Chattanooga Film Festival is renowned for offering a wide, wild variety of genre films each year, and its 2023 edition — running June 23rd through the 29th — is no exception. The fest will offer a hybrid edition, so folks who can’t make the live event have the chance to watch some of the offerings from the comfort of their own homes. Following is the official press announcement.
Hot on the haunted heels of their tenth-anniversary announcement, organizers of The Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF) have once assembled a first wave of strange and fantastic cinema for their hybrid edition this year.
First up is the North American premiere of a film primed to knock the socks off CFF’s longtime fans – filmmaker Jonas Trukanas‘ perfectly executed Lithuanian slasher WE MIGHT HURT EACH OTHER. Trukanas’ briskly paced hoot of a horror film is one of this year’s true standouts and another title presented by Screambox. WE MIGHT HURT EACH OTHER has all the makings of a deeply satisfying cult classic.
Closing out the festival for those attending in person this year is TRIM SEASON, marking the return of filmmaker Ariel Vida, who first attended CFF in 2019 with a secret screening of VIDE NOIR. Her latest combines a terrific ensemble cast, one of the best settings you’ll find in any horror film this year, plus some gnarly surprises. After the screening, we’re happy to have our friends at SnapDragon Hemp on hand to help calm everybody down.
Lots of ink has been spilled from true crime books to fear-mongering cable news segments on the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s. With their new film, SATAN WANTS YOU, directors Steve Adams and Sean Horlor take a provocative and fascinating look at the beginnings of this bizarre movement. With a meticulously researched structure and never before heard audio recordings of Michelle Smith, who, along with her psychiatrist Lawrence Pazdur was very much the patient zero of the whole panic, Adams and Horlor have crafted one of the year’s wildest and most unmissable pieces of documentary filmmaking. Whether you’re a fan of true crime docs or just a kid who had your Ozzy albums taken away by concerned parents, SATAN WANTS YOU is essential viewing.
Another documentary on the slate this year is D. Smith’s raucous and raw portrait of the lives of four black trans sex workers. KOKOMO CITY stands tall in our eyes as one of the most vitally important, entertaining, and poignant pieces of documentary filmmaking you’re likely to see this year. From its gorgeous black and white cinematography to an absolutely amazing soundtrack, Smith’s film practically leaps off the screen and we’re honored to have the opportunity to share it with our in-person audience in Tennessee.
Little known to most is the CFF team’s love of well-done romantic comedies. They are rare in the genre space, so when the team saw Michael Lukk Litwak‘s charming and delightful MOLLI & MAX IN THE FUTURE, it compelled them to drop a rom-com bomb into this year’s fest. With winning performances by Zosia Mamet (The Flight Attendant, Girls) and Aristotle Athari (SNL), Litwak’s delightful far future set “com” never forgets that it also needs a good ratio of “rom.”
With a vibe that is reminiscent of the films of Peter Strickland, mixed with David Cronenberg, PIAFFE is one of the standout films of the year. A film that is sexy, strange, and utterly unique, and it’s recommended to let Ann Oren‘s debut feature lure you in with its lush, hypnotic beauty.
The CFF team is also working with the new maniacs on the genre scene, Welcome Villain, for a screening of Sam Curtain‘s feral flick BEATEN TO DEATH. As one might suspect, the title hints at an intense and extreme situation that will leave the audience wondering not only how much the human body can endure, but how much they themselves can.
Longtime fans of the fest will dig Patricio Valladares‘s INVOKING YELL. This 90’s set, Chilean, all-lady black-metal band, found footage horror film was love at first fright for us.
What would you do if you knew the world was going to end? In filmmaker Nathan Blackwell’s THE LAST MOVIE EVER MADE, that choice is simple – recruit a group of old friends and even a few total strangers to help complete the science fiction film you abandoned making in high school. The result is a film dripping with charm and will make everyone in the audience want to go make a movie with their friends.
Writer/Director/Producer Alexander Canepa‘s masterful indie drama MRS. BOOKER ON 8TH AVENUE deftly weaves the neorealism of classic Italian cinema, the isolation of the pandemic, and the jazz-infused soul of Thelonious Monk together in truly wonderful ways to create a work of raw power and true independence. Shot on the streets over New York in just ten days, Canepa’s talented cast bear their souls and the result is a beautiful and tragic tale that couldn’t help remind us of Cassavettes at his peak.
