FrightFest 2020 Short Film Show Cases 1 and 2 Reviews

Bark

 

A trope of horror film scenery and settings are forests and trees, but what thoughts would a sentient but immobilised tree have if it observed a Friday 13th style murder? Bark sets out to answer just this quirky question. Rapport with the viewer is quickly established through some compelling voice acting. In this way, Bark comically establishes a tree as a compelling character (something which other horror films fail to do), and through which the rest of the story is seen. “Good luck with your emotional scars, I’ll just stay here with mine,” is one of the funnier lines that draws a nice connection between the monster chase and subsequent confrontation. At just over five minutes it felt a tad too long and could do with some trimming (no pun intended), but this odd quirky short with an Archer-style voiceover was a nice way to ease into the rest of the showcase.

 

A Bit of Fun

 

A 90s’ séance set in a student flat forms the backdrop for this Craft meets Sixth Sense short. For a short set in a flat, in one room and based around a séance, the balance between static shots and cuts managed to maintain visual interest. The balance between the shock of the twist and integrity of the story could have been evened out a bit more. The central premise around the séance itself and each of the participants reasons for doing it as well as their relationship with each other could have been explained more upfront or at least hinted at, which would have made the conclusion pack more punch. A nice trick pulled off at the end though.

 

Breakfast

 

This short managed to scare while evolving its style with heightened effects throughout. The short starts with a set of sparse no dialogue series of scenes which involve a woman waking from an accident and incredibly hungry in her home. Exploration of her bruises as well as some off-kilter splice cuts of breakfast cooking help create a nauseating effect, an unease, which the viewer needs to continue watching to work out. The change in lighting style in the second half feels unnatural but works. The introduction of dialogue also serves to fill in the backstory but also points to a mania and an inversion of a typical family ritual. The final effects and scares look convincing and tie together the visual language we’ve been introduced throughout. The short’s final scene truly packs a punch. This is good horror.

 

Flesh Control
An upfront claim: the sound mix on the dialogue as well as the dialogue itself was difficult to make out on this short. The story appeared to be about two fly humanoid exterminators who tracked humans in a weird role reversal. Beyond that I couldn’t discern much more.

 

Subject 3

A team of medical researchers searching for a cure for a virus that has seemingly overwhelmed the world and the aftermath of human testing is the focus for this road journey short. Playing close parallel with the current pandemic tropes, the story follows a researcher as she returns to connect with a person from her past. The short mines some nice introspections about connecting back with the past for safety when the future doesn’t work out quite the way we had hoped. Coupled with some excellent cinematography and lighting this short seemed like a calling card for a much bigger story to be told and piqued enough interest in the core relationships from the performances for me to want to know more.

 

Jeff Drives You

We can all find it hard to be without our phone at the best of times, but when AI takes the personalisation of self-driving cars to the next level, just what kind relationships can we expect to have between us and our devices? Jeff Drives You was a really well-executed idea. It proved that while having a neat idea can be enough to fuel a short, if you treat the idea just right, you can mine some real humanity to make the idea really connect with the viewer. The performances and light comedy between the actor and the voice of the car ease you in with a few chuckles as they take their 15-hour journey. Gradually, as the toll of isolation takes effect on the passenger and with the AI system taking advantage, the passenger reveals truths which take his bonding with the car further. A superb meditation on how we start owning things and that if we’re not careful, our things can end up owning us.

 

Ouzo and Blackcurrant

A pair of friends reunite and reminisce in their teenage haunts – with haunts being the operative word. This was beautifully filmed – the cinematography and lighting really provided a rose-tinted backdrop through which the story unfolds. For a story which was effectively two people in a single place, my visual attention was always kept. The performances were natural, which, coupled with the setting made the scares work as they slowly crept in. Kudos also has to go for the inventive use of the characters using their phones as a means of telegraphing the spectres presence. You’ll look twice through the viewfinder next time you take a selfie.

 

Tarrare

A spoken word piece with images and text tracking to the narration. This reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes – albeit with an amped up horror element.

 

Guest

A truly spooky little short that was highly effective. A woman on the run is pursued by a phantom and, where she can’t outrun it, takes an extreme measure to be rid of the sight and sound of it. The lack of sound, the weirdness of the phantom and the kicker at the end of the story pointing how you can’t run away from yourself or that the more you try to run, the more inevitable your fate is gives you pause for thought.

The Beholder

A mixed-media rendering of an Edgar Allen Poe tale in the style of Dave McKean. This looked visually interesting and I would have been keen to see this in a longer form.

