I spent much of last weekend at the Hollywood Theater for this year’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It was one of the better festivals of recent years, partly because I saw some very good films and partly because I got to spend a lot of time hanging with some reading and writing friends, especially Dale Ivan Smith and Anthony Pryor.
Organizers made a heroic attempt to widen the scope of the festival this year, with a lot of panels and readings held in an auxiliary location a block from the theater. I appreciate the widening, but I attended almost none of those events–interesting as many sounded–because the festival is still about films for me, and I wanted to see as many as I could. (More on that in a moment.) I did, though, enjoy a very good dramatic reading of Alex Shvartsman’s story “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma,” presented by Pulp Stage. I heard a talk by Charles Stross, the guest of honor, whose Laundry Files books I like a lot. And I was on hand when Wendy Wagner read “Queen of a New America,” her delightful and twisted story from the anthology She Walks in Shadows. I got to hear readings by Andrew Fuller and Molly Tanzer at the same event.
And now for the films. There were three feature films I wanted to see, and six blocks of short films. The shorts blocks have always been my favorite part of the festival, so I worked my schedule-fu to see all six of them and two of the features. I came home last night with tired eyes and brain, but with the satisfaction of having seen some fine films, a lot of decent or interesting ones, and only a couple of real duds.
Here are my standout picks:
Black Mountain Side, feature length. A tense, eerie, and professional iteration of “people alone in the wilderness when weird shit starts happening and minds buckle.” It reminded me, in a good way, of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo and The Last Winter, but at the same time it was fresh and assured, and not without some black humor. (The screenplay for this film won Best Screenplay award at the 2013 HPLFF.)
Tesla vs. Cthulhu: The Nightmare of Desolation Sound, short. Well-done episode, in full period style, in the ongoing attempt of Tesla and others to halt the irruption of the Great Old Ones and their evil minions.
Mercy, short. A very tight short film with a character arc and a distinctive tone, dealing with a mysterious find on a beach and its aftermath. This film won the festival organizers’ award for Best Short of the year. It is the letter M in Filmmaking Frenzy’s ABCs of Death 2.
Cat Killer, animated short. I know, the title. It’s a bleak fable, but beautifully animated and surprisingly touching.
The Trap, The Littlest Chtulhuist, and The Call of Farqunglu, shorts. Amid an infinity of shorts involving the ocean, tentacles, a mad artist and his dreadful model, or the sole survivor of a descent down a flight of subterranean stairs, these three films were a breath of fresh, funny air. The first two are live action, the third animated with customized Lego figures. All made me laugh, and all were well-written and produced.
There were plenty of others I enjoyed–too many to mention. I look forward to next year’s festival. If you like any of the films I’ve mentioned here, you should, too.
Props to the festival’s organizers and volunteers for a job well done, and to the Kickstarter backers who made it happen.