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The Scare-A-Con 2017 Film Festival Report

May 18, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Scare-A-Con 2017 Film Festival Report


Scare-A-Con is a three day horror and pop culture convention that has been held at the Event Center of the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York since 2012 (the convention started in 2011 at a different location. There’s also a “New England” version that runs in Massachusetts, which is happening again in 2018). As a part of the convention, which includes celebrity guests and vendors and whatnot, there’s a film festival featuring various low budget genre movies, both feature length and short form. It is, without question, my favorite part of the convention. In 2017 there were a few issues with announced movies not being screened for various reasons (from what I gather, one movie was pulled because it had recently picked up distribution, one movie just wasn’t sent for whatever reason, and one movie’s DVD screener copy didn’t work) but, overall, it was still a great experience. I managed to see more full movies this year than in year’s past, so all of the movies reviewed here will get a full rating.

And now, the reviews.



Beyond the Wall of Fear: Directed by Joe Sherlock, Beyond the Wall of Fear is a mega low budget, weird beard anthology featuring horror stories, sort of sci-fi stories, and stories that are just plain strange. The stories, eight in total, all seem to exist in the same world and feature some of the same characters/actors, but it’s not like each story is dependent on anything that happens in another story. I’m going to assume that Mr. Birch, the Man in Black character that we see a few times, is the character that sort of holds the strange goings on together, but it’s not like he acts as a kind of “Crypt Keeper” for the piece.

I like how the stories are all over the place and feature things you don’t necessarily expect to see in a movie. There’s an abundance of large females at the center of most stories, but they’re not in the movie to be made fun of and to laugh at. These women are out there in the weirdness, living their lives, being sexy, and engaging in telekinesis because that’s the kind of shit that happens in this world. In fact, I think the story featuring telekinetic sisters taking on a serial killing duo is my favorite story of the eight. It’s a perfect example of what Sherlock and company are able to do.

Now, there’s nothing particularly scary in any of the stories, although, again, there’s a certain weirdness that permeates some of the stories that will make you squirm. In fact, the weirdest goddamn thing in the movie is a short featuring Mr. Birch on a date at his apartment. In the end, the woman he dates is a robot (that isn’t much of a spoiler because it isn’t the weirdest thing in the story) and Mr. Birch spends a good chunk of the short eating mayonnaise out of a giant plastic jug. Who the hell does that? And why the hell would anyone do that? I don’t even like looking at mayonnaise in the grocery store aisle, I sure as hell don’t want to see anyone eating it, even if it’s “fake” mayonnaise.

According to imdb, Sherlock is a prolific filmmaker with, at the moment, 16 movies made. I think I’d like to see more of his stuff, from his first movie (Dimension of Blood) to something he did in his “middle” period, like Deadly Premonitions. Sherlock’s Skullface Astronaut production company/moviemaking outfit, which can be found on the internets here, is where you can find all sorts of info about what he’s up to, where you can buy and rent his movies, and whatever else. Cool stuff.

Definitely check out Beyond the Wall of Fear.

Rating: 7.5/10.0


Gun Caliber: This is a sort of mega low budget parody of Japanese superhero/live action anime type entertainment, written and directed by and starring Bueno. It’s equal parts modern doofus comedy and action movie, and for the most part it succeeds. The sound isn’t the greatest at times, and the cinematography could be slicker/cleaner, but it’s always fun, which is what you want with this kind of movie. I also like how it was apparently made in Japan, as you get to see aspects of every day Japanese culture up close.

The idea behind this movie is brilliant, and I’m shocked that it hasn’t been done a million times, both as a TV show and as a movie. Hopefully, there are more Gun Caliber adventures in the future. Oh, and pay close attention to the Gun Caliber theme. It’s the kind of theme that will stick in your head. Great stuff.

Rating: 7.0/10.0


Streets of Vengeance: I did a full review of this movie, which you can check out here. I liked parts of this movie, but I still think that needs to be reshaped and cut down so that it’s more of a low budget thriller than a parody of low budget cinema and horror hosting and whatnot. Still worth seeing, though.


Made Me Do It: Directed and co-written by Benjamin Ironside Koppin, Made Me Do It is a frustrating slasher movie about a young woman and her little brother trying to survive an attack by an escape mental patient. There’s good suspense throughout, and the flashbacks that we see that sort of show us how the killer was turned into a killer, are creepy as hell. There’s also some spectacular gore. And I really like Anna B. Shafer, who stars as the heroine Ali Hooper. She’s great.

And Made Me Do It is great right up until the end, when the movie decides to have a big twist that, while sort of makes sense, still feels like a bunch of bullshit. Why can’t we have some slasher movies that just end? Why is it always necessary to do a big twist?

I don’t know, maybe the ending will work for you, but it didn’t work for me at all. Check it out anyway. I believe this is director’s Koppin’s first feature length effort (his imdb page shows that he did a bunch of shorts before Made Me Do It. Despite that ending, it’s a damn good feature length debut.