The festival’s annual music-themed block, Sonic Cinema returns with a pair of films saluting outsider musicians we think will worm their way into your ears/hearts. This block will celebrate the tenth anniversary of LOCAL LEGENDS, the charming and funny autobiographical tale of songwriter Matt Farley, a man with over 24,000 songs to his credit, many bathroom-themed. We’re proud to screen this wildly underrated classic and have a chat with Farley himself, moderated by Peter Kuplowsky (TIFF’s Midnight Madness).
Next, the fest will warp your brain to the uncharted zone with a screening of filmmaker Louis Crisitello‘s warm-hearted documentary of Florida wild man musician and green screen aficionado Phil Thomas Katt – SPACE HAPPY: PHIL THOMAS KATT AND THE UNCHARTED ZONE.
It wouldn’t be CFF without a celebration of metal and rounding out the 2023 Sonic Cinema offerings is a special screening of Michael Dimmitt‘s upcoming music documentary A WANDERING PATH (THE STORY OF GILEAD MEDIA). Open to virtual badge holders, this film is a portrait of Adam Bartlett, the visionary head of the fascinating and beloved Gilead Media, and the many incredible black metal, doom, and noise rock bands on the label’s roster. These bands have used the power of music to cope with issues from abuse to depression in unique and profound ways. Featuring incredible extreme musicians from Emma Ruth Rundle to Thou to Blood Incantation, Dimmitt’s deeply personal and moving doc is a fantastic celebration of life and music, and CFF is proud to offer a sneak preview of the film before its official release.
Returning as part of the festival’s celebrated short film program is the WTF (Watch These Films) block, highlighting a deranged dozen of the year’s strangest and most magical shorts peppered with returning fan favorites like Chris McInroy with WE FORGOT ABOUT THE ZOMBIES, Addie Doyle & Lee Hurst’s fin. as well as wild and talented new voices like Vanessa Meyer’s FOOT TROUBLE and Alex Kavutskiy with VERTICAL VALOR.
Making its 2023 debut with the festival is a new virtually presented block of shorts called Fun Side Epics. Made up of eighteen shorts that genuinely feel like mini-features in every sense, from their world-building and complex characters to their slightly longer than your typical short film running times from filmmaker Montana Cypress’ THE RED ORCHID to Estonian filmmakers EskoBros crazy cool TWIN TURBO. Fun Size Epics has over 5 hours of incredible short filmmaking, curated from all over the world.
Also returning is Stephen Scarlata (Jodorowsky’s Dune) and Josh Miller‘s (Violent Night) Best Movies Never Made podcast with a special episode tie-in to our Tales From the Crypt salute. Josh, Steven, and some very special guests will dive deeply into DEAD EASY, the never-filmed follow-up to the classic Tales From the Crypt movie DEMON KNIGHT. There is plenty more from the crypt where that came from, including special live episodes of two more of the festival’s favorite podcasts, Dad’s From the Crypt, plus Pretty h8 Machine and Crazysexy ghoul‘s L8 Night Ghouls, who’ve quickly begun making a name for themselves with genre fans.
Sure to excite fans of the eclectic mix of music, comedy, and film that has defined CFF over the past decade is the return of their infamous BOAT FLOAT. A sprawling triple-decker brouhaha hosted on Chattanooga’s iconic Southern Belle Riverboat that has long served as the insane centerpiece of the festival’s Saturday night parties. Comedian Jonah Ray will perform and be the night’s MC, Vinegar Syndrome will be on hand with a killer pop-up shop, and local heroes LILLIAN, featuring CFF’s lead illustrator and designer extraordinaire Travis Knight on bass. In addition, two of the Earth’s greatest hardcore bands will also play, Texas’ Strange Joy and Ohio’s Slug.
Both hybrid and virtual badges are on sale now at chattfilmfest.org. In-person screenings and events are taking place June 23 – 25 at The Read House located in downtown Chattanooga, plus additional party locations around the city. The virtual component of the festival is taking place June 23 – 29. Individual tickets for certain in-person and virtual films and events will become available closer to the festival.
