Telluride Horror Show kicked off its 9th year last weekend and this horror fan was beyond excited to return. Telluride, Colorado is a stunning setting on its own, but when you add a healthy dose of indie genre films, dedicated fans, and an overall relaxed and positive atmosphere, good times are sure to follow.
Despite a bumpy start with travel (which I will definitely dive into another day), I was able to check out 13 feature films and a short film block during the fest weekend. Luckily some of the films I missed are slowly popping up on streaming sites like Shudder, so keep an eye out for those as well!
Before hopping into the reviews, I cannot stress enough how fun, organized, and truly enjoyable Telluride Horror Show is. Even if you aren’t someone who is determined to fill their days with wall-to-wall movies, I highly recommend stopping by to take in the gorgeous scenery and chat with horror fans from all over.
Anna and the Apocalypse
This is precisely how you pull off a teen horror musical. A zombie apocalypse wrecks a small town during Christmas and a group of teenagers sings and dances in the streets, a bowling alley, and the halls of their high school as they use everything around them as weapons to bludgeon the enemy? Yeah, okay, I’m so in. This could have easily been a cute concept that resulted in a fairly decent watch but I am delighted that Anna and the Apocalypse soared above and beyond.
Every single actor in this ensemble, namely the teens, showed off true talent and showmanship. Each performance got better and better! The original songs are seriously good and I didn’t mind that they would get stuck in my head periodically over the weekend. The big number is definitely “Hollywood Ending,” but my favorite song hands down is “Human Voice,” which somehow perfectly combines humor and heartbreak. A ridiculously fun performance to look out for is by Anna’s ex-boyfriend Nick, a character that came to life during his solo while annihilating zombies with ease. But then there is Lisa’s hilariously raunchy Christmas recital number… There is way too much to praise so I will simply urge you all to seek this film out when you get the chance.
5/5 Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Out of an entire program stuffed with films I loved, Cam gave my absolute favorite performance. Madeline Brewer casts a spell over this film as her character does with online viewers. We see her complex, vulnerable side as Alice and her playfully sweet and charmingly twisted side as her erotic cam-girl persona, Lola. A majority of the film is spent with her alone and it never feels dull. Lola’s cam show set is stunning in moody neon lighting and her desire to climb higher in views feels genuine and oddly innocent for the subject matter at hand.
When the switch flips and her persona/content is taken from her, the paranoia and tension skyrockets. The relationship with viewers outside of the live shows gives me a ridiculous amount of anxiety. Seeing one of them unexpectedly in the real world is terrifying. I think this says more about my discomfort and trust issues in social settings, but it really adds a jaw-clenching element for me. Perhaps other women out there understand what I’m saying when watching this.
I was wildly entertained by the odd turn of events and interactions with a clueless doppelganger. Cam successfully combines humor, discomfort, shock, obsession, and mystery into a tight 94 minutes, but honestly, I could have kept watching for much, much longer. Honestly, Cam might be my second favorite film of the entire fest, it’s just that good.
Deadtectives kicked off my second day at the horror show and I am honestly thankful for it. Unable to bounce back from travel exhaustion, I was worried that rolling out of bed and directly into a seat in a dark theater meant the inevitable drooping eyelids and nodding off. But I can happily say that the vibe of Deadtectives was exactly what I needed to shake off the sleep. This film was not the best in terms of comedies at the Horror Show, but its silly nature and strong cast work well to create an enjoyable experience.
A film following around a television paranormal investigation team is nothing new, but the playful writing and inclusion of the ghosts’ perspective in the space freshens up the theme a bit. The main creepy mansion with a deadly history is an obvious choice for setting, but I found myself liking the whimsical opening spot of a cupcake shop a little better as it, again, gave a more colorful environment to work with. Bob’s traps are fantastic and the team dynamic is energetic and fun to watch, so if you are in need of something easy and enjoyable, Deadtectives is the way to go.
3.5/5 Broken Mirrors
Unfortunately, Heretiks is my least favorite film from the Telluride Horror Show lineup. Fortunately, it is the ONLY film that I don’t have anything nice to say out of all the features and shorts I saw. Let me start by noting that witches are my thing. I love a movie about witchcraft and fucked up old-school nuns, but Heretiks left me a little bored and underwhelmed by visual effects. I find it difficult to recall the central conflict and I promise that I was actively trying to find something to grasp on to.
A young woman marked by her community as a witch avoids death and is taken to serve in a convent to potentially save her soul and repent her sins. Mother Superior is a classic cruel leader crazed by her religion so much so that even she seems to be making sacrifices through witchcraft. There are quite a few dead ghost girls ripping the convent apart throughout, but not in a memorable way. I get the stark blue vibe and the sharp glowing eyes as the key aesthetic, but the film was simply not for me.
Lords of Chaos
I have always been a big Rory Culkin fan, so I knew I was going to enjoy at least a performance element from Lords of Chaos. Going into this film, I didn’t really know much about the crazy details of the true events depicted, but I can happily report that I feel like I got a decent starter-amount of information of the horrific reality that surrounds Mayhem and the birth of Norwegian Black Metal. The acting was top-notch all around, which is essential for a successful ensemble, especially one based on actual human beings.
The graphic practical effects for self-inflicted wounds and brutal murders definitely got to me. I watch a ton of horror movies, but some convincing flesh slicing makes my stomach churn. There are a couple of wild, yet brief, dream sequences that add an even darker, ominous vibe to the film, but I would have liked to see more of that creative storytelling throughout. As far as biopics go, I would say that this is a solid one, but then again I knew very little about the facts going in.
4/5 Chicken Bones