Rating: 7.0/10.0


Countrycide: Written and directed by Brett Kelly, Countrycide is a lean and mean slasher movie/survival horror tale about a woman who is chased through the woods by three psycho hunters. Running at barely 70 minutes, it could probably be even leaner and meaner, but at the same time I like the slowish build to hero Abby, played by Robin Hodge, figuring out that she’s in deep goddamn trouble. The psychos are appropriately evil and awful, and I think you’ll enjoy the way the last bad guy gets his comeuppance (all I’ll say is it’s bear trap city). I saw this again in an actual movie theatre as part of the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, which, as you’ll find out when I finally get to that festival write up, it’s a totally different movie watching experience in an actual movie theatre.

Rating: 8.0/10.0


The Spawning: Now this is one fucked up sci-fi horror flick. Basically, it’s about an alien that shows up somewhere in Great Britain and what that alien does in order to fulfill it’s sick, weird as fuck mission. It’s also a story about Amy (Zoe Karpeta), a young woman who goes through some nasty stuff, both physical and mental. The non-alien shit that Amy goes through is harrowing and horrible, and I think there’s an argument to be made that that stuff is actually worse than the alien stuff she endures. The up close and personal dental surgery that we see is absolutely disgusting.

Now, when the alien stuff does happen, all of it will make you sick (in a good way). And I don’t care how hard core you think you are when it comes to movie gore. The Spawning will disturb you.

I also want to commend the performances of Faye Sewell and Christopher Ward as Karen and Danny, Amy’s friends. They’re funny and fantastic and could be the stars of their own movie. They have a terrific back and forth that will make you want to see more from them. Awesome stuff. I would like to know, though, what the hell kind of takeout food they’re eating. Is that Indian food or is it some kind of “British” takeout that ignorant Americans like me have no hope of understanding? I wish I had asked the director about that instead of whether or not the alien monster has a “universal translator” that allows it to communicate with humans. A true missed opportunity, to be sure.

Writer/director Simon Riley was in attendance for this screening and said that the Scare-a-con screening had been the movie’s first public screening anywhere. I also remember him saying that he was probably going to tweak the movie a bit because it wasn’t necessarily “finished.” That was several months ago. Hopefully Riley fixed the movie the way he needed to and it’s been seen by plenty more people. The Spawning deserves to be seen and celebrated for the badass, well made, low budget horror flick that it is.

Rating: 10.0/10.0

Short Films


Misfortune Teller: I missed the first part of this short film about two criminals and the fortunes they get in their fortune cookies, so I’m not sure I fully understand what it’s supposed to be about. It’s in black and white, has a nice look, and features some moody moments. There’s also a scene where a guy has a severed index finger in his mouth for some reason.


Glory!: This short film is a bizarre tale about a guy who goes into a porno shop, sticks his wang in a hole in the wall so he can get jerked off while watching a bondage video on a monitor (a tied up woman is being force fed milk or something), and then the guy gets his wang bitten off. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s one of those “Pleasure Island” deals where, if you go, you get to experience both fun and horror?

I will say that the porno shop, that I’m going to assume is a real porno shop somewhere, has an impressive array of dildos on display, and the transvestite with the giant dildo and the dido wielding midget that we see at the end of the film are both terrifying and hilarious. I mean, how else would a short film like this end?

The Cat(less) Lady: I have no idea what the hell this short film is supposed to be about. There’s a woman who is fixated on cats, both real cats and stuffed animal cats, there’s a hefty handyman who tries to help her fix stuff for some reason, and then it ends with the handyman being tortured by the woman in her basement. Why does any of this happen? Is it all a weird fantasy? I wish I knew. The short had a nice, clean look to it, but, again, I have no idea what the hell it’s about.


Fangs and Claws 2: Apparently this really is a sequel to a short film that was made and released in 2014. I don’t think you necessarily need to see that short in order to understand part 2, and I say that not being sure I understand it at all. I believe the short was made in Finland and it was screened in Finnish, so, on the language front, I have no idea what anyone is saying in it. What I do understand about the short, though, is that it seems to be about soldiers hunting a monster that turns out to be a dinosaur that then runs roughshod over everyone and everything in its path.

The scene then shifts to a public beach where people are eating, drinking, having sex, and making a movie. And then a monster pops up out of the lake, ninjas show up, and it gets super goddamn weird. There’s gore, there’s comedy, and there’s even more gore. And then the dinosaur from the beginning shows up and shit gets even weirder. The short ends in a post-apocalyptic future where a woman with an eye patch is looking to shotgun a dinosaur for some reason.

Jesus Christ, this is one weird goddamn movie. And I loved it. The look, the synth heavy score, the special effects, it’s all done with gusto. I just wish I could understand the dialogue. If and when there’s a part 3 I will definitely want to see it.

Banshee: I liked aspects of this short film, about a pair of sisters who are attacked by a zombie monster in the younger sister’s closet, but it’s way too long. You shouldn’t have dead spots in a 14 minute movie. The actors are good, though, and the special effects are nice to look at.


