Super Scary Shorts Saturday: “Howl of a Good Time” (2015) and “Santa” (2013) Provide Chuckles with Their Chills

Filmmaker Patrick Rea, one-third of the trio that makes up SenoReality Pictures, may be best known for his feature-length disaster film/creature feature mash-up Nailbiter (2012), but he is prolific in turning out short films. Many of these fall into the horror, thriller, and dark comedy genres, and his latest title, Howl of a Good Time (2015), combines nostalgic horror with a humorous  overtone.

Filmed on location at the Hot Springs (Arkansas) Horror Film Festival, Howl of a Good Time opens with a line of eager invitation holders waiting to see an exclusive screening of Foaming at the Mouth II. Young Brandy (Morgan Collar) tries to get in with her two younger sisters using a note from their father, but the ticket taker (Tamara Glynn) denies them entry. The resourceful Brandy resorts to the time-honored tradition of trying to sneak in through the back door of the theater. Unbeknownst to her, the cinema-goers are not your average movie patrons.

Leslie Easterbrook doesn’t take kindly to uninvited guests at her cinema in the short film Howl of a Good Time.

Patrick Rea both wrote and directed Howl of a Good Time, and his experience with short films shines brightly here. His pacing is pretty much perfect, telling an entire story in seven minutes and forty seconds. Technically, the short hits all the right notes, from cinematography to editing to scoring. If the short’s budget limitation shows, it’s only in the make-up effects area. That’s not a major complaint and I’m certainly not knocking the effort; I’m just saying that a short film’s budget can only stretch so far. The effects, by Scream in the Dark SFX, are heartwarmingly reminiscent of those that I loved in late 1970s and early 1980s fright fare. I don’t want to elaborate any further because it would go into spoiler territory.

Along with Tamara Glynn (who also executive produced with Patrick Rea), Leslie Easterbrook and Renae Geerlings play employees of the cinema. The three ladies are obviously having a great time, and having these three actresses from three different Halloween films here is a fun event. Morgan Collar makes a nice debut as preteen horror film fan Brandy.

Brandy (Morgan Collar) tries to get around the “invited guests only” movie-screening rule with a note from her dad.

“Fun” is the key word to this short. If you enjoy the more humorous stories from the Tales from the Crypt TV and comic series and the other EC horror titles, or the Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, or Are You Afraid of the Dark? TV series, Howl of a Good Time should be a blast for you.

Howl of a Good Time: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Santa, from Greek directors Dionysis Atzarikis and Manos Atzarikis, clocks in at a mere minute and 29 seconds, but it offers a lot of fun, eerie entertainment in that brief running time. A family’s stockings are hanging by the chimney, an array of Christmas goodies are on the table, and a little girl wakes up her younger brother when she hears Santa come down the chimney. But what she sees next ruins the magical holiday mood she was in.

The Atzarikis pack a great deal of atmosphere into their short. Achilleas Sakellariou stars as Santa, and worked with the directors on the intriguing design of his character. Maria Olympiu does a nice job as the young girl, and Apostolis Tampaksas as her younger brother does fine in his brief role. Santa is available on YouTube and is more than worth 89 seconds of your time. I watched it a few times in a row because I appreciate the practical effects and the ambience. I’d like to see more of this story someday!

Santa: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.