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Arts & Culture

Cinema Junkie Podcast 202: The Role Of Horror In A Scary World

"Hammurabi" is a short film that gives a twist to the standard revenge tale by having a mute protagonist who needs a translator to convey a message to her victim.

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival goes online to showcase horror and genre films

As the real world feels scarier each day with a pandemic in full swing, police brutality and people just behaving badly filling social media, and a president fanning the flames of hate and unrest, the horror genre has had to adjust. This year's Horrible Imaginings Film Festival has had to move online for its annual showcase of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Festival founder and executive director Miguel Rodriguez says that the films this year serve up less gore and tales of physical harm and instead focus on horror relating to undefined dread, to not being able to distinguish what's real from what's not, and to stories where you just can't figure out what it is that is trying to hurt you. We discuss the diverse array of shorts, features and documentaries available through Sept. 7 as well as discuss the role horror can play in a world that makes us increasingly anxious.

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival's Miguel Rodriguez discusses the role of horror in a scary world.


Rodriguez has been running Horrible Imaginings for more than a decade now. Each year themes emerge that reflect the current state of the world and this year filmmakers seemed to conclude that the source of horror is a lot less about immediate bodily harm or running away from a killer and more about ill-defined dread and not know what is real.

That said, there are also a fair share of slasher films, monster movies and good old-fashioned ghost stories.

Ten years ago, I saw post on social media or a meet up group, I can’t remember which, but it was someone new to San Diego who had this idea of starting a horror film festival and he wanted to know if anyone would be willing to help. As a fan of horror, I said sure. That person was Miguel Rodriguez and his dream project became Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.

As one of this year's juror for festival awards, I saw close to 30 hours of films. I was impressed by both the diversity of styles and by the diversity of the filmmakers themselves. My two favorite features come from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. "Luz: Flower of Evil" is a slow burn, gorgeously shot tale a severely dysfunctional family from Colombia. Then there is what's being billed as Panama's first horror film "Diablo Rojo PTY," a low-budget, wildly over-the-top tale of witches and monsters rooted in folklore with a measure of Catholicism thrown in for good measure. "Luz" impresses with its artistry while "Diablo" endears itself with its passion to make a film with limited resources.

As for the shorts, "Milk Teeth" is my favorite with its Guillermo del Toro sensibility, creepy monster, and cringe-inducing moments. I also loved the clever ingenuity of "RING," which told its story through a security camera; "Night Crawl," which delivered a tense prison drama with a horror twist; "The Last Day of Spicy Jack," which was just off the rails wacky; and two wildly different but equally seductive animated tales, "Lenses" and "Malakout."


Check out my full list of recommendations below.

Beth's Top Picks


"Luz: Flower of Evil"

"Diablo Rojo PTY"


"Milk Teeth"

"Night Crawl"




"Optic Nerve"


"The Last Days of Spicy Jack"


"I Confess"


"Everything's Fine"



"Jeff Drives"



"Unholy 'Mole"

"Snakes Eyes"

"Smile for me"