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There's horror but also comedy at Night of the Living Film Kitchen. 

click to enlarge Ghost guard: Jeffrey Hemphill's "Appalachian Apparation"
  • Ghost guard: Jeffrey Hemphill's "Appalachian Apparation"

Film Kitchen curator Matthew Day calls the Oct. 13 installment of the screening series "Halloween-themed," but really that holiday is little in evidence. Of course, you're free to show up to "Night of the Living Film Kitchen" in costume. But at least three of the four short films are more concerned with murder, mayhem and even comedy than they are with trick-or-treating.

Still, there hardly seems a better time than just before All Souls Day to screen Michael Maraden's "Of Lost Souls." Shot in black-and-white, with silent-film intertitles conveying the dialogue, this new 21-minute short is nonetheless set in the present, where a budding romance is literally cut short by a throat-slashing. From there, Maraden takes a decidedly free hand with the horror-mystery plot; a bonus is the old-school piano accompaniment, to be played live by composer Ed Tarzia. Maraden, 29, is a projectionist at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

Meanwhile, John Rohach's "Jingle Hell" seems set closer to Christmas. The slick 2001 short was shot in a snowy, moon-lit Butler County, where some kind of creature is on the loose. Think "the slaying song"; think fast-paced and cleverly dialogueless stylistic tour-de-force. Think nine minutes of Alien meets Night of the Living Dead.

Of the Oct. 13 films available for preview, the oddest is Jeffrey Hemphill's "Appalachian Apparition." In other words, once you've watched it, there's no surprise in learning that Hemphill was inspired by both film noir and an episode of Gilligan's Island.

The ghost-themed comedy finds a homicide detective taking home a box of newly discovered bones ... only to learn that their former owner, the wisecracking victim of a long-ago unsolved murder, has followed him there.

It's the Oct. 13 program's only film in which costuming figures prominently: In the manner of countless children who couldn't be bothered to make or buy a costume, the spirit of Nick Shade won't take off the white blanket that's draped over his nominally incorporeal person. 

Also stirred into the plot are: the detective's wife, a psychic; a jade ring; and a parody of a black-and-white, sub-Abbot & Costello ghost comedy.

Hemphill, 40, completed the 19-minute film in 1998, while he was an Ohio University grad student. (His other films include "Crypto," in which the sasquatch fights a ninja.) "Apparition" later screened at the New York International Film Festival.

At Film Kitchen, Hemphill will also screen a new film that was unavailable for preview. It's a sort of sequel to "Apparition," and its title suggests at least a seasonal link to Halloween: "Jeffrey Pumpkin Seed."

 

Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., Oct. 13 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $5. 412-681-9500 or www.filmkitchenpgh.org

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