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The Nashville Film Festival took place from September 30th to October 6th and featured many clever and gruesome shorts we loved!

The Graveyard Shift program was a special segment of the Nashville Film Festival that feature short films dedicated to the horror, sci-fi, and thriller genres. Varied with different sub-categories and content, the segment was filled with unique ideas and eerie realities. Here’s our recap of the event!

1. Atomic Spawn

Combining adorable creature designs with dark comedy, THE ATOMIC SPAWN is a modern monster with an old-school heart. 

Taking place somewhere in the future (who knows how far from now it could actually be), Atomic Spawn begins with John Nguyen (Brandan Ngo) walking through a desolate, post-bombed landscape when he finds a small egg. Knowing the egg shouldn’t have survived the bomb, John decides to find out what happens.

After an adorable stop-motion animated dragon hatches, John has to find a way to keep his hidden secret to himself, but only briefly.

Directed by Arthur Veenema, this exploration of a post-livable existence points to a dreadful aftermath and the kind of hope that can come in unlikely packages.

Click here to follow The Atomic Spawn on Instagram. Click here to watch more short films from Arther Veenema.

2. Cutter

A teenage cutter in recovery and her overbearing mother are haunted by a ghost who seeks to keep them at odds.

In Cutter, writers/directors Daniel Repp and Lindsay Young tell a gruesome story about two young girls who are committed to cutting themselves. One is released from the hospital, while the other doesn’t make it past the opening scene.

The film follows survivor, Raelyn (Nadia Alexander), who was just released from the hospital as her mom (Leslie Fender) attempts to keep a close eye on her daughter. Unfortunately, they are both fighting despair and something more sinister than they thought.

In this heartbreaking yet brutal film, we learn the various sides of depression, love, and how our relationships with other people are what make us human.

Click here to learn more about the incredible special effects for Cutter. There’s no trailer for this short, but you can learn more about it and watch the Kickstarter promo video right here

3. Harvest Bowl

A salacious secret is uncovered in a nineteenth-century New England Village.

The horror lies in the unsaid in Harvest Bowl that focuses on two women, sister-wives, who are prepping an excessive amount of sweet potatoes. Jumping from a fairly typical conversation to the bizarre, Harvest Bowl takes a quick turn into the strange when the women start singing in unison.

Eventually, a man, Father Jacobs (Jared Kemp), brings them (seriously) more sweet potatoes, just as Sister Elizabeth (Simone Grossman) is being threatened by Sister Mary (Rosemary Howard) for speaking too fondly of a married man. Sister Elizabeth responds to the threats by accusing Sister Mary of using a missing sweet potato for something nefarious, sending the film into an interesting feeling of panic.

From writer/director Cody Kostro, who has to feel some kinda way about sweet potatoes, Harvest Bowl is festive and weird. What more could you want around this time of year?

4. Heavy Petting

An eerie bifurcated character drama about a queer encounter between two lonely cat enthusiasts, and a macabre test of one’s social obscurity.

Another strange type of story is Heavy Petting, which centers on a young woman (Haley Midgette) looking for her missing cat. She tries to go about her routines but is soon haunted by a meowing.

Eventually, after leaving missing posters out, she gets a call from someone who just adds to the confusion. The caller doesn’t have the missing cat, but instead creepily asks what the woman misses about having a cat. That’s when a cat shows up outside her home, but it’s not really a cat. It’s a human in a catsuit.

The woman, desperate for attention, allows the cat inside and cuddles with this human in a catsuit, until bedtime. That’s when the catsuit is removed and the two make a more human connection to each other. But when the woman’s real cat returns, the substitute human cat is sent on its way — back to its own lonely existence, where we watch them experience being ignored while furry creatures are called upon and looked for.

“I hope that the film will shock people out of their complacency about the epidemic of loneliness and inspire empathy and intervention in the lives of those yearning to have their pain acknowledged.” – Brendan Prost

Director/writer Brendan Prost feels out this very human experience and lets us see as close as we can, the isolation of another being.

5. Her Release

A woman reaching for love and connection surrenders everything in this blackly comic absurdist nightmare.

Starting out on the romantic side with an intimate couple enjoying each other’s company, Her Release takes an interesting turn of events when the woman (Talia Montgomery) lets out a fart. Quickly going from a moment to a full-on event, she is soon letting out more than she realizes.

Quick, even for a short, this film ends and leaves the viewer wondering: Is this commentary on sharing just the right amount between new partners? Is it look at what it means to show someone the side of us that doesn’t hold back? Or are the filmmakers Valentine Miele (director) and Benjamin Hayes (writer) just making a film about farts?

Maybe it’s both?

Check out the teaser right here

6. I’m Not a Robot

When a job applicant struggles to complete a captcha test, his interview escalates from cordial to combative.

We’ve all had to check the box that lets the computers know we aren’t robots. It doesn’t feel any more ridiculous than proving to a machine that we are not the machines, but in I’m Not a Robot director/writer Brian Olliver takes it to a completely new level of ridiculous.