 

Werewolf
This was the highlight of the festival showcase for me. A brilliant ensemble piece that takes the evening social of games night to a heightened level with a werewolf thrown in for good measure. As the card game is played, social truths pertaining to each guest are slowly unravelled and the group ties slowly dissolve with some great comedic effects. What really made this short work were the brilliant performances and a well-observed script. The interplay between characters just crackled and there was some great comedy timing along with some well-observed dinner party talk. What’s more, the zaniness of the concept and introduction of the card game host completely worked and complimented the tone laid out at the start.

 

The Motorist

A Wicker Man style short based on a confrontation between a countryside cult and a lone city traveller. The Motorist is a really good example of how a story can start at the point the drama starts and how an audience should be trusted to keep up with the pace as it unfolds without the need for lots of exposition. After a hit and run driver refuses to meet justice by existing his car, a weird ritual is performed on him and his car in a way which allows the cult to exact proper justice. What I liked about this short was how fast the storytelling was and how quickly it managed to unpack its core concepts. No filler here: just a compelling and suspenseful short.

 

Love Bite

While a zombie apocalypse could bring about the end of the world, the argument which breaks out between a couple under siege by zombies threatens to do it far quicker in this short. As the couple take refuge in a truck against the zombies, they argue over the cause and effect of what turns someone into zombie. The dynamics at play centre around the man’s need to be right and win the argument while his girlfriend goads him about being wrong all the time. To this end, Love Bite neatly predicts the social tensions families and couples have had to work through during lockdown as they spend more time together. That said, the bickering and anger the couple show from the start and throughout makes you wonder what brought them together and more importantly why they are still together. Given that the relationship is the source of interest, I felt the tonal shifts between comedy and drama plus the constant bickering, did not allow me to invest myself fully in the characters.

 

The Gift

The persecution of women throughout the ages as witches with a modern-day woman coping with her period is the subject of this short. The Gift manages to elegantly draw parallels between the treatment of women historically with the coping mechanisms of women today. Not wanting to give too much away but the two strands of stories tie neatly up with the character asserting her power and finding mastery of her environment. A great short.

 

 

Wash

Wash was another one of the shorts that really managed to produce an unnerving scare for the total length of time it ran. Moody, atmospheric with some great cinematography and performances, the Wash is a meditation on the interplay of control between a parent, a child and the child’s object of play. During lockdown I’ve heard friends discuss the difficulty of controlling kids and the subtle and noticeable shifts in power that take place as parents give in to children’s demands for distractions such as iPhones. Wash neatly manages to elude to these themes, heightening the effect of control as well as highlighting the gaps which parents clearly don’t have over their children.

 

Fuel

A theatre actress needs to discover the fuel which will lend motivation to her performance in a play. Anger, hatred and desperation are the emotions she needs to mine and the real world stands ready to give her those life experiences. The short itself was well-directed with some good performances and a great score, however I didn’t feel the story had enough time to mature. The plot covered from the opening scene to the last one didn’t point to a causation or a change which had been achieved. Had Fuel had a bit more time to breathe and explore its own concept I think its end effects would have been better conveyed.

 

Polvotron 5000

This was a neat sci-fi concept fuelled by a man’s visit to a holographic brothel and the relationship which develops between a client and his hostess. The production design on this short was well done – the futuristic slum aesthetic really conveyed a sense of place and time. I liked the underlying idea of this film but the one thing which worked against the short was the lead character’s motivation: he wants to be left alone and enjoy a moment of silence and yet comes to a holographic brothel buying a hologram for the evening. What’s more, his initial adamant protests with the hologram about wanting to be left alone give way all to quickly to an in-depth interaction. While the later interactions are heartfelt and meaningful the big jumps in how the characters felt about each other undermined its emotional integrity.

 

Keith

This was a fun twist on the traditional monster under the kid’s bed scenario and carried a subtle and heartfelt message about how parents and children alike can be seen as monsters in each other’s eyes. The voice acting of the monster under the bed was superb and deeply human, while the performance of the child actor came across as authentic and smart and not sickly sweet or naïve. The twist at the end was meaningful and goes to prove that it’s always handy having a monster (or a parent) looking out for you.

 

Death walks on Nitrate

An experimental film done in the style and score of an Italian Giallo: think The Ring meets Mario Bava and you get a flavour for what this short is all about. This was a visually interesting execution of a neat concept with a cool score. For a short film, it was great to see the efforts to which the filmmakers had gone to create something so authentic. There’s enough there laid out for the average horror fan but if you’re a fan of Gialllo you’re sure to appreciate this more.

