Panic Fest 2024: Short Movies Part One

Written by Stephen McClurg

panic fest the queue

The Queue
Written and directed by Michael Rich
2023, 11 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 4th, 2024

Embarking on a fresh professional odyssey can feel like navigating a treacherous maze, especially when it follows a tumultuous period in one's life and the stakes appear insurmountably high. The Queue’s protagonist, Cole, plunges into the role of a content moderator at an internet video hub and begins a descent into darkness as he's exposed to a stream of increasingly grisly content, laying bare the true weight of his newfound employment.

Featuring solid acting, an interesting premise, and a lot of character work within a compact runtime, The Queue, as interesting as it is, hints at untapped reservoirs of narrative. A potential feature adaptation could delve into the chilling psyche of content moderation, unfurl a web of paranoia, or further unravel the threads of its cryptic supernatural undercurrents.


 panic fest ivan

Written and directed by Damien Fannon
2022, 12 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 4th, 2024

In the evolving landscape of technology, where innovation often blurs the line between creation and monstrosity, Ivan emerges as a chilling embodiment of artificial intelligence, reminiscent of the enigmatic HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ivan pilots a sleek suburban home into multiple tragedies. Great sound design and music accent the use of slow zooms and camera work that somehow feels both like the emotional turmoil of the characters and the omnipresent gaze of AI surveillance.

While the mechanics behind the unsettling "possessions" remain a puzzle, the film's conclusion unveils surreal imagery that hints at a vast fictional universe lying just beyond the frame. Lily Gail Reid commands attention as Juliette, delivering a spellbinding performance that navigates between fragility and menace, leaving an indelible mark despite limited screentime.


 panic fest curse of the velvet vampire

The Curse of The Velvet Vampire
Directed by Christoffer Shuricht
Written by Poul Erik Madsen, Christoffer Shuricht, and Andreas Asingh
2023, 13 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 4th, 2024

Though I loved the kaleidoscope of Bava-esque lighting and retro ambiance, I was initially perplexed with this one. Later I discovered it is a video for the band 802, who not only released the featured song as a single, but also paired it with a beer called Velvet Vampire, which also appears in the video. In other words, plot is not the point here.

Initially set within the nostalgic confines of an '80s local video store adorned with horror VHS tapes and iconic posters, the film unfolds as two young men, seemingly plucked from a hair metal band, stumble upon a cursed tape. What ensues is a whimsical metanarrative, interwoven with snippets of 802's music video-within-the-video-within-the-short-film. Our protagonists aren’t fans, and have chosen the tape for the promised phalanx of nightgowned vampire girls.

Overall, a fun and goofy metanarrative with playful nods to classic ‘80s visuals.


 panic fest amygdala

Written and directed by Oskar Johansson
12 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 5th, 2024

Amygdala feels like a Robert Eggers and Oz Perkins collaboration on a Lovecraftian tale of familial secrets and gothic horror. A girl and her mother unpack in what appears to be an old family home bearing many secrets, including a hooded grandmother locked in an upstairs room.

The short has some fantastic images captured in gorgeous black and white photography. While the sound design and music are excellent, a slight reduction would allow the images to breathe more. However, an argument could be made that the sound combined with the music by Peter Czibolya, echoing avant-garde compositions by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Krzysztof Penderecki, help create the suffocating mood of the film.


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Stephen McClurg
Staff Reviewer
No matter how hard he tries to focus on music, Stephen always gets called back to horror culture. The inciting incident is likely the night his grandmother cackled through his wide-eyed and white-knuckled first viewing of Jaws at three. The ‘70s were a different time. Over the years, he has mostly published poetry and essays, but started writing with a review section for the Halloween edition of the sixth-grade school newspaper. He rated titles like Creepshow with a short description and illustrated pumpkins. His teacher loved it, but the principal shredded the final version before distribution since all the movies were rated R.
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