The short takes place in an office, where employer Bob (Marcus Folmar) is interviewing Tim (Hayes Dunlap). Tim is just about to secure his position and a new job but first must prove that he isn’t a robot. All he has to do is click the box on the screen Bob has provided.

Tim laughs at this absurd request but eventually has to make the attempt anyway. It doesn’t go well but it’s extremely fun to watch Tim try.

Exploring the comedic yet still horrifying reality of machines living among us, I’m Not a Robot is a clever take on the very real possibility of working with them.

7. J’ai Le Cafard

A woman with depression struggles to connect with her chirpy and driven office colleagues but an encounter with a dying cockroach in the office toilet develops into an absurd friendship.

Struggling to deal with her surroundings, a woman (Enas El Fallal) stumbles upon a dying cockroach. Possibly finding it relatable to her own situation, the woman finds a friend in the small creature. Lying beside a toilet in a stall, she ends up spending more and more time with the bug.

Sharing her personal space with the cockroach, the woman eventually realizes that this unlikely friend isn’t all that ideal. After all, this (well-crafted but scary) life-size cockroach lying in your bed, probably isn’t exactly sanitary anyway.

From writer/director Maysaa Almumin, J’ai Le Cafard is a beautifully sad and creepy film that explores the feelings of depression and trying to make connections in an environment that doesn’t always seem welcoming.

8. Poor Glenna

When her mutant son develops a taste for human flesh, a timid mother must find a victim to satisfy his ravenous appetite.

A tale of enabling parents, Poor Glenna follows Glenna Piccolo (Ann Marie Shea) who is obediently feeding her son while maintaining his comfortable life living in her basement and making quite the scene. Her son’s hunger is ridiculous and growing, using his monster appearance to torture his parents and, ultimately, get his way.

Eventually, his hunger becomes too much and Glenna has to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to keep her dearest happy.

Jean-Paul DiSciscio writes and directs this almost too real look at the American family, which is willing to do anything to protect and keep itself comfortable.

9. Shallow Graves

Two hitmen bury a man in the desert, but when he starts walking around town, things get complicated.

After dumping a body, two hitmen (Juan Blasquez & Corey Landis) have to face an unusual problem. The man they just buried, is now walking around the small desert town as if nothing happened.

In a quiet and dark local diner, the murdered man Valentine (James Chrosniak) meets a waitress struggling to serve a town full of jerks. Things quickly get serious with a nasty town local who thinks he’s hot shit, only to have Valentine surprise him with his deadly abilities.

From writer/director Jake Stark, Shallow Graves carries enough excitement and interest to anticipate more from these characters, with a playful twist just cheesy enough to warrant a smile and cheers for the ending.

10. Survivers

Natural selection says that only those who adapt will survive. What if humans have become stupid?

From writer/director Carlos Gómez-Trigo, the plot of Survivers is simple and pretty timely. A group of three people is in a car with large protective helmets over their heads, talking about being survivors, when one of them decides he doesn’t want to wear his helmet any more.

The other two urge him to keep it on; it can’t be that hard to keep the thing on for your own survival they insist. But this guy can’t be told what to do. He is ready for freedom, no matter what that means. He removes his mask and they all wait to see what happens.

Playing with extremely close parallels to our own reality, Survivers is witty and still entertaining, while pointing at the absurdity of our own negligence to protect ourselves from the unknown.


11. When I Explode

Chris’ thirtieth Birthday party is turned upside down when he finds out there is a ticking bomb growing in his stomach.

When I Explode from director Angelo Raaijmakers is a quirky short focusing on a man on his 30th birthday. He gets a stomachache while his girlfriend bakes him a cake and plans their evening. As most people do, he chooses to ignore his growing belly ache and even tries to hide the protruding lump under a sweater.

Just as the man is about to explode, he falls back in his chair in a rather poetic shot that follows him in slow-motion, as if he is feeling every inch of the fall before it really happens.

If you’ve ever got that weird feeling around your birthday, the one that makes you question your choices, your situation, and your surroundings, When I Explode makes for a great visual.

12. What Happened Downstairs

While staying at an Airbnb in upstate New York, Robert and May find themselves in a haunted house. The problem is, they can’t remember anything that happens downstairs.

This short horror-comedy brought some chills and thrills, along with some laughs to the festival. Focused on a couple that is pretty sure they’re staying in a haunted house, if only they could remember what they experienced outside of their bedroom.

Messing with our emotions, it’s hard to tell if the man can’t remember what happened because he’s smoking weed, or if something more serious is happening. Then, it happens to the woman as well, and soon enough, no one knows what’s going on and the couple has to investigate the horrors that lie in the house.

Written and directed by Andrew Nisinson (who also stars), What Happened Downstairs?  is packed with treats and contains all the elements needed to be a mini classic ghost story.

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