Are any of you all from the Tennessee town of Nashville or thereabouts? Well I know at least one of you is, my pal Jason Shawhan -- follow him on Twitter here -- who's a programmer for the Nashville Film Festival which just wrapped up last week. Jason programmed the "Graveyard Shift" series of spooky and scary and deliciously weird-ass genre-type films this year and EVEN BETTER Jason invited me to be a juror, which was an honor.
I crammed in a dozen or so feature-films and twice as many short films from here on my perch half the country away -- the full list of NFF winners is right here, but specifically we ghouls of the Graveyard Jury awarded the top Feature prize to Mickey Reece's film Climate of the Hunter and the top Short prize to Aidan Brezonick's Jeff Drives You, which funny enough were both my top picks! That wasn't the case with every category but I joined the group-think of those two.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I saw so much, none of which I've properly reviewed at all -- my reviewing energies had to be siphoned towards my New York Film Festival duties, which overlapped with these (see, I told you I've been busy) -- and it'd be a shame to let all the good stuff I saw slip through the cracks. So today I'm going to do a little list of highlights! What a treat for everyone! Seriously you should keep your eyes peeled for any of this stuff, s'good stuff.
5 Things I Loved at the Nashville Film Fest
Climate of the Hunter -- I mentioned that this won not just the top prize from our jury but more importantly my specific vote, and with good reason. This sucker, which is about two sisters who begin to suspect their house guest is a vampire -- and that description doesn't even begin to describe the tone -- is weird and wonderful and one of a kind. Well it's one of a kind as far as I know -- I know writer-director Mickey Reece has a long established weird and wonderful independent movie-making career stretching back over a decade, but this was somehow my first rendezvous with him. It won't be my last. This is exactly the kind of movie I go to the movies for -- stilted and strange and riffing on all my favorite genre things without being redundant. It reminded me a lot of Peter Strickland, and if you know my obsession with Peter Strickland -- IN FABRIC FOREVER -- you'll get why I was excited about this.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street -- This is the one that y'all will be able to see the soonest probably; I know it's playing NewFest here in NYC later this month. This is the documentary about Mark Patton and his experience as a closeted gay actor making the gayest horror film of all time, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. It's pretty fascinating, seeing an exploration not just of how a mainstream movie comes together that's seemingly so clueless about its subtext -- spoiler alert: it wasn't -- but seeing what it was like to be a gay actor in Hollywood in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.
Rot -- The limits of low-budget movie-making almost sidelined this flick at times and I wasn't sure I was going to like it... until its last act, which finds the exact right thing for the movie to be about and flies itself right off the deep end of being about that exact right thing. It goes nuts, in the exact right way, and it reminded me of early Cronenberg while it did it. His actors were pretty wooden at times too! I very much want to see what writer-director Andrew Merrill comes up with next, if he keeps up in this vein.
Nina -- I don't know if anybody else on the jury loved this slight Danish horror film like I did but I picked its leading lady Marie Tourell Søderberg as my Best Actress of the fest (she didn't win, one of the terrific gals from Climate of the Hunter did). Anyway I really hope that Søderberg finds prominent work in places I can find it because I thought she was riveting in the film, which casts her as a pregnant woman dropped into an new town in the middle of fjord nowhere by an absentee husband. The movie won't be everybody's cuppa, it's hella reserved, but in a fine hypnotic way I thought.
Jeff Drives You -- This won the top Short prize from our Jury and only just, since it was the last thing I managed to see, but I'm glad it made it in just under the wire as it's really and truly something. If director Aidan Brezonick felt like stretching it out from 16 minutes to an hour he could have himself a great episode of The Twilight Zone or more precisely given its focus on future tech, Black Mirror right here. It's about, and I quote this from its IMDb page, "a lonely gay man [who] falls in love with an artificially intelligent car over the course of a road trip." It nails it.