Paura Tutto

It's so common for horror films to be set in high schools -- featuring teenagers, or at least 20-somethings we can reasonably pretend are teens -- that we hardly even think about it anymore, but the fact is that once we're out of it, we tend to associate our school days with nostalgic innocence and the slow process of growing up. Of course, once you throw in a serial slasher the growing up has to happen immediately, as in the short film Paura Tutto, where one group of 1980s high school kids discovers that they may not have much chance to grow up otherwise.

Future victim. He's blissfully unaware that his tape player is about to break.

Hectic Knife

In a nameless, crime-ridden big city, one vigilante struggles to keep the peace by killing nearly everyone he meets. I suppose fewer people equals less crime, even if not necessarily per capita, but it still doesn't seem very efficient, especially since he's killing everyone with knives. But since said vigilante's name is Hectic Knife (Peter Litvin) -- and it really is, that's what he was christened -- it might seem awkward if he used a gun. you may have already guessed, but Hectic Knife is the latest from Troma Entertainment, creators of the cult classic Toxic Avenger.

Hectic Knife in a rare moment of quiet before his next killing spree.

Created Equal

These days it's a lot more plausible for little girls to dream big when they're thinking of their careers. Of course they won't all get to be astronauts or Olympic gold medalists, but it's all right for them to think big and hopefully not take too much teasing for it. These days you can even find female movie reviewers like me. But there are still a few career paths out there that aren't open to women no matter what, and the film Created Equal tackles one such path: becoming a Catholic priest.

Tommy being yelled at by his boss, wishing he was anywhere but there.

Because Reasons

Living in a small town or out in the country can be dull for a lot of people. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and all my friends and I talked about was getting a car and a driver's license so we could actually get places without parental intervention. I didn't mind it, I liked the peace and quiet, but it certainly isn't for everyone. Take Tiffany (Krista West), for example, in the short Because Reasons. She's so bored out of her mind that a killing spree doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Tiffany and Buddy Boo, living on the edge.

Whatever It Takes

There are plenty of stories about 'paying your dues' to succeed in Hollywood -- they're as old as the movies themselves -- and while some are genuinely funny or just odd, all too many of them are really stories of the casting couch and what women have to do to succeed. Whatever It Takes follows the journey Alicia (Robbie Barnes, Beyond Repair) takes through the City of Angels -- in this case a misnomer if ever there was one -- as she struggles for the fame she's always craved.

Robert and Alicia have lunch. Better enjoy the quiet moments while you can.

Mail Time

There are plenty of jokes about mail carriers out there and how cushy their job is, but it isn't necessarily all that great. There's the walking and the weather, not to mention dogs and rude people. And in some cases there's also the other side of the coin. At my day job I often see the mail carrier arrive, and my co-worker loves to corner him with badly-told stories about her dog and long conversations about the weather. Like the poor guy doesn't already have everyone asking if it's cold (or hot) enough for him.

Ted doing a magic trick. Note that there's absolutely nothing up his sleeves.

Check Please!

Blind dates are scary things, with equal potential for disaster, magic, and everything in-between. This is why I've never been on one; I'm sure I couldn't handle the pressure. Sometimes they also lead to awkward conversations, as in Check Please!, where Adam (Shane Ryan) and Steve (Chad Meisenheimer) have met for coffee the morning after their blind date.

Steve and Adam have a really strange talk over coffee.

Beyond Repair

Driving late at night has its advantages -- almost no traffic, for example -- but it also has its drawbacks, when, like Jorah (Kinsley Funari) in Beyond Repair, you find yourself in dire need of a rest room, you're still far from home, and everything's closed. At last salvation appears in the form of a brightly-lit gas station and Jorah gratefully pulls in and parks. Granted, the mechanic on duty (Jesse Dillon Sorrells) isn't very friendly and the bathroom itself isn't the cleanest -- not exactly a shock -- but any port in a storm.

Jorah is truly horrified at the state of the toilet seat.

The Playground

In many countries, however different they might seem otherwise, teenagers all face much the same life or death crises -- what to wear, who to ask to the dance, and whether or not their parents will ever stop being hopelessly uncool. At first glance, the group of Polish teenagers in The Playground aren't any different as they gather for the last day of school, bringing flowers for their teachers, which is a tradition there. At my school, giving flowers to a teacher for any reason would have exposed you to eternal ridicule.

Gabrysia asks Szymek to meet her at the ruins. Poor girl.

My First Miracle

It's December, and all one 17-year old girl really wants for Christmas is the chance to make it to eighteen. Angelica (Katya Martín) has Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a rare cancer that causes bone marrow to produce bad blood cells. It's treatable with the right bone marrow donor, but as with any such donation it's hard to find a match. Her dad Mark (Matthew Rauch) and her mom Heidi (Valerie Cruz) are working hard to pay the bills -- chemo is crazy expensive -- but otherwise all they can do is wait.

Movie poster. Note Charlie and his cello spreading a little Christmas cheer.