares along with it. The last 30 minutes were so incredibly tense, and honestly brought to mind The Descent if it were located atop a frozen desolate mountain top. I admittedly jumped a few times during this one, and one of my festival friends admitted to having a nightmare about it. Seems like this one got under a few people’s skins.
Day 3 starts with that usual last day festival anxiety. Can it really be the last day already?? I head down to Baked in Telluride for a quick sandwich and holy-shit that view!! Sitting on the patio spacing out into the mountains. I have to hurry to catch my next show, which is probably my favorite film of the fest.
“On a snowy eve, Little Holly’s sister and father are killed by her frantic mother. Years later, Holly is married, lonely, and her life is soon about take a turn for the ultra weird, when she visits “Umbrella of Love and Mind.”
This film absolutely blew my mind! It was visually stunning, disturbing, and one of the best examples of avant-garde horror in modern times. This film was like something Dario Argento would see in his nightmares. Blood soaked, and steeped in surrealism, this film left audiences divided with that “what the fuck did I just see” air about it. I was a big fan of Can Evrenol’s other film Baskin which is another prime example or sheer mind-fuckery. This film was a much tighter and more cohesive film than Baskin with the same type of feel and lack of narrative structure that can be difficult for some audiences. I personally can’t wait to watch it again and disturb some of my unprepared cohorts.
“A video artist looking for work drives to a remote house in the forest to meet a man claiming to be a serial killer. But after agreeing to spend the day with him, she soon realizes that she made a deadly mistake.”
Wow! Just wow! This film was so damn good it’s almost aggravating. If you’ve not seen the first DO IT!! Also, the second one is probably incomprehensible without it. I was very curios how they were going to set up the second film, and it was nothing short of pure genius. Mark Duplass & Patrick Brice did it again with one of the best horror films in years. The film, much like the first, has a sharp and witty comedic tone before plunging you into full-blown horror. It’s an uncomfortable comedy…until it isn’t. Mark Duplass is clearly having way too much fun playing the creep, and it makes the film so much more unsettling. Director Patrick Brice also confirmed that there would be a third film to round out the Creep trilogy. This one should be on Netflix soon, and I couldn’t think of a better double feature.
“Ten years after the events of the original Hatchet movie, Victor Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and proceeds to kill once more.”
I was so surprised that Telluride Horror Show got a hold of this one. Adam Green is currently on the road touring with this film, and this looks like the only stop outside of the tour. If you like Adam Green, and Hatchet, then this is a must see. The film hits every note you want it to as a fan of the series, while adding some new mythology. There are some great characters, and even greater kill scenes as Kane Hodder once again embodies Victor Crowley. As violent as it is, this screening had some of the most robust laughter of the entire fest. A triumph that shows Adam Green still has his finger on the pulse.
After this final screening, it was time to head down to The Last Dollar Saloon for some drinks and goodbyes. It’s always a bittersweet event as you get to discuss the films with your festival friends and see what you might’ve missed. It’s also the last night to enjoy this picturesque town before heading back to reality. Telluride is truly a magical place, and you can feel it in the air. Dates for the 2018 festival have already been announced, and I urge you not to sleep on it. I for one can’t wait to go back and see what they have in store for us next year.