The Dissolving Man: I walked in in the middle of this short, so I missed the set up for it, but from what I did see the movie seems to be about a paranoid guy who starts to fall apart. And when I say he falls apart he falls the fuck apart. Featuring some truly terrific practical special effects, there are moments where you will both cringe and laugh, especially when the main character loses his penis. There are also plenty of nifty horror movie nerd Easter eggs and homages spread throughout the short (there’s a Roger Corman movie playing on a TV at one point, along with other public domain movies including The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, and there’s a container of “The Stuff” from Larry Cohen’s The Stuff in a refrigerator. There are plenty of other homages to notice).

If you’re a gore nerd and you like to laugh, The Dissolving Man is something you’ll want to see.

Z.A.F.: I’m just going to assume that this black and white sort of “found footage” zombie movie that takes place in England is about a drug that the military is developing that, after being injected with it, makes you think you’re seeing zombies. I really don’t know. This short also has pacing issues (it’s around 20 minutes long but should probably be more like 10). I will say, though, that the short has an exceptional “gun in mouth suicide” scene, so at least it has that going for it.

Dickeaters: This short is sort of the ultimate in cinematic graphic penis destruction, a sort of unofficial theme of the short films screened at the festival. It’s about some dudes looking to see some naked babes at a strip club, the naked babes turning out not to be actual naked babes, the dudes getting weirded out by the whole “they’re not real women” thing, and then the not-babes babes turning into monsters and eating the dudes’ wangs. There’s a real energy at the beginning of this short, but by the time it’s dick eating time the whole thing sort of peters out (ha!). The short could use some tightening, but it’s still entertaining. Worth seeing.


The Call of Charlie: This is an absolutely terrific short film featuring a great cast (Brooke Smith stars), brilliant writing, awesome special effects, and a twist ending that actually pays off. It’s also the best kind of ridiculous, as it’s about a woman who gets set up on a date with a creature that could very well be from the Cthulhu universe created by H.P. Lovecraft. Track this down and track it down now. An absolute blast.


Hush Hush: Yet another well made, funny short, this one is all about a group of young people who help one of their friends, who happens to be some sort of serial murderer, stage her latest murder scene to look like they’re all making a movie. It’s absolutely ridiculous but the absurdity of it all will make you smile. The backyard cemetery sequence made me burst out laughing. Yet another must see.


Girl #2: This horror comedy short from director David Jeffrey has a brilliant story twist that you won’t see coming. At first, it looks like a “typical” slasher set up, with a deranged killer (a superbly menacing Michael Bailey Smith) stalking two young women. You expect the story to play out a certain way. It doesn’t go that way at all. Outside of the excellent performances from the very game cast, this short also has some top notch fight and stunt work in it. Loved this.

Maria Fernanda in time: A sci-fi comedy short from Spain, this movie is all about a young scientist working in a science lab on a time travel project that gets all screwed up when the scientist’s mother spills something on a keyboard in the la. That spill causes a time loop that the student has to figure out how to stop before the universe ends. I love the way this plays itself out. It’s funny, it’s well made, and there’s real tension. Will the universe end? Will there be a sequel? Brilliant.

The Pyramid: Made by the same people behind Z.A.F, this is another short that I have no idea what the hell it’s about. Two guys talk on the roof of a skyscraper somewhere, it goes on for a bit, and then one guy takes out a hammer and kills the other guy. The end. What’s the point of all that? I wish I knew.

Peephole: This is another strange short that I still don’t quite get. It also takes forever to get to where it wants to go, which doesn’t appear to be anywhere. Not great at all.

Loop: At first, I thought this was a horror short about human trafficking, as it seems to be about a kidnapped woman who is moved from room to room and the whole thing is being recorded by surveillance cameras. Then a bunch of people get killed for some reason, and then there’s a zombie at the end. I like the way this moves along until the very end. It has a creepy look and a seemingly creepy premise. It just goes off the rails at the end. It doesn’t really work, but it’s worth seeing anyway.


Dolphin Man Battles the Sex Lobsters: This short is from the fine folks at Troma and has damn near everything a Troma fan would want in a Troma movie; Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, a guy wearing a fake dolphin head, cheesy special effects of all sorts, Zac Amico, the infamous Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD car flip, and Lloyd Kaufman scratching his balls on camera. The story involves Dolphin Man having to help Sgt. Kabukiman fight off a new STD, the sex lobsters of the title, because all of the other superheroes who operate in Tromaville are out of town. The computer special effects that we see are hilariously bad, and the big time low budget laser fight that happens towards the end is both ridiculous and awesome at the same time. This short could probably use some tightening, but all in all, if you’re a Troma fan, you’ll love it. I’m a Troma fan, so, yeah, I loved it.


Once again, despite the issues, I had a great time checking out the movies presented, and I look forward to tracking their progress over the next while. And, yes, next year and the next film festival can’t get here soon enough. If you have the chance to attend a convention and or a film festival you should make an effort to do so. You’ll likely have tons of fun, and you’ll see stuff you never thought you would get the chance to see. It’s what happens to me every time I attend Scare-A-Con.

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Scare-A-Con, Bryan Kristopowitz