[FilmQuest Fest Review] “It’s Only a Movie… Isn’t It?” Shorts Block

[FilmQuest Fest Review] "It’s Only a Movie… Isn’t It?” Shorts Block
FilmQuest Fest
The year is almost up and it’s time to reflect back on one of my favorite festivals, FilmQuest Fest. Chockablock full of genre offerings, genre lovers won’t be disappointed. Whether they want horror, fantasy, sci-fi, or comedy, FilmQuest has something for everybody. Since we’re a horror website here at Nightmarish Conjurings, we tend to lean more into the horror side of things. This is why we’re looking back to the horror-ridden shorts block, “It’s Only a Movie…Isn’t It?

In the case of these shorts, they really are just movies. If they were actually real, we’d probably be doomed. Featuring a wide array of tones, topics, and the like, there’s not a bad short in this line-up. We’d easily recommend these shorts to anyone for their spoopy viewing pleasure. With all that said, let’s jump into each short.

[FilmQuest Fest Review] "It’s Only a Movie… Isn’t It?” Shorts Block
7 MINUTES IN HELL l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest
A good rule of thumb? Don’t sneak into presumably abandoned homes. You’ll never know what kind of hell you’ll get yourself into. Writer/director duo Shane Spiegel and Justin Reager remind us of this well in their horror-filled short, 7 MINUTES IN HELL. Featuring a strong performance from Samantha Cormier and a bone-cracking eerie performance from Lize Johnston (“Cabinet of Curiosities”), what turns into a simple teenage fun escalates to blood-soaked regret. A f*** around and find out scenario.  7 MINUTES IN HELL is easily a popcorn short. You’re on the edge of your seat and left anxiety-shoving popcorn down your gullet as you wait for what happens next. Great fun.

[FilmQuest Fest Review] "It’s Only a Movie… Isn’t It?” Shorts Block
APERIO l Courtesy IMDB
Grief is an all-encompassing beast capable of rendering people unrecognizable. Sometimes it can even transform us into the things we fear. Writer/director Patrick Hanser captures the ugliness that grief can facilitate in APERIO. After the death of her mother, Olivia (Lívia Maria) and her father Daniel (Paulo Azevedo) must try to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, Daniel is unable to fully let go, embracing something far more sinister in the hopes of perhaps reuniting with his loved one again. Azevedo is terrifying and easily makes one uneasy. Maria does well here. Her fear and confusion are ours as she tries to navigate the many frequent changes around her. The fear is more grounded in reality and, by the credits, you can’t help feeling your heart break over Olivia’s situation onscreen.

CODE ONE EIGHTY SEVEN l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

One of the shorter shorts in this line-up, CODE ONE EIGHTY SEVEN is a delight. It lands like a horror-comedy, which provides a little bit of levity in this particular shorts line-up. Directed by Buz Wallick and written by Mary O’Neil, we watch as a team of detectives and crime scene experts swarm the scene of a mysterious murder. It’s not long, though, before they realize that something supernatural is going on. Part of CODE ONE EIGHTY SEVEN’s success is in the success of its cast. O’Neill, Angela Worth, Ivan Djurovic, Jared Rivet, and Nicole Cinaglia all bounce well off of each other. Combine it with the encroaching terror, and you have a fun tonal mash-up that just works.

DEVOURED l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

The premise for Thomas Chretien’s DEVOURED seems simple enough. A man (Gabriel Carter) is struggling to escape the monster in his bed. However, there’s more than meets the eye here. It’s not just the monster in his bed he has to escape. Perhaps, it is himself. His guilt. Chretien’s story takes us on twists and turns, keeping us guessing, and sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. The evolving situation can confuse at times, but that confusion may be subjective. The unpredictability is the lure here and makes me curious to see what more Chretien can deliver.

FROM WHERE IT HIDES l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

What lengths are you willing to go to buy more time? What if you could control the outcome of your own death? There are some pretty deep questions under the surface of Quinn Halleck’s FROM WHERE IT HIDES that highlight an intimate nature with the subject of death. Gildart Jackson’s character, armed with the knowledge that he is dying of cancer, leaves his hospital bed to visit the only known location of Death – an abandoned mine shaft. Armed with the rules to gain more time, the tension can be cut with a knife as we watch Bonnie Morgan’s Death veer closer and closer to him onscreen. A major shoutout needs to be given for Alex Noble’s FX makeup. The UV makeup here is otherworldly.


