[Crimson Screen Film Festival] Reviews:HAVEN’S END Blends Horror and Disaster; Shorts ANGEL and BAD DREAMS Offer Different Kinds of Monster

The 2019 edition of Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest, which focuses on showcasing and celebrating independent horror films from around the world, is taking place at the S. of Broadway Theater in North Charleston, South Carolina from May 24–26. Among the festival’s engaging entries are a suspenseful genre-blender feature that goes from apocalyptic to claustrophobic, and two shorts that bring the shudders in different ways.

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In Haven’s End, the first feature to screen at this year’s festival, major cities around the world are under sudden, mysterious, and devastating attack, including Atlanta, home of surgeon Alison (Catherine Taber), her soldier fiance Derek (Anthony Nguyen), and Alison’s friend Jessi (Megan Hayes). The trio heads to Alison’s childhood home, a trailer in a wooded rural area in south Georgia. They find that Alison’s estranged addict brother Kevin (Alex Zuko of The Atoning [2017]) is already there with his girlfriend Hannah (Hannah Fierman of V/H/S and The Unwanted (both 2014) and SiREN (2016), who causes a violent death. The group members, at odds in part because of the uneasy relationship between the siblings, along with other reasons, find their relationships further fractured when they begin to see mysterious lights in the nearby woods.

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Director Chris Ethridge and screenwriter Michael H. Harper team up here again after their 2014 horror film Attack of the Morningside Monster, fashioning a feature that mashes up survival action, science fiction, paranoia thriller, and horror elements. Harper cranks up the suspicion between characters wonderfully, aided by Taber’s terrific lead performance, which displays dramatic weight as her portrayal of Alison shows the character to be both strong and vulnerable. The rest of the ensemble cast is solid, too, including Zuko giving a fine turn as a character whose trustworthiness is in question in almost every scene, and Hayes being allowed to stretch the most as her character runs through a gamut of emotions, from comic relief to the depths of mourning.

It would be heading into spoiler territory to give away which subgenres of horror and science fiction the film plays with, but there are enough white knuckler moments and chills on display to satisfy most genre-film fans. Viewers who prefer everything to be neatly wrapped up and explained by the end of a movie may be a bit frustrated with Haven’s End, but those who aren’t bothered by a bit of mystery as the end credits roll should have a fine time.

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Fans of old-school slashers featuring masked killers causing bloody mayhem should find plenty to enjoy in writer/director Julian Vetrone’s Canadian short Angel (2018), which pretty much picks up at what would normally be the climax of a feature film. The titular character (Michi Black) is at a gathering where guests are being absolutely slaughtered in grue-filled fashion. She pleads with her mother (Nancy Morrison) to try to escape with her, but the killer closes in on the pair. Vetrone and his Metal Monster Productions cohorts have crafted quite a calling card with Angel, which deserves to be given the feature film treatment.

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U.K. short Bad Dreams (2018) sees a man (Iain McKee of The Bunker [2001]) have a horrible nightmare about his childhood involving a ghastly monster, then cutting himself shaving before heading off to start his day. An otherwise quiet time watching children play soccer after work leads to a chilling climax. Director Stuart Fryer directs with a beautifully artistic aesthetic that deepens the impact of this terrific short, which was written by Andy Jones.

Both Bad Dreams and Angel have been nominated for Best Short Film at Crimson Screen.