Panic Fest 2024: Short Movies Part Two

Written by Stephen McClurg

panic fest 2024 consumer

Directed by Matthew Fisher
Written by Maximus Byrd
2024, 13 Minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 6th, 2024

Consumer is appropriately billed as John Carpenter directing an episode of Goosebumps, especially if Carpenter went full ham in terms of tone and wonderfully garish lighting.

Matthew Fisher, a normal high school kid, relaxes at the mall with headphones and an art journal and gets accosted by several bullies. One bully, “Spiky Ball” Jeffy, comes on like Crispin Glover playing David Patrick Kelly’s part in The Warriors (“Warriors…come out to play!”). And like a true warrior, he wields a smart jacket and even smarter medieval mace as a way to taunt “Fish Boy.” As Fisher leaves the mall, he talks to an odd salesman at a tech store who also doesn’t like “boolies” and gives him a game that might clear up Fish Boy’s situation.

I was too old when Goosebumps became a phenomenon, so I don’t know how much it resembles R. L. Stine’s work. I was pleasantly transported to the era of anthology shows like Monsters, where morality tales unfolded against a backdrop of gleeful absurdity.


 panic fest ivan

Written and directed by Martin Gouzou
2023, 15 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 6th, 2024

Presented as a free interpretation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Coléoptère portrays the difficult personal life of a young man who seems lonely yet kind and dutiful as a building superintendent. While the film is touted as a "free interpretation," I couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment at the absence of Kafka's dark humor. Gregor Samsa's transformation has been dissected through various lenses, often shedding light on themes of alienation and isolation. The thematic undercurrents of immigration and adoption present a unique challenge in reconciling Kafka's absurdist humor with the gravity of these social issues and it is all played straight here. Also, since the film seems based in contemporary France, I could be missing important cultural context in terms of the adaptation.

Despite my reservations, Birane Ba's portrayal of Samsa anchors the film. Coupled with solid acting, a dark but rich color palette, and adept camerawork, the film captivates on a visceral level, even if certain elements veer uncomfortably close to the clichés of a superhero origin story.


 panic fest curse of the velvet vampire

Florence in Customer Care
Directed by Jordan Sommerlad and Cory Stonebrook
Written by Cory Stonebrook
2022, 14 minutes
Screened at Panic Fest on April 7th, 2024

Florence answers customer calls for a furniture company. She does not seem to think much about the future other than flashes of standing on a beach and looking out at a shipping barge. She begins to psychologically unravel as a rash develops on her body.

Florence in Customer Care is a well-crafted short film that boasts vivid characters and close-up detail shots that add a richness to its world. However, I couldn't shake the feeling of déjà vu when confronted with the portrayal of office work as soul-crushing and alienating—an idea that feels all too familiar in contemporary storytelling. While undoubtedly relatable to many, I wonder if there is a deeper layer I am overlooking. Despite this, as a standalone short, it provides an entertaining glimpse into its world.


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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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