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[CFF 2022] SCHOOLHOUSE BLOCK Review - Outstanding Shorts from the Student Film Showcase

Ashley Anderson was impressed with the level of creativity and quality highlighted in the Schoolhouse Block Student Film Showcase program at the Chattanooga Film Festival.

Lilliana Ketchman in the short film THE ROTTING OF CASEY CULPEPPER directed by Daniel Slottje, part of the SCHOOLHOUSE BLOCK - Student Film Showcase shorts program at the 2022 Chattanooga Film Festival.
Courtesy of Daniel Slottje

Short films are one of the most accessible forms of cinema to digest. They are quickly consumed and tend to hit critical points without providing unnecessary information. These five shorts from the Schoolhouse Block at the Chattanooga Film Festival do just that. The creativity and impressive high-level quality of the films blew me away. There were a few standouts in the bunch, but all are worth a viewing.


The Rotting of Casey Culpepper, written and directed by Daniel Slottje, tells the story of a young girl battling Leukemia. Lilliana Ketchman makes her acting debut in the lead role of Casey Culpepper. A horrible creature lurks in the background, terrorizing Casey and her father (Slottje). Their relationship is charming, which only serves to accentuate the story’s frightening events in the intense horror short.

Bloody Knife Rating: 4

Wish You Were Here tells the remarkable story of a brother and sister trying to escape the dystopian hideaway where they reside. There’s a significant issue blocking their escape—Taylor (Kenny Cumino) has noisy panic attacks whenever her Gameboy dies. Much to her brother Isaac’s (Nathan Whitfield) dissatisfaction as he struggles to keep them hidden. The thriller was written and directed by John Christian Otteson. It’s noteworthy that the short’s cinematography uses versatile angled shots to build the film’s tension.

Bloody Knife Rating: 3

Split Ends is a narrative short written and directed by Cookie Estés. A heartbreaking short detailing the extreme anxiety Isa (Molly Hernández) feels due to Latin beauty standards. While the story is touching, the apparent use of a wig breaks the fourth wall and makes the emotional reaction less pungent. However, the realism of Hernández’s intense anxiety on screen more than makes up for it.

Bloody Knife Rating: 4


Written and directed by Steven Hedrick Jr, Skeletons conveys a great deal in very little time. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy walking through a haunted house with his father (Jerry Sola). The camera is positioned at the boy's height, letting the audience react with him to the sights inside. The minute movements of the camera are flawlessly executed, and the feelings of fear and wonderment are conveyed perfectly as the thriller pulls from childhood memories.

Bloody Knife Rating: 3

Written and directed by Jakey Lutsko, Cycles stars Jake Cash as Jake, whose battling an intense magnitude of traumas and barely keeping it together. He soon begins growing fungus, which appears to be a metaphor for his growing depression. The film presents the physical manifestation of trauma in a fascinatingly and disgustingly way as it builds tension and keeps audiences captivated. Lutsko shows immense promise as a filmmaker with this nail-biting psychological horror short.

Bloody Knife Rating: 5

The Schoolhouse Block shorts program was presented at the Chattanooga Film Festival.



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