Kung Pao Corpse Atlanta Horror Film Festival

What a time to be alive. The Atlanta Horror Film Festival begs the question, but not without pondering: what a time to be dead, too.

Within its safely social-distanced, atmospheric gravel lot, the 14th annual Atlanta Horror Film Festival opened Wednesday night with a ripe display of horror talent worth a night out. Opening night saw the premiere of two shorts blocks along with the David Del Rio’s cultish horror feature Road Head.

In the first shorts block Hazardous Duties, Shawn Driscoll’s fun season horror short “Naughty” asked the question: What if a murderous young girl framed Santa for murder?

Also in the “Hazardous Duties” block was my favorite short of the evening, “Kung Pao Corpse,” which delivers on what makes great horror — it took something inherently frightening and twisted it into something socially relevant. Director Zach Burkett’s artfully crafted short was born out of an idea ignited driving by a Savannah cemetery: “What if a food delivery driver talked about prejudice with a zombie?

“Who are the two most different personalities you could imagine that could come together?” Burkett further clarifies at the festival.

While written in less than a day, it’s seems clear this is something Burkett was ruminating on for some time. The zombie in question is actor and producer Kevin Saunders — whose role as the Black zombie helps comment on the inherent prejudice of interracial communication.

Also read: Hannibal Creator Bryan Fuller Grew Up in a Real Serial Killer’s Valley of Death

Burkett and Saunders are roommates who met their “Kung Pao Corpse” cinematographer at another Atlanta film fest housed at nearby Dad’s Garage Theatre. Saunders and Burkett are fast at work on their next collaboration. “We’re actually in the process of shooting our next short, which we start filming Friday,” says Burkett.

The Atlanta Horror Film Festival runs from October 14 to 17.