A Blast From The Past: The Trouble Maker (dir by Herk Harvey)

The 1959 short film, The Trouble Maker, tells the story of Mel Stone (played by Bret Waller).

Mel is the least popular student at his high school and it’s not hard to see why.  Mel is seriously creepy.  He spends all of his time sneaking through the hallways, following around the members of the football team and lying about the girls that they go to school with.  When Mel spots a member of the team “breaking training,” he starts spreading rumors and trying to make life difficult for everyone.

The title claims that Mel is a trouble maker but actually, he comes across like a total sociopath.  He even stalks the members of the football team outside of school, the better to collect gossip about them.  The film’s narrator encourages us to wonder why Mel is the way that he is and if there’s anything that we, as a group, can do to make Mel become a better person.  To be honest, it seems like the only solution to a problem like Mel is to frame him for a crime and send him to prison until his 21st birthday.  Admittedly, Mel would probably be even more dangerous once he got out but that’s why you move to a different town after graduating from high school.

The Trouble Maker was one of the many educational short films to be directed by Herk Harvey, who made a career out of films like this.  Today, of course, Harvey is best known for directing the seminal horror film, Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls in an hour but, for now, enjoy The Trouble Maker and be sure to ask yourself….

What Would You Do?

The Last Halloween, Short Film Review, by Case Wright


Trick or Treaters in the post-apocalypse or is it just San Francisco?

Four kids in traditional costumes go out for candy and find a survivalist house with loads of guns, but hey candy is on the line! The home is occupied buy a very tired husband and wife.  The wife is getting sick, but it appears that the kids might be in the house!!!

The wife disappears and the husband is confronted by one of the kids in a ghost costume. These aren’t ordinary trick or treaters and those costumes aren’t store bought!!!!  It’s kind of cool figuring out what’s going on in the end.  It’s a very fun short!




A Blast From The Past: What About School Spirit? (dir by Herk Harvey)

Director Herk Harvey

The 1958 short film, What About School Spirit?, introduces us to the greatest high school in all of Kansas.  The entire state is envious of Lawrence High.  Not only are they champions in basketball but they’re champions in academics as well!  What is it that makes Lawrence High so special?

Well, as one student explains, Lawrence High was’t always the wonderful institution that it is today.  It’s not that the school didn’t have school spirit.  In fact, it had too much school spirit!  The students were driving fast and painting the school’s initials “where they had no business to be!”  Everyone was so crazy about the school that they didn’t stop to think about how their rambunctious behavior was making life annoying for everyone else!

Then, luckily, the basketball team captain, Bob Corby, spoke at a student assembly and what Corby said changed the entire direction of the school.  I’m not sure how that happened exactly because, judging from what we see of his speech, it’s nothing that special.  In fact, I think Bob Corby’s kind of overrated.  That’s right, I said it.  Of course, after giving the speech, Bob Corby got sick and died.  The students, of course, continued to display properly controlled school spirit in his memory.

I guess the message here is that teenagers should be proud of their school without being too loud about it.  To be honest, though, Bob Corby and all of his followers kind of come across as being little fascists who are determined to quash any hint of nonconformity or rebellion.  The next time that they say, “It couldn’t happen here,” you tell them that it already happened at Lawrence High.

This film was directed by Herk Harvey, who made a career out of doing educational films like this one.  However, horror fans will always know Harvey best for directing the massively influential Carnival of Souls.  That’s a film that we’ll watch later this month.  For now, enjoy the legend of Bob Corby!

A Blast From The Past: The Griper (dir by Herk Harvey)

Oh my God, it’s a ghost!

No, actually, that’s not a ghost.  That’s George’s conscience, who apparently leaves George’s body while George is asleep and tells strangers all of the sordid details of George’s home life.  Hmmm …. actually, that sounds scarier than a ghost.

Anyway, George is the anti-hero of the 1954 educational short film, The Griper.  George’s problem can be found right in the title.  He’s a teenager who complains about everything and he’s ruining high school for not only his classmates but for his teachers as well!  George isn’t happy during the basketball game.  George isn’t happy about his class assignment.  Even when his only friend, Betty, tries to show him a cute cartoon, George snaps at her.

George’s problem, of course, is that he was born 60 years too early.  If he had been born several decades later, he could have just joined twitter and then he could spend all day cancelling people and getting all of the likes and retweets that come along with being a judgmental jackass.  But sadly, George is a teenager in the 50s and he’s expected to be a lot more positive.

Personally, I think everyone in the film’s being a bit too judgmental of George.  I mean — yes, he’s a jerk.  And yes, I would probably avoid him because I love snark but I hate negativity.  But if George is always in a bad mood, that’s his right!  He can always make new friends or pursue a career as a film critic.

George is going to be alright.

This short film was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of doing short films like this but horror fans will always know him as being the director of the incredibly influential Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be watching that movie later this month but for now, enjoy watching George isolate himself while destroying everyone else’s happiness and be sure to ask yourself,

“What would you do?”

A Blast From The Past: Responsibility (dir by Herk Harvey)

Director Herk Harvey

The year is 1953 and a rural high school — maybe one that’s a lot like yours — is in chaos!

