Students show cinematic chops at Halloween film festival


Cristina Lombardo

The Howling Halloween Film Festival hosted a night of spooktacular films from students and alumni.

San Diego State’s School of Theatre, Television and Film department held their sixth annual Howling Halloween Film Festival in Montezuma Hall on Oct. 29. Over 100 people attended in-person and on Zoom to watch short horror films written, directed and produced by SDSU theater, film and media students. 

The spooktacular film festival showcased student and alumni films from throughout the years, but the festival really highlighted the amount of creativity and drive it takes to create a quick spooky story.  

The night started with eerie music playing right before the films began. As it got closer to showtime, the music gained momentum and became more ominous. 

Rich Underwood, the festival curator and professor at SDSU, kicked off the event with a quick welcome and introduction to the night. He asked the audience to howl as a metaphorical way to signify they would be howling with laughter and fear while enjoying the short films. 

Underwood asked the audience to participate in selecting the crowd favorite of the night by ripping a piece of the program brochure to indicate their favorite choice as a way to make the night even more memorable for everyone involved. 

“It’s interesting to see these things (the brochures) of what students think of what’s scary and what scares them,” Underwood said. 

In total, there were 13 short films played. Each film was between a minute to 11 minutes long. There were many different themes and stories told, ranging from spine-chilling films to quirky and lighthearted. Nonetheless, they were definitely crowd favorites.  

The short film “Pumpkin,” directed by Casey Nakamura, was one of the top three favorites of the night. It centered on a tiny pumpkin in a pumpkin patch wanting nothing more than to be a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween. 

This four minutes and 20 second film showcased a lot about this little pumpkin’s journey throughout the Halloween season. It sees its friends get taken and put back, and also experiences the death of his friend as a little girl stabs another pumpkin right in front of it. The pumpkin reacts and its facial expression changes as it is soon put to bed and thrown out by the people working the pumpkin patch. But the tiny Jack-O-Lantern survives and makes it to Christmas where it becomes a part of the Christmas spirit and decor on a beautiful Christmas tree. 

This sweet film was definitely the crowd favorite and won the audience choice of the night.

Following “Pumpkin,” and the theme of the spooky season, the runner-up was the short film titled “Madre Sagrada.” This short film, directed by Maximiliano Garcia, was one of the longer films with a run time of eight minutes and 50 seconds. 

This Spanish short film was in black-and-white and included English subtitles. “Madre Sagrada” focused on Mexican folklore. The film follows a young girl’s mother being burned at the stake for witchcraft as the young girl tries to find her way to escape the same fiery fate as her mother’s. 

Rhetoric and Writing Studies student Althea Millman attended the Friday night festival and shared some of her thoughts about the film.  

“I really liked ‘Madre Sagrada.’ The cultural aspect was what made it the most cinematic,” Millman said. 

Some other crowd favorites were “Hanging By A Thread” directed by Chloe Cerami and “I Might Die Here” directed by Tayo Oyekan. 

C.J. Villegas is an English major at SDSU and is a friend of Millman’s who also attended the festival. 

“I liked ‘Shutter’ honestly. All spooky and fun, it was cool to go to this,” Villegas said.

Each film had the audience at the edge of their seats in anticipation of what was to come from the next showing.  

The TFM department’s next film festival is going to be Valentine’s themed, so be sure to keep a lookout if you are interested in attending. For more information about the Theater, Television and Film department at SDSU and their upcoming events, check out