Not Your Final Girl’s Top Picks From Chattanooga Film Fest — Horror Movies To Watch Out For
by Ariel Dyer
Ariel and Candace are “back” from Chattanooga Film Festival– meaning all the way from the comfort of their own couch to yours as you’re reading this now- and bringing you the best of the best for indie horror cinema to look out for. Always looking out for genre films, and gone virtual during the pandemic, Chatt Film Fest is a favorite to attend. Here’s hoping they continue to provide virtual offerings in the future so these California ghouls can keep watching. All of these films on the list are currently making the film festival circuit, so keep your eye out for where they end up!
6. Bitch Ass
Right at the outset, Tony Todd’s mischievous cameo boldly situates Bitch Ass within the canon of Black horror (paying most obvious homage to the 90s). But an equally apt placement for this fun and fresh flick would be game horror like Ready or Not or Would You Rather. The titular serial killer Bitch Ass has a score to settle. Raised by an abusive grandmother with a penchant for board games, he uses that particular arena to enact revenge on anyone foolish enough to trespass in his childhood home.
Unfortunately for our protagonists, that’s exactly where they’re headed- sent by a gang leader to rob for a supposed treasure as part of their initiation. A fun thought that occurred right in the middle of watching (that may or may not be intentional on the part of the filmmaker, and we’re dying to know): “Oh my god, this is Phantom of the Opera.” Find out for yourself if we’re right.
5. Night Shift
There’s something viscerally thrilling about a horror movie rooted in realism, no convenient bending of physics or stretching of what the human body can take, no deus ex machina. Night Shift delivers on both grounded thrills and viscera. It’s Karen’s first night on the job working night shift as a custodian – which as a newly single mother forced to leave her kid in the care of a relative stranger is already a rough situation in its own right – but she’s interrupted by a group of masked assailants who want her dead.
With an entire warehouse at its disposal, Night Shift is never predictable, nor does it ever let up. The stakes are real, the protagonist is competent in a way rarely seen in slashers, and the violence is often gut-wrenching. A tight, gritty little nail-biter.
4. Chicken House
One of the more joyous aspects of film fest fare is that you get to watch movies that don’t fit into easily marketable genre boxes. Part oddball comedy, part domestic horror, and infused with shockingly incisive character studies, Chicken House defies expectations at just about every turn.
Director, writer, and lead Cate Jones turns a critical but affectionate eye on characters not often taken seriously in film. Her feverishly delivered voiceovers lend depth to the movie’s more outright comedic scenes. By the way, it’s seriously hilarious, even during many of its more painful moments. Keep an eye on this filmmaker; whatever she does next is sure to be interesting.
3. Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes
For creatives who are never satisfied they got the finished piece quite right, for fans of 70s European cinema, and for those who like their movies heavy on the style with the substance to back it up, here’s a film that delivers and then some.
Like a good tarot reading, this film weaves an atmosphere but asks you to get your hands dirty in the meaning-making along with it. We start in a decrepit and abandoned gothic castle with a man and a woman. Where do we end up? That’s entirely up to you. Not a film to be spoiled and certainly not one to miss.
2. The Leech
It’s Christmas, and you meet a down-on-his-luck guy and his pregnant girlfriend who need a place to stay. When you’re a priest with a dwindling congregation, desperate to do something meaningful with yourself, of course you take them in. Jesus could be anyone, after all – but then, anyone could be anyone.
Graham Skipper plays deluded Facebook pontificator Father David with a seething vein of rage through his self-enforced piety, an explosive combination viewers of religious experience are likely to recognize, especially as Father David’s hard partying houseguests start to test his boundaries and his beliefs about himself. If you think you know where this is going, you’re probably both right and wrong. The Leech weaves dark humor, dread, and – it must be said – horniness into its descent, with a few surprises on the way. Add this one to the surprisingly short list of great Christmas horror comedies.
A true testament to the power of low budget horror, Landlocked uses real home video and family members of the filmmaker to tell a poignant story of picking up the pieces left behind by those we love. When Mason returns to his childhood home to go through before it’s demolished, he uncovers a video camera that reveals the past on film.
Desperate to capture these memories before all physical markers of them are gone, he begins to learn that what he’s seeing might be looking back. At times unsettling, at times deeply moving, Landlocked is a strong elegy that is absolutely worth seeking out.
Ariel Dyer and Candace Sluder co-host Not Your Final Girl, a horror movie podcast where they cover horror double features and interview guests with humor, insight, and video-store employee burnout vibes. You can catch episodes wherever you listen to podcasts and follow them on Instagram and Twitter @NYGPod or Facebook at Not Your Final Girl.