 

The Afterlife Bureau
A Kafka-esque view of an afterlife processing centre for the recently deceased forms the backdrop for this quirky short. The production design and performances are top notch and carry an Inside Number 9 / League of Gentleman vibe. The central story around a recently deceased applicant and their case worker was a bit unclear through. While the applicant wants to return to life with enhanced conditions, the case worker’s motivations for hurrying his application at all costs seemed counter to the officious nature of the environment. Another short which could have benefitted from spending a tad more time unpacking the stakes in the story upfront.

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London Horror Comic @ ThoughtBubble 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at ThoughtBubble 2019.

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London Horror Comic @ MCM Comic Con 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at MCM London Comic Con 2019.

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London Horror Comic @ Nottingham Comic Con 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at Nottingham Comic Con 2019.

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London Horror Comic @ Leamington Spa Comic Con 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at Leamington Spa Comic Con 2019.

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London Horror Comic @ NICE 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at NICE 2019.

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Arrow FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase 3 Reviews & Videos

Pig:

A cabin in the woods house invasion brilliantly switches perspectives in this darkly comic and poignant take on how killers carve up roles and provide a support group. Well-acted and well-observed horror tropes allow this short to pull a convincing 180 without losing its central spine, clocking up many laughs along the way.

One Last Meal:

A great tracking shot maps the journey a returning prison officer makes to work. Awaiting him is the due execution of a prisoner, whose last meal request fuels the narrative for this short. The lead actor conveys a suitable nervousness and vulnerability and the production design is suitably convincing. The resolution of the core problem is gross as much as it is unbelievable, given the extent to which the filmmakers go to establish a convincing real-world setting.

Dog Skin:

A beautiful opening shot tracking a lone man walking to the city at night is the start of this minimal and beautifully lit short. A man falls for a woman who only appears at night and takes on the appearance of a wolf. Dog Skin tracks their fleeting and passionate interactions to a climax where the man makes a final decision about the relationship. A beautifully shot treatment of urban passions and desires.

Re-possessed homes:

A single mum real estate agent repurposes several haunted houses to make ends meet in this well-observed short. Classic horror tropes from haunted house tales are given a comic home make over overrides the estate agent’s care of her clients. Laugh-out loud funny with a story real emotional depth, this is one short that would make an entertaining feature.

Hunting Season:

This John Carpenter-esque short blends visual treatments inspired by The Fog along with his classic Body Bags Gas Station set-up. A monster on the prowl brings the attention of hunters via a gas station. When the creature makes its eventual appearance you’re left to consider who the real monsters are. Visually satisfying and paced to keep you guessing to the end.

This Little Death:

A Harold Pinter-esque short examines the infatuation between a couple who meet by chance and begin a passionate affair. Beautifully shot and lit with convincing performances given the off-beat material, while the plot was a little unclear, it held your attention.

Toe:

The urban legend of a dead body reclaiming its lost toe is given the animated treatment in this atmospheric and beautifully textured short. Production design and editing is top notch all of which makes for a visually compelling spin on this well-worn take.

Midnight:

This short brilliantly manipulates time and space to provide the viewer with a haunted house tale from three points of view making you wonder who’s real and who’s the ghost. One location is used and the short manages to maintain a visual consistency while making each time period visually different through thoughtful set design. A clever plot executed with attention to detail makes for a cinematic treat.

The Game of The Clock:

A visiting woman discovers her friend’s apartment empty when she arrives for movie night and must work through several messages to overcome a seeming monstrous presence. This short was a great example of a how lean idea coupled with a strong thread of “what will happen next” is enough to make a sharp and pointed short. The turn at the end was extra creepy.

Sleep Tight:

We’ve all had a conversation where we debate old school versus new school horror films. In this short, father and son square off before bedtime. Later, the son has to square his night terrors with the possibility of a real threat. Directed with the vim of Edgar Wright this short was a fun way to round-off a selection of truly great shorts.

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Arrow FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase 2 Reviews & Videos

Service:
Self-checkouts, the bane of modern supermarket shopping, is the central villain in this quirky short. An angry customer falls prey as a Wicker-Man-style sacrifice to the alter of a sentient checkout with supporting supermarket staff as devoted acolytes. A few quirky one-liners from the checkout made the audience laugh. But its tonal shift from dark comedy to otherworldly horror towards the end, while creepy, felt inconsistent.

