Morbidly Beautiful

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“The Pandemic Anthology” entertains while highlighting the resilience of filmmakers — showing how much can be accomplished with creativity and a camera.

The Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding global quarantine is surely going to inspire filmmakers in years to come, and people are already transforming a morbid reality into compelling and horrific stories.

The Pandemic Anthology premiered online via the Chattanooga Film Festival — a swift creative response to the growing fears regarding Covid-19. The 2020 Fantaspoa- International Fantastic Film Festival launched a contest for filmmakers, challenging them to create pandemic-related stories using only the resources they had at home. The resulting collection offered various entertaining perspectives about surviving a pandemic that all of us are facing each day.

As with any anthology, the results are mixed; some were terrifying, others hysterical, and a few lackluster.

Regardless, the ingenuity behind each film can’t be ignored. Not a single plot-line gets repeated, and the quality is impressive considering the low-budget nature of the competition. It offers a little something for everyone to those who enter into it with an open mind.

Two of the best films in the collection were “Stain on the Wall” and “Strain Roulette.”

“Stain on the Wall” deals with the ramifications of complete social isolation, and how it can deteriorate one’s mind and result in terrifying hallucinations. This paranormal-thriller felt the most familiar in terms of traditional horror, but still delivered some effective scares.

“Strain Roulette” brings four friends together via webcam for a potentially deadly game. The objective is simple: a package is sent to each of the players, and one contains a lethal strain of an unspecified virus. After administering the swabs, they have five minutes to determine and vote for which of the players received the fatal dose. If they vote correctly, they are given the antidote. If they’re wrong, the infected player dies. As entertaining as it was suspenseful, this short was one of the highlights of the anthology.

One of the funniest films was “Jérôme: A Christmas Carol”, which follows the absurd lengths that a housecat must go in order to stay alive ten months after the pandemic crisis strikes. It would amuse anyone that has ever owned a cat, and it playfully reminds us of the darker side of feline nature we all suspect is lurking under that cute, furry exterior.

A few films even explored the idea of digital media as a means for spreading a pandemic.

“Unearthed” looks at a man renovating his home who discovers an odd recording hidden beneath his floorboards. Upon playing it, he awakens something truly terrifying that is best hidden from the light of day.

Though there were a few films that fell short, the collection of the anthology shows us that, much like in our current reality, art doesn’t stop. It highlights our darkest fears, awakens the strange, and provides some good laughs when we need it most.

Despite the low-budget, use-what-you-have-on-hand approach, I was genuinely surprised with the technical quality of each of the films. A few even delivered some surprisingly impressive special effects.

When it comes down to it, The Pandemic Anthology is definitely worth a watch, both for pure entertainment value and for the wonderful way it reminds us of the importance and healing power of cinema — and the indomitable spirit of creativity among independent filmmakers.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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