A time-traveling murder mystery, a house full of vampires, and a blind date with a demon. Those are just a few of the scenarios in store when the 2017 Unreal Film Festival hits Studio on the Square this weekend.
The sixth annual festival highlights science fiction, horror, and fantasy films from outside the Hollywood studio system. If you need a breath of fresh air after yet another Marvel superhero sequel, this festival has plenty of alternatives: six feature films and more than 30 short films from all over the globe, including eight films shot here in Memphis.
"One of the main focuses of the festival is to bring genre films from all over the world that you normally would not be able to see in Memphis," says festival director Cain Winstead. "The Unreal Film Festival is our way of bringing these independent movies to Memphis while also proving that we are a viable market for independent genre releases. Our other big focus is to promote our local genre artists. We believe that Memphis filmmakers can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with filmmakers all over the world."
This is Winstead's first year as director of the festival, and he has been using his time to connect with the Mid-South fandom community. "This is the first year we were able to promote the festival at the Cooper-Young Festival, and the response we got from the attendees was enormous," he says."We were really able to reach an audience we had not been able to previously, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive."
The opening night feature on Friday, September 22nd is Altered Hours: The Tomorrow Paradox by New York filmmaker Bruce Wemple. The film explores the subjective nature of time with the story of Will Parker (Ryan Munzert), a recovering addict desperate to cure his insomnia. But the experimental drug he tries, called Z, has the effect of sending him unstuck in time. He flashes back and forth between the present and the future while trying to solve the murder that he may or may not have committed or will commit of a person he hasn't met yet. Like the best time travel movies, describing it plays havoc with verb tense.
- Last Broken Darkness
Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., planet Earth is in for a bad day. Last Broken Darkness, by director Christopher-Lee dos Santos starts off with the impact of a massive meteor swarm, which throws the planet into chaos and darkness. As if that's not enough, the meteors bring with them a virus that mutates human survivors into horrible, rotting rage zombies. The only survivors hunker in underground bunkers, until an unlikely pair of protagonists have to go above ground to save what's left of the human race. The South African production makes the most out of its limited budget with some serious zombie chills.
- The Wanderers
The closing night feature is The Wanderers, a vampire picture that has the distinction of actually being a Romanian production filmed in Transylvania. Veteran actor Armand Assante stars as Louis, a man returning to his spooky ancestral home with a pair of Korean filmmakers trying to create a paranormal investigation TV show. Director Dragos Buliga delivers some genuinely startling images while taking on Central Europe's chilling reputation with an edge of wry humor.
Memphis genre filmmakers make a strong showing at this year's festival. Christopher Woodsy Smith's "A Good Man" is a spooky hitchhiking horror story. Martina Boothes' "Red Velvet Cake" takes us inside the mind of Marcy, a college student who has trouble differentiating between fantasy and reality. But when she seeks the help of a novice hypnotherapist, she discovers that some secrets of the mind are better left untouched. "Slaughterhouse Phi" is a twisty, bloody story of revenge by director/actor/musician Christian Walker. "Old Blood" dabs in Victorian horror, with a blood magic ritual that goes horribly wrong. "Alone" by Jake Hall tells the tale of a conspiracy investigator piecing together clues to an alien conspiracy, only to find that he's not paranoid enough. Fight choreographer Six Carolino's directorial debut "Gauntlet Run: Breach" is an intense, occasionally funny, first person shooter of a film that is a pure fun ride.