Chattanooga Film Festival Invites You to “Summer Camp for Cinephiles”

I don’t even know where to start with this year’s Chattanooga Film Festival. There’s just so much to see and do this year, it’s out of control. With its eleventh edition, CFF declares it’s “Summer Camp for Cinephiles,” and, like in years past, the festival will be a hybrid combination with over forty features and dozens of shorts. Complete with an honorary theme, CFF24 honors the influential anthology series The Twilight Zone, with Rod Serling’s daughter, author Anne Serling, in attendance. Anne will be joined by Twilight Zone historian and author Mark Dawidziak for a screening of her father’s favorite episodes as well as a panel discussing the timelessness and legacy of Rod Serling’s series that leads up to a 100th birthday celebration for the late creator, held at the Chattanooga Whiskey Event Hall.

Rod Serling is seen in front of a hypnotic spiral while images of eyeballs, planets, and horror pertrude underneath in a poster image for Chattanooga Film Festival
Image courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival 2024

The Read House, where most of Chattanooga Film Festival’s movie screenings and events will take place, has a haunted past that makes it an extra atmospheric backdrop for lovers of the macabre. Though it’s argued how Annalisa Netherly left this world, sightings of the Hotel’s “eternal guest” are numerous, and paranormal activity has been experienced in room 311, where she departed this world.

CFF24 kicks off this year with a salute to Jeff Burr inside the Read House on June 20. The director was a huge part of the community of Chattanooga Film Festival and, throughout the years, allowed screenings of his films to be shown while also providing insightful and funny introductions to cult favorites. Burr passed last October, but his roots run deep for the genre film festival, helping to get the fest going against opposition and supporting fans and filmmakers that visited. The Tribute to Jeff Burr will treat fans and friends to Burr’s workprint copy of Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Festival runner Christ Dortch says, “The workprint of Leatherface feature[s] a version of Texas Chainsaw III far closer to Jeff’s original vision than the official studio release.”

On Friday, CFF comes out swinging. At 10 am, the yearly Salute Your Shorts block starts a full day of glorious entertainment as CFF24 celebrates local and student filmmakers. Highlights of the program include the Galen Howard (The Book of Boba Fett) led heist film Dead Presidents, the VHS awakening possession horror-comedy Analog Exorcism, grief nightmare Descension, and French new wave parody Out of Order.

A space man in a metal helmet covering one eye points to his electronic armband in The Wheel of Heaven
The Wheel of Heaven | Image Courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival

Friday is packed with features like Falling Stars, where three brothers accidentally desecrate the body of a dead witch and suffer the consequences of a curse placed upon their family. Directors Richard Karpala and Gabriel Bienczyci took home a Special Jury Prize at this year’s Calgary Underground Film Festival for Filmmakers to Watch, so this one is definitely on the must-see list. Other films for Friday include Joe Badon’s eccentric multiversal choose-your-own-adventure tale The Wheel of Heaven, Nick Verdi’s gritty small-town viral murder saga Sweet Relief, and A VCR unleashes dark dimensions in the World Premiere of Video Vision.

The weekend wouldn’t be complete without incredible parties, and Chattanooga Film Festival knows how to throw them. Friday night, head over to The Boneyard, and CFF24 will drop you into a Video Vision-inspired theme of an all-analog “VHSplosion.” The party will feature performances from bands The Dollars Family and Lillian, vinyl will be spun, and Danger Zone Video and Attack of the Killer Collectibles will be on hand with some VHS goodies for your consumption before you head back to the Read House for the midnight screening of Russ Meyer’s cult genre film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Saturday is the aforementioned centennial celebration for one of science fiction’s greatest contributors, Rod Serling. The Chattanooga Whiskey Event Hall will feature Red Gene and Erica Scoggins from last year’s CFF ball, and DJ sets from DJ Nomi and Pretty H8 Machine. On Sunday, to celebrate the fantasy short film Make Me a Pizza, CFF2024’s Closing night party at Goodfella’s Pizza is aptly titled Make Me a Pizza Party (A Parting Pizza Pity Party).