A Wandering Path
Director Michael Dimmitt | USA, 2023
Synopsis: Adam Bartlett started the Gilead Media Record Label in 2005. His first releases were small runs of LPs and CDs, that he did for his own band and his friends’ bands, but fast forward to the present, he now runs a celebrated underground label that is renowned internationally for putting out black metal, doom, and noise rock releases of well-known bands. He and his business partner, Dave Adelson, from the record label, 20 Buck Spin, put on Migration Fest every two years where heavy music fans from around the world come together to perform, hang out, and create strong personal bonds.
Through live performances, interviews, and behind-the-scenes hangouts, we meet the artists behind the music and learn how they write and perform music as a means to cope with issues such as sexual abuse, depression, childhood indoctrination of Christianity, and grief from the loss of loved ones. A Wandering Path, features appearances from members of Panopticon, Couch Slut, A Scanner Darkly, Mizmor, Thou, Emma Ruth Rundle, Krallice, Inter Arma, Neurosis, Enslaved, His Hero is Gone, Yellow Eyes, Mania, Leech, Blood Incantation, Fell Voices, Mutilation Rites, Wiegedood, Fórn, and Pyrolatrous.
Beaten to Death
Director Sam Curtain | Australia, 2022
Presented by Welcome Villain
Synopsis: A desperate choice leads Jack down a path that leaves him beaten and bruised as he struggles against man, nature, and his own insanity.
Patricio Valladares | Chile, 2022
Synopsis: Set in 1997 South of Chile, a trio of metalhead twenty-something girls venture into the woods to shoot their demo tape for their black metal band, Invoking Yell, while also documenting the eerie and unsettling process of recording psicofonias in the woods for the final track.
D. Smith | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A raw depiction of the lives of four black trans sex workers as they confront the dichotomy between the black community and themselves.
Director Matt Farley | USA, 2013
Synopsis: The adventures of Matt Farley as he spends a few weeks preparing for a big comedy show in Manchester, NH.
Molli & Max in the Future
Michael Lukk Litwak | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A billion years in the future there is magic, sentient robots, and demigods. Meanwhile, Molli (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Aristotle Athari) bump into each other across the course of twelve years, four planets, three dimensions, and one space cult. One of them is able to fly, while the other is half-human/half-fish.
Mrs. Booker on 8th Avenue
Alexander Canepa | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Mrs. Booker on 8th Avenue follows Florence Booker who feels increasingly isolated in her marriage in New York. A shared cigarette with an alluring line cook sparks an affair that causes the different layers of Florence’s life to unravel.
Director Ann Oren | Germany, 2022
Synopsis: Introverted and unqualiﬁed, Eva is unexpectedly tasked with foleying the sound for a commercial featuring a horse. As she slowly acclimates to the new job, her obsession with creating the perfect equine sounds grows into something more tangible. Eva harnesses this new physicality, becoming more conﬁdent and empowered, and lures an unassuming botanist into an intriguing game of submission. Shot on lush 16mm, PIAFFE is a visceral journey into control, gender, and artiﬁce.
Satan Wants You
Directors Steve J. Adams, Sean Horlor | USA, 2023
Synopsis: This documentary centers around the shocking story of how a young woman and her psychiatrist helped ignite the global Satanic Panic with their bestselling memoir Michelle Remembers.
*In-person and virtual.
Space Happy: Phil Thomas Katt and The Uncharted Zone
Louis Crisitello | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A documentary on Phil Thomas Katt, an eccentric entertainer who has found online viral success making earnest, low-budget music videos. The film explores the definition of success.
*In-person and virtual.
The Last Movie Ever Made
Nathan Blackwell | USA, 2022
Synopsis: With the world about to end, Marshall convinces a group of friends and strangers to help finish the sci-fi movie he abandoned in high school.
Director Ariel Vida | USA, 2023
*Closing Night Film
Synopsis: Jobless and searching for purpose, Emma and a group of twenty-somethings from Los Angeles head up the coast to make quick cash trimming marijuana on a secluded farm in Northern California. Cut off from the rest of the world, they soon realize that the estate is harboring darker secrets than any of them could imagine, and it becomes a race against time for Emma and her friends to escape the dense woods with their lives.
We Might Hurt Each Other
Director Jonas Trukanas | Lithuania, 2022
*North American Premiere | Presented by Screambox
Synopsis: Inspired by local legends, WE MIGHT HURT EACH OTHER follows a group of privileged high school classmates. After these classmates destroy a set of life-size wooden statues during a wild graduation party, a mysterious killer begins picking the group off one by one.