That’s the idea behind Responsibility, a short film that was apparently designed to make students think about the importance of …. well, responsibility.  Narrated by a rather judgmental principal, Responsibility tells the story of two teenagers.  Lloyd is responsible and mature and boring and probably is destined for a middle management job at the local feed store.  Hank is a new student with a chip on his shoulder and a haircut that screams “trouble.”  Hank is irresponsible but charismatic and, in the real world, there’s absolutely no question who would be the more popular of the two.

However, this is a short film from the 50s so we’re thrown into this weird fantasy world where students actually give serious thought to their options before voting in student elections.  It’s a world where everyone might like Hank better but they just can’t forgive him for blowing off class and losing the big debate tournament.  It’s world where boring old Lloyd could possibly be a more appealing choice than a rebel in a leather jacket.

Lloyd and Hank are friends but that doesn’t stop them from both running for president of the student body.  The initial vote is tied but there is one absentee ballot.  That ballot will determine who will become the new president — unless, of course, the absentee student has a sense of humor and wrote in their own name, like I always used to do.

“Who would you vote for?” the principal asks.

Me?  Why, Gary Johnson, of course!

This is yet another educational short film from Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of doing films like this but, today, he’s best remembered for directing the classic horror film, Carnival of Souls.  We’ll be watching Carnival of Souls later this month.  For now, enjoy Responsibility and ask yourself …. “Who would you vote for?”

A Blast From The Past: The Good Loser (dir by Herk Harvey)

Director Herk Harvey

What’s more important?  Being a good winner or a good loser?

Does being a good winner make it more difficult to be a good loser?

Should an individual loss matter if it contributes to a team victory?

When your child loses, is it a good idea to relentlessly taunt them about it?

These questions and more are explored in the 1953 short film, The Good Loser.  This is one of those films that they used to show in schools in order to teach students how to …. well I’m not sure what anyone learns in The Good Loser.  It tells the story of Ray, who is the best public speaker in all of Kansas or, at least, he is until he makes the mistake of agreeing to mentor Marilyn.  After Marilyn beats him at the speech and debate tournament, Ray throws a little hissy fit.  It doesn’t help that everyone — from his classmates to his own father — is making fun of him for losing to his protegee.

“What do you think?” the narrator asks and I’ll tell you.  I’ve never been a good loser so I totally think that Ray has every right to drop out of school and spend the rest of his life wandering around the country, drifting from job-to-job and refusing to trust anyone.  “Second place just means you’re the best loser.”  A teacher said that to me once and the end result was …. well, actually, I think I was kinda like, “Really?  The best?”  Anyway….

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m sharing this video in October, it’s because this film was directed by Herk Harvey.  Harvey made a career out of directing short educational films but, to horror audiences, he’s best known for directing a classic horror film called Carnival of SoulsCarnival of Souls is a film that I’ll be sharing on later in the month.  On the surface, The Good Loser may not appear to have much in common with Carnival of Souls.  However, I think you can compare Ray’s insensitive classmates to the insensitive ghosts who haunted Candace Hilligoss in Carnival.  If nothing, they’re all similarly relentless.  They’re also all jerks, if you ask me.

What do you think?

Short Film Review: Fried Barry (dir by Ryan Kruger)

I just watched a three-minute short film called Fried Barry.  Now, you may ask: “How much of a story can you tell in three minutes?”  Well, the answer is that you can tell a lot more than you might think.  For instance, Fried Barry might only last 180 seconds but it tells the story of a lifetime.

Fried Barry tells the story of Barry (Gary Green), a man who has obviously fallen on hard times.  When we first see him, he’s dirty, he’s scruffy, he’s twitching, and he’s wandering around in what appears to be a deserted warehouse.  His eyes appear to be full of madness as they dart from one side of the warehouse to the other.  A series of quick cuts, taking us from extreme close-ups of Barry to medium shots back into Barry’s face (and potentially his mind), keep us just as disorientated as he is.  The soundtrack is full of the sounds of the chaos that is erupting in Barry’s mind and we wonder if Barry is insane or maybe if we’ve just entered someone else’s dream.  It’s when we see the spoon and the hypodermic needle that we come to understand that Barry is a heroin addict.

When he shoots up, the short film just gets more chaotic.  Shots of Barry looking somewhat blissful are followed by shots of Barry looking even more pissed off.  Occasionally, a peaceful image appears but the sounds of chaos continue to erupt in the background.  By the time Barry is using his tongue to catch flies like a frog, we find ourselves wondering once again if we’re watching Barry from the outside or if we’ve entered his head.

Looking over the notes that I jotted down while watching Fried Barry, I see that I originally wrote that Barry was “a crazy dude in a warehouse.”  That’s probably not entirely fair to Barry.  When you see someone at a certain point in their life, you never fully understand how they reached that point.  That’s true of the desperate people that we see everyday and certainly, that’s true of someone like Barry.  Who knows who Barry was before he became “a crazy dude in a warehouse.”  The film is full of hints but it’s up to us, as the viewer, to put them together.

David Lynch once describes Eraserhead as being “a dream of dark and disturbing things,” and I think the same description applies to this 3-minute film.  It’s a film that will definitely stick with you.  iHorror released it this week so check it out.

The short film Fried Barry has been adapted into a feature film, which has just completed post-production and should be coming out at the end of 2019.