Among Friday’s events, you need to check out the one and only Clay Mcleod Chapman’s The Pumpkin Pie show. Chapman is a top-tier live storyteller, and this year’s show will feature a reading from his latest novel, What Kind of Mother? If you have never seen Chapman’s Pumpkin Pie Show, get ready to be absorbed by Chapman’s haunting focus as he weaves a fantasy into the depths of your imagination that’s hard to break free from. Trust me, it is unlike any book reading you’ve ever experienced. Those attending live can grab a signed copy of What Kind of Mother? after the show as well.

A woman with glowing eyes in Video Vision premiering at Chattanooga Film Festival
Video Vision | Image Courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival

If you’re craving more author-reader interaction, Saturday brings three amazing writers to the Chattanooga Film Festival. First, Adam Cesare, writer of the highly anticipated Ghost Game (playing on Sunday), will offer fans a preview of his upcoming sequel book Clown in a Cornfield 3 before presenting a super secret screening. I have strong suspicions about what the film might be, and if it’s what I suspect, The Read House is guaranteed to go nuts. Next, Izzy Lee, the inspired director behind the hit 2022 short Meat Friend, will be presenting a sneak peek at her new feature film House of Ashes and doing a reading from her recently published book debut, I Can See Your Lies. Finally, New York Times Best-selling author Mark Dawidziak puts himself into the role of Edgar Allan Poe. As one of the world’s foremost experts on Poe, Dawidziak literally wrote the book on him, A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe, and will be doing a live reading before presenting the second in-person secret screening, which is being touted as “one of the most remarkable adaptations of Poe’s masterfully macabre works ever made.” All three authors will sign books for fans with local bookshop A Little Bookish, taking preorders for Clown in a Cornfield 3.

Saturday sees another stuffed day of films, beginning with the Dangerous Visions shorts block that includes two short films that put the talented Emily Bennett (Alone With You) in the spotlight. Bennett can be seen starring alongside Toby Poser (Where the Devil Roams) in Sarah Wisner and Sean Temple’s black-and-white tale of winter survival, The Thaw, which took home the Audience Award for Best Short at the Boston Underground Film Festival this year. Then Bennett moves behind the camera as the director of the multi-award-winning Accidental Stars, which puts a sinister spin on an acting lesson. The Dangerous Visions block is always at the heart of CFF, and there are a bunch in this block worth checking out: Pit Stop, 13th Night, and Dream Creep are just a few of the titles I’m looking forward to.

a girl touches her pertruding fangs
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person | Image Courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival

Somewhere in the mix of all of these fantastic activities, there will still be films to see, including film fest favorite Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, about a sensitive vampire connecting with a suicidal teenager when she’s forced to find a new source for blood. Sleep (Jam) is nightmare fuel that will have you questioning what the person sleeping next to you is capable of when a pair of new parents are put through the emotional wringer when one begins suffering night terrors while the other defends their family from his increasingly erratic behavior. In The Vourdalak, a French emissary to the King finds refuge from a hostile forest in a strange family’s cottage. And, if you need more sleep-based scares to keep you awake, experimental sleep clinic Somnium promises to make your dreams come true. However, side effects include hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, sleep paralysis, detachment from reality, a lost sense of self, permanent nightmares, etc. All these films are available in person only.

Sunday is all about the movies. Starting a little differently, a morning documentary of soulful reflection about the opportunities we’re given and the ones that don’t quite pan out. Flipside will ease festivalgoers into the final day of in-person events. Director Christopher Wilcha helped bring This American Life to television, and fans of those stories will enjoy the moving yet whimsical documentary as viewers get an inside look at a struggling record store.