*In-person and virtual.
CFF Boat Float, hosted by Jonah Ray
*Sponsored by Vinegar Syndrome
The infamous boat party returns to CFF! Held on Chattanooga’s famed Southern Belle Riverboat, this year’s Boat Float will be a sprawling triple-decker brouhaha. Comedian Jonah Ray will perform and then continue the evening as host, with performances by Chattanooga-based band Lillian, Texas’ Strange Joy, and Ohio’s Slug.
Best Movies Never Made
Join hosts Stephen Scarlata (producer, Jodorowsky’s Dune) and Josh Miller (writer, Sonic The Hedgehog, Violent Night) as they explore the most legendary movies never made. In this special CFF edition, they’ll take part in this year’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT salute, and talk to Gil Adler and AL Katz about DEAD EASY.
Dads From the Crypt
It wouldn’t be right to have a TALES FROM THE CRYPT Salute without the Dad’s from the Crypt podcast, which is dedicated to the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. Hosted by Jason, Jody, and Mando they chat about episodes and give some dad wisdom along the way.
L8 Night Ghouls
Pretty h8 Machine and Crazysexyghoul discuss all things horror and sci-fi! Episodes feature guest filmmakers, musicians, friends, and more! Join them if you dare…
WTF (WATCH THESE FILMS) BLOCK
*In-person and virtual
CONTENT: The Lo-Fi Man
Directors Brian Lonano, Blake Myers | USA, 2022
Synopsis: This short starts as a documentary about a beloved cult film, then turns into a youtube video until it escapes into a dystopian sci-fi adventure, upon which it transforms into a body horror film resulting in a kaiju battle finale.
Don’t Let Kyle Sit Down
Director Joel Jay Blacker | USA, 2023
Synopsis: Friends wind down around a campfire. When one couple attempts to leave, their desperate friend suggests throwing one more log on the fire, summoning a charred shirtless stranger (Kyle) looking for warmth.
Directors Keith Lane, Molly Graham | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A ten-minute animated documentary about Jack Weiner, a grown man whose entire life has been shaped by being abducted by aliens when he was young, a life story nobody believes.
Directors Addie Doyle, Lee Hurst | USA, 2022
Synopsis: After witnessing their husbands explode in a freak fishing accident, Edna and Bertha are forced to carry on the family business.
Director Vanessa Meyer | USA, 2022
Synopsis: It’s 1999 and something is wrong (with Jade’s feet) but nobody wants to address it. Things go from bad to worse as Jade tries to cover up her feet by wearing socks in the pool for gym class. While this would embarrass most, she only cares about confessing her feelings to her goth boy crush. Unfortunately, he has other plans for her. Jade finally makes it home, only to be confronted by her mom’s strange boyfriend and a plate of cold hot dogs. In the end, though, Jade’s inner world is a formidable match for the obstacles that surround her.
Director Ted Stenson | Canada, 2023
Synopsis: A middle-aged man’s inability to control his temper while playing sports causes his life to spiral out of control.
Gold and Mud
Director Conor Dooley | USA, 2022
Synopsis: A sprawling story of love and loss, as reflected on a single face. Tiny pieces that, when cobbled together, hint at a much larger picture. The larger picture being a woman’s life. Observed through the decades. Centuries, even. You know. A comedy. Starring Ana Fabrega (HBO’s Los Espookys).
Director Michael John Dunker | USA, 2023
Synopsis: When Chad and Rachel go on their second date, he refuses to put on his seatbelt because he did his own research.
Directors A.K. Espada, Phil Cheney | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Two office drones work late into the night, competing for a truly killer promotion.
Variations on a Theme
Director Peter Collins Campbell | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A couple has begun physically splitting into many different versions of themselves, and must investigate an uncomfortable mutation that has arisen.
Director Alex Kavutskiy | USA, 2022
Synopsis: After being drafted for World War III, a group of burnout skateboarders are recruited into a casualty notification unit.
We Forgot about the Zombies
Director Chris McInroy | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Two dudes think they found the cure for zombie bites.
FUN SIZE EPICS
Director Laura McQuay | USA, 2022
Synopsis: A lonely Victorian widow longing for her lost love, conjures a spell to be reunited.
