Buried Alive Film Fest Review: Toe (2019)

Poster art courtesy of this Tweet.

The 2019 Buried Alive Film Festival in Atlanta kicks off today, and what better way to get started than by looking at some of the animation offerings for attendees? I’m an artist, and animation history is one of my favorite pet topics, so I figured this was a good place to discuss some of the animated films you’ll find there. If you’re anything like me, you started watching animation early. probably as a kid. I grew up on Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons, Hannah Barbera, and the like. So when I discovered horror animation, it was a welcome surprise. I was already obsessed with the horror genre, but animated horror mixed my favorite genre and my medium for results that are guaranteed surprises.

While traditional film making is restricted by CGI and real-life limitations, animation can create anything you can imagine. It’s why movies like Vampire Hunter D, about humans and vampires in a post-apocalyptic world, work so well in animation but wouldn’t translate as easily to live action. It’s why Junji Ito’s Uzumaki animated adaptation trailer looks so beautiful and eerie while the live action film looks like something on a Syfy budget. I touched on this in my Adventures in Illustration series, but there’s a tradition of masterful horror animations out there that have influenced me and many other horror fans, writers, and artists over the decades. The pieces screened at BAFF this year were in good company.

If you coudn’t make it, that’s okay! You can still support the artists and track down other screenings of their work down the line. There were plenty of up-and-comer filmmakers to watch. Here’s one that stood out for me.

TOE

Director: Neal O’Bryan and Chad Thurman

The premise sounds like a folktale: a starving young boy finds a toe poking up from a grave. In desperation, he lops the toe off and eats it. Then something comes looking for him.

Toe is a helluva film. It’s beautiful stop motion and doesn’t appear to rely on CGI to fill in anything. It’s bleak and atmospheric. And I’ll be honest: out of all the short films I’ve watched, this one made me wince in horror the most. It’s not the creature that comes for the boy, though that is incredibly creepy. No, it’s the toe itself.

Now, the last part is billed as the creepiest. But I have to tell you, the first part is the really upsetting bit. Not upsetting as in I hated it. No, upsetting as in I winced, talked to the screen, and was thoroughly grossed. It’s pretty amazing, because all of this is accomplished with puppetry. That’s the sign of a well-animated film. It got to me. I’ll be seeing that toe, and what becomes of it, in my nightmares.

Toe screened on Saturday, November 16th and was an outstanding addition to the amazing animated horror lineup!

If you’re interested, you should also follow the filmmakers’ Twitter account. They have a ton of fascinating behind the scenes shots that really demonstrate how much planning, time, and heart went into this film. I look forward to seeing more from them!

My rating: 4/5


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