Sean Menendez’s MIDNIGHT SCREAMS is the short to go to if you want chaotic levels of blood soaking up your screen. The blend of over-the-top humor coupled with bucket loads of gore reminds of Evil Dead 2, but can easily stand apart as its own thing. Michael Bonini, Hannah Leigh, and Glynn Long Jr. have the humor down pat, but a special shoutout should be given to Jason Tate’s Creatchy. The creature design is terrifying, but Menendez’s direction and Tate’s delivery in hitting those comedic and sinister beats really pays off here. Oh, while I joke frequently online about booping creatures I shouldn’t, would not boop Creatchy. It’s a dangerous beastie.

NYCTO l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

Director Angel Barroeta’s NYCTO is arguably the odd one of the bunch here in this shorts block. Moreso from a tone standpoint than anything. It fits the vibe of Supernatural Fiction or Urban Fantasy, and opens us up to the fictional world yet to be explored in NYCTO. But it does leave these things open rather than feeling like a close-ended short. The premise of the short follows a handful of characters coming to terms with their true nature, with the results being more violent than not. The centerpiece of the short, though, is focused on Camila Rodriguez’s Christina, who is trying to find her missing sister. In order to do that, she must embrace her true nature. There are breadcrumbs to capture our interest here, opening us up to seeking out the TV series currently in development. But, comparing them to the rest of the block, it doesn’t blend in as intended.

OLD TIME RADIO l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

Much like NYCTO, Joel B. Harlow’s OLD TIME RADIO is a short that is more open-ended. It’s almost nostalgic in a way, reminding of shows like “Creepshow” and “Tales from the Crypt.” Part of this is due to the makeup effects applied to Marti Matulis’s Riktus Grim as well as his adopted physicality for the character. Same with the dramatic design applied to Charles Trent’s Vincent. The lack of dialogue enhances the classic horror vibe of this short, and the overall atmosphere comes together to create something that takes us back to the classics. Knowing that this short is meant to be the start of an anthology, it explains away the open-ended feel of OLD TIME RADIO.

RETURN TO SENDER l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

Brushing scams are a real thing and lowkey kind of terrifying. Usually what happens is third-party sellers send you stuff you never ordered and use your info to post a review on said item. It’s bad news bears. Russell Goldman’s RETURN TO SENDER captures the paranoia of this sus occurrence in spades. What starts off as one package rapidly turns into something far more threatening. Allison Tolman’s performance helps sell the rapidly escalating storyline, and you can’t help but want someone, anybody, to reach in and try to intervene. By the time the short ends, you’re left speechless. A strong short.

RIDE OR DIE l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

Minsun Park and Teddy Tenenbaum ‘s RIDE OR DIE is a cute short. Focusing on a trio of teens on a road trip, they run across a man in the road who demands they drive him. Covered in sores, he becomes increasingly agitated before dying in dramatic fashion. One of the teens gets infected, and the trio is left to decide on what options they have. Encapsulating the hopeless situation Gen Z has inherited from their elders, while there are humorous beats, there is an air of seriousness to this short. If I were to criticize anything, it’d be the dialogue. It didn’t read like how teens generally sound today, but I could guess what the aim was.

SCOOTER l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

SCOOTER is one of those shorts that’ll have you dying to see whether the villains of the story will get their comeuppance. In this case, some of the villains are holding a demon hostage, so it blurs the lines a bit as to whether or not some of the villainy is warranted. With that said, writer/director Chelsea Lupkin crafts a short that will have your blood boiling, have you shouting at the screen, and hoping maybe, just maybe, Anita Abdinezhad’s Adrienne will see something good come out of the night. Special shout out to Henry Ayres-Brown for channeling deep ick vibes in his portrayal of Nicky, and Sky Smith for making me really hate his Heston.

SHC: FREAK ACCIDENT l Courtesy FilmQuest Fest

Thomas Burke’s SHC: FREAK ACCIDENT is short and sweet. Spontaneous human combustion is still something we don’t understand, and the casualness in which we see it happen in this micro-short is done well. It also captures you by surprise if you are going in blind. Shooting it in a found footage style also works well here, because there’s more wiggle room in hiding the transition from a regular non-toasted human to a toasty human. I’m not sure if the short itself needs to be longer. Burke delivers everything required efficiently in the brief time he had.

The shorts featured in the “It’s Only a Movie… Isn’t It?” shorts block played at FilmQuest 2022, which took place October 28 through November 5, 2022.

Sarah Musnicky
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