Director Jordan Bahat | Chile, 2023
Synopsis: Max craves human connection. But he can’t bear to expose his truth.
Director Will Rahilly | USA, 2022
Synopsis: A woman crossing a bridge on her walk home feels an impulse to peer over at the river below. An otherworldly disturbance transports her through a watery portal into uncanny territory. She emerges in the spotlight to the laughter of a self-populated audience demanding entertainment. Perplexed at her new surroundings and being surrounded by herself, she flees the stage in panic, seeking exit through a labyrinthian course. But can she evade the force that drew her into this grim domain?
Director Azwan Badruzaman | USA, 2022
Synopsis: After an isolated farmer makes a shocking discovery on his land, he unlocks its mysteries unbeknownst to his wife.
Director Stephanie Bencin | USA, 2023
Synopsis: Greetings is the story of Trish, a shy cubicle dweller in an office that’s big on birthdays. After struggling over what to write in a coworker’s birthday card, Trish discovers that whatever she writes comes true. At first, this goes great, but when her coworkers accidentally forget her own birthday, things…take a turn. Fed up with middle managers who act like they’re in middle school, Trish takes her revenge. Armed with a stack of kitten cards and her ballpoint pen, Trish shifts the power of her toxic work environment, only to be consumed by her own long-simmering resentments.
Kickstart My Heart
Director Kelsey Bollig | USA, 2022
Synopsis: After a brutal car accident, a young woman fights her mind’s 3 levels of hell to wake up again.
Director David A. Flores | USA, 2023
Synopsis: A young woman works with a digital copy of her mom to investigate the sudden disappearance of her real mom.
Director Kelly Pike | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Casey, an Asian-American tomboy coming of age on Army bases, prepares for picture day at her new school, deciding what she’s willing to sacrifice to fit in.
Director Will Lee | USA, 2022
Synopsis: After discovering her boyfriend’s plan to propose on their weekend vacation, a young girl undergoes a crisis of commitment that attracts the attention of a sinister local cult.
Shallots and Garlic
Director Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto | Canada, 2022
Synopsis: When polar opposite sisters Nur and Karina reunite for their grandparents’ wedding anniversary dinner, Karina starts itching and blames Nur for putting garlic in her food.
The Five Fingers of a Dog
Directors Charlie Compton, Justin Landsman | USA, 2022
Synopsis: In this gothic neo-giallo: A depraved killer, a deadly cycle, a possessed detective, and a perverse world merge to form the most disreputable piece of horror.
The Lizard Laughed
Director Allen Cordell | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Based on the acclaimed indie comic from Noah Van Sciver (Fante Bukowski, The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln), this is the bitterly comedic story of an unreliable father doing the absolute least he can to reconnect with his estranged son during a hike to see The Laughing Lizard rock formation.
The Red Orchid
Director Montana Cypress | USA, 2022
Synopsis: Deep in the swamps of Florida, an Indian Tribe prepares for the coming of an entity that seeks to feed on the children.
The Spirit Became Flesh
Director Jesse Aultman | USA, 2023
Synopsis: In idyllic, middle-of-nowhere Alabama, Sam Summers returns to his deeply religious hometown to visit his sister, Lilah. To his horror, Sam discovers that his old community has turned into a fanatic cult that worships a sinister monster residing in their woods. Through their disturbing rituals and unnerving sacrifices, Sam is cornered by his townspeople as they attempt to induct him into their faith. He realizes he must find out what this being is and how to tell his sister of its true nature.
Director Hannah Eaton | USA, 2023
Synopsis: In the near-distant future, Avery, a “virtual reality conservationist” begins to have a strangely familiar recurring dream that leads her to question her isolated community and way of life.
Directors Raul Esko, Romet Esko | Estonia, 2022
Synopsis: Twin undercover cops have to restore the balance between themselves to close a case revolving around a valuable twin-turbo engine.
The Waiting Room, or Eggs in Purgatory
Director Madeline Blair | USA, 2022
Synopsis: In a waiting room in the space between the living and the beyond, an unlikely pair sits impatiently for their final reckoning.
When You’re Gone
Director Kristin Noriega | USA, 2023
Synopsis: Amid heartbreak and self-implosion, a lapsed writer turned party girl must learn what it truly means to face her pain when she’s hunted by a subterranean mother and its brood.