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Hello, boos and ghouls, and welcome to the very first VHS Graveyard post of what has turned out to be quite the eventful year. When last we spoke in November 2019, your humble host was mid-way through the annual 31 Days of Halloween spooktacular (albeit with his usual flair for tardiness) and the future seemed relatively uneventful. If this were a post-apocalyptic film, it would be the cold opener depicting the world as we know it.

Flash-forward almost six months later, however, and you would be hard-pressed to find much that looks familiar. If this were a film, it would be the part after the cold open where we first meet our protagonist attempting to carve out a place in the brutal new reality. Hundreds of thousands of deaths and a crushed global economy have not so much rewritten the rules as set them on fire. With live entertainment of almost any sort on hold and theatrical film releases pushed into the near future, it’s certainly not an easy time to be an entertainer, much less a critic.

Humans are nothing if not adaptable, however, so adapt we have, in ways both big and small. While the notion of streaming movies in the modern era has become as humdrum as checking your watch, the pandemic has given rise to a truly revolutionary idea: streaming film festivals. With leisurely travel and large gatherings temporarily off the table, an online version of destination film festivals really is the next best thing. 2020 has been a year of firsts, for better or worse, and in that spirit, I decided to throw my support behind one of the best and brightest fests: the Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF).

To be honest, the notion hadn’t even crossed my mind right up until the very moment, this past Friday, when I happened to read an article about the Chattanooga Film Fest. Equally intrigued by the large lineup (26 features and perhaps twice that number of shorts) and low price point (roughly the equivalent of renting five new releases), I made the spur of the moment decision to put the long weekend to good use and purchased an all-access pass.

With nothing to compare it to, I’d have to automatically rate the CFF as the best streaming fest I’ve personally attended. On size and merit, alone, however, it also held its own with genre spectaculars like Fantastic Fest. The site layout was easy to use and there was an embarrassment of riches. Along with the features and shorts, the festival featured all the usual staples: lots of industry panel discussions, celebrations of genre icons, live commentaries and award presentations. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was only able to scratch the tip of the iceberg with all the extra content: my focus was always going to be those 26 features and there are only so many hours in a weekend. It’s to the Chattanooga Film Fest’s great credit, however, that I really wanted to attend pretty much all of them: I’ll try to budget my time better in the future.

After spending four full days with the CFF and plowing my way through 20 of the 26 features, I really don’t have any complaints. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that I wouldn’t mind checking out the in-person version of the festival some day when the world isn’t on fire. Until that time, however, I’ll have my memories and you, dear readers, will have a full write-up on the goodies that I laid my eyes upon. While not every one of the 20 was a home-run, several hit it so hard outta the park that it circled the globe and bopped ’em in the back of the head.

Stay tuned for a deeper dive into what wonders this weekend held: from animated carnage to surreal tearjerkers, from knee-slappers to screaming psychological torment, there was a little bit of everything and we’re only too happy to share it with you lovely people.

The VHS Graveyard may have been away for a while but we’re back now: take a deep breath, grab our hand and follow us into the dark woods. We have such sights to show, my children…such beautiful, terrible sights to show.