There was a knife-wielding bride, a teenage massacre, something evil in a closet, a zombie conspiracy and a man-eating monster you never actually see.
The finalists in our first Halloween Video Contest, sponsored by the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, offered tales of terror and imagination for our panel of judges: Gerard Elmore, Joel Moffett and James Sereno.
"All great films," Sereno said. "Overall a good popcorn night."
But they were unanimous in their choice for a winner: "The Creature," by Noah Kiriu, a 16-year-old Moanalua High School junior from Waikele. The story follows a teenager — played by Kiriu — as he tries to escape from a creature that chases him around his home. There are even green-tinted shots from the creature’s perspective as it closes in on the teen.
Kiriu, who wrote, directed and edited the short film, will receive a $300 prize from the Star-Advertiser, but he may have to share it. Kiriu said he got classmates Keanu Tanuvasa, Zachary Fielding and Chad Masuda to help with lighting, filming and some effects.
Much of the movie was done in a single night: The teens shot from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and then recorded sound effects until 3 a.m., Kiriu said. The editing was done the next day.
Kiriu knew he didn’t have the ability to create a realistic-looking monster, so he decided to let the viewers do the work for him.
"The best horror movies are the ones where you don’t see the monster," he said.
"There is a mystery around it, and you leave it up to the viewer. So I decided I could do a monster movie and make it more scarier than if I was going to create an actual monster."
Elmore, who directed "One Evening at the Blue Light Bar & Grill" for the locally made anthology "The Short List," said "The Creature" reminded him of "The Evil Dead," the original "Halloween" and "Jaws."
"I love the old-school approach and not showing the monster," said Elmore. "I wish it had a better ending. Maybe ‘the creature’ could have been a tiny household cat that has the thirst for blood. But the story was easy to follow, and it was well put together."
Moffett praised the framing and camera placement. And even though he, too, wanted a different ending, the short had "a true sense of suspense."
"It gets repetitive and I wish the ending was better, but overall the cause-and-effect moment-to-moment storytelling was lots of fun," said Moffett, an assistant professor who teaches directing and screenwriting at the University of Hawaii’s Academy for Creative Media. "This filmmaker has a voice."
Sereno, who directed the dark film "Paradise Broken," enjoyed the camera angles that Kiriu created — and the suspense.
"I wanted a ‘reveal’ at the end, but the story actually got me scared, which is what matters," he said.
The runner-up was "The Revelation Project," by 15-year-old Punahou student Christian Gutierrez.
All three judges praised its production values — "the best-looking film of the bunch," Elmore said — but said it needed more plot in order to create tension for the viewer.
And all three judges agreed on the third-place film: "The Mililani Massacre," by 14-year-old Mililani High School student Jarod Miyake. Miyake enlisted four of his friends to make the movie.
"I apologize for the bad lighting and bad acting, but it was a great fun experience," he wrote as part of his entry.
Even though the judges noted the lighting, they offered praise. "I love the shot of the masked man coming out of the dark and hitting the teen," Elmore said. "Very cool."