The Hoosier Films Annual Festival will be held online Sept. 3-6, 2020. For schedules and more information on the other films playing, visit the official festival site.

In the Dark

In the Dark opens with an adolescent girl reading a scary story the way many of us did as kids — under the covers with a flashlight. We soon learn she’s reading the opening scene of Stephen King’s IT to a group of friends via a walkie talkie.

This charming setup captures adolescents’ thirst for thrills and chills, but it also emerges as a quaint portrait of youths listening to a campfire yarn rather than scrolling through cyberspace.

Of course, a grown-up has to spoil their good time. When her mother bursts in the room and threatens to tell her father what she’s reading, Elliot (Maeren Jellison) says, “I guess it would be nice to have him involved in something for once” — a haunting hint of his absence. Jellison’s poignant performance conveys how Elliot feels safer in the realm of fantasy, even the kind as horrific as King’s.

Written and directed by Fort Wayne native Adam King, In the Dark sputters a bit when it tries to bring the kids’ fantastical fears to life. It ultimately works best as a coming-of-age drama about alleviating growing pains by delving into terrors larger than your own.

Jac Kessler’s Popsy

Jac Kessler’s Popsy is a slick little horror flick. Based on a Stephen King short story and brought to cinematic life through his “Dollar Baby” deal, it follows a down-and-out gambler (Alex Dunning) driven to extremes to pay back crime kingpin Mr. Reggie (beloved B-movie star Ted Raimi).

Sporting an elastic Jim Carrey grin, Dunning is at once creepy and magnetic. He reels you in, just like he lures children into his van. (Yes, this film gets dark.)

The film’s twist is fun but also rushed and random. However, everything leading up to it makes Popsy worthwhile. Dunning gracefully carries the film while Raimi has great fun chewing the scenery. The short is also richly atmospheric. You can practically feel the bitter winter wind, which delayed filming for four months.

Written and directed by Ball State alumnus Jac Kessler and shot all across Indiana, Popsy is a Hoosier triumph. Keep an eye out for future projects from Pale Moonlight Cinema.