After a cinematic stroll through a New Jersey-based vinyl store’s stacks, Chattanooga Film Festival will present WTF (Watch These Films), its final block of shorts, with some definite bangers worth checking out. Type A is a Saw-inspired horror-comedy where the victim is given an impossible task. It’s only three minutes, but its effects will linger and resonate with many. There’s also Chris McInroy’s latest, We Joined A Cult, about two friends who are only trying to play kickball. McInroy has had a few hits in the shorts category, such as We Summoned A Demon, We Forgot About the Zombies, and GUTS, while also directing one of the first Scare Package movie segments. And, if you’re into martial arts films, you’ll probably find yourself drawn to The 44th Chamber of Shaolin, where a kung-fu master pranks a naïve teenager into believing he’s being mythically trained. This comedy spans multiple genres blending old-school movies with the style of Stephen Chow’s bonkers comedies and Jackass.

A masked person with a flashlight enters a dark room
Ghost Game | Image Courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival

Attendees will be treated to seven films in CFF24’s lineup, including Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist follow-up Ghost Game, Pascal Plante’s multi-award winning true crime obsessive psychological thriller Red Rooms, and the world premiere of Kelsey Egan’s dystopian sci-fi film The Fix starring Stranger Things’ Grace Van Dien. Yet, I’m most interested in seeing Trim Season director Ariel Vida’s Sleep, Wake, Forget. This was a film I contributed to on Kickstarter eleven years ago that I was disappointed never materialized. The story, about two gifted brothers navigating a post-apocalypse where mankind has been turned into infected monsters, was heightened by the then release of the first The Last of Us Game. With the success of The Last of Us series and Vida’s Trim Season (which is coming to PVOD on June 7), I’m all in on the world premiere of Sleep, Wake, Forget and really looking forward to seeing this years-in-the-making film.

While the live and in-person portions of the Chattanooga Film Festival draw to a close, the virtual fest keeps on rolling. Beginning on Friday, June 21, homebodies and out-of-towners will be able to take in genre films like Alec Bonk’s Blind Cop 2, Bram Roza’s The UFOs of Soesterberg, and Nathan Tape’s utterly fantastic Juggalo road trip film Off Ramp. On the horror side, Alice Maio MacKay’s latest Carnage for Christmas, Aimee Kuge’s Cannibal Muckbang, and Graham Skipper’s The Lonely Man with the Ghost Machine join a generous offering of online features, including seven Red-Eye Secret Screenings, one to be revealed every day just before midnight.

a man wearing clown makeup looks into the mirror
Off Ramp | Image courtesy of Chattanooga Film Festival

If you became a Chattanooga Film Festival Patreon last year, then you know these secret screenings are likely an extension of their Double Secret Screening Series, which highlights festival-runner Chris Dortch’s stupendous knowledge of lost, underground, and nearly forgotten VHS-era gold. Last year, Dorch introduced 1991’s seldom seen and currently unavailable early Ed and Lorraine Warren film The Haunted, sleazeball gem Obsession: A Taste for Fear, and the anthology film Campfire Tales that I still don’t understand why a restoration label hasn’t scooped up. I’m sure these secret screenings will live up to that caliber, and it’s a wonderful way to end your festival evening.

Singular tickets and badges are now on sale for the Chattanooga Film Festival, and badges come in two distinct flavors: Hybrid and Virtual. Each pass grants full access to CFF24’s online library of films, while the hybrid pass gets you into all the boots-on-the-ground movies and events. Check out the Chattanooga Film Festival website for specific details regarding the full film lineup, where to stay if you’re planning a trip, and where to eat in town. Badge holders will also be invited to participate in the CFF24 discord channel, where filmmakers, press, and movie lovers can interact and discuss the movies and events they’ve seen at the festival. The communal focus is one of the biggest reasons why Chattanooga Film Festival made Moviemaker’s list of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the world (2022).

An animated woman's head in dark reds and purples that's somewhat see through with blank eyes is the poster for Chattanooga Film Festival
Image Courtesy of The Chattanooga Film Festival

Written by Sean Parker

Sean lives just outside of Boston. He loves great concerts, all types of movies, video games, and all things nerd culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A man covered in blood

Insane Like Me? Harbors a Nine-Year Vampire Vendetta

Kafka looking serious

Kaiju No. 8: “Welcome to the Defense Force” (S1E8) Pits Kafka Against His Superior Officer