One in Two People:
Several friends are called to the aid of a woman who claims she’s trapped a monster in her bedroom. A nice tracking shot opens the piece and there’s some liberal use of canted angles to keep the viewer off balance. One in Two People opens with the friends already arrived and tensions high. Opening a short in such a way means the viewer is out of sync emotionally with the plot. The interplay between the ensemble cast continues at a high pace with their relationship to the woman never clearly unpacked. The conclusion once the bedroom door is opened is creepy, but doesn’t pay off the time the cast have spent arguing about opening the door.

Old Beginnings:
A couple find a seeming cure for their rocky relationship when they decide to invoke a Japanese ritual to start on a clean slate, but with unexpected results. From the start, the couple’s relationship never felt believable, mainly because the stakes are never laid out: just why would the boyfriend go through a bizarre and convoluted ritual? Why was it so important to the girlfriend that they did? Coupled with some on the nose dialogue where a menacing character at the end has to say he is, in fact, a menacing character, this short didn’t really mine the depth of its premise.

Tomorrow Might Be the Day:
A father tries to prepare his daughter for a forecast flood but with unintended consequences. The opening sequence of the story makes for some great cinema and proves that drama can be in the small and everyday: a child hesitates to jump into a swimming pool while her father watches hopefully. The next scene with the father comforting her failure sets up some emotional depth. This could have been a short about a parent’s need to protect and prepare children for the outside world and a child’s trust in adults to be their guardians. Opening strong and concluding with a terrifying end this short was let down by a frayed middle. Instead of exploring a growing gap between the father’s increasing need to protect  his daughter and the daughter’s doubts over her father, the conclusion felt inevitable and forced.

Five Course Meal:
Exploring relationships through the theme of feeders made this super gross short stand out. A couple are selected to spend time in a weird room only to have succession of food passed through to them. As the food increases, so do their appetites, until they are trained to eat anything to stave off their hunger. Some really good visual effects made this sick little short stand out.

Under the Parasol:
Sunbathing at night is used as a quirky jumping off point to explore the eccentricities individuals still have while still in relationship and the extent to which partners try and service the other’s needs. Deftly acted with a believable relationship, Under the Parasol was one of the few shorts that I would have like to have seen run a bit longer.

Makr:
This was my favourite film of Day 2’s Short Film Showcase. Hailing from the United Arab Emirates, Makr achieves a lot with its central premise, what if an exorcist was a con man? The subtle performances in this were great and really built up the tension scene to scene. When the exorcist visits a husband’s house whose wife is possessed, there’s a great scene where the husband fumbles serving the tea only to remark, “I’m sorry, it’s usually my wife that does this.” Revealing and exploring both character, culture and religion at the same time, this short skilfully evolves into a thriller and back into a horror, keeping the viewer guessing until the film’s grand reveal.

Patron:
Patron was a superb offbeat exploration on the nature of interviews and sexist trials women can be subject to with strong compelling performances. Set in one room between three people, the exchanges as part of a job interview make for great entertainment as each person tries to verbally wrestle with the other. The exploration of ambition, the lengths people will go to get a job only to come to resemble the thing they hate, make this a well-observed and well-directed short.

The Obliteration of the Chickens:
Laugh out loud nihilistic narration plays out against a series of advertising imagery to hilarious effect. The knowing self-consciousness of this short saw many laughs from the audience and despite its dreary outlook actually managed to lift the audiences’ spirits.

Torching the Dusties:
Think: The Purge Meets Cocoon. Members of a retirement home come to be seen as the enemy by popular culture and in an act of revolt the elderly must flee. This was an interesting idea about the growing gap between the have and the have nots and the extent to which blame can be placed on the older generation for the situations the young face today. Unfortunately, none of this depth is mined in this short which suffers from a lack of any real tension or stakes.

posted by admin at 6:58 am  

Arrow FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase 1 Reviews & Videos

Wither:
A child is singled out from a class at school to suffer a terrible fate on her walk home. Wither was the shortest short in today’s selection but managed to make its mark in a couple of areas. The child lead managed to communicate a range of emotions without relying on dialogue, using convincing reactions instead. The direction upheld a consistency between internal and external locations, using the latter to punctuate a key moment with a wide shot. The editing also created effective suspense in the film’s final sequence. Wither achieved an unsettling mood in a short space of time, which is a credit to the filmmakers, however the tone of the make-up design used in the film’s closing shots pulled me out of what would have been an even more shocking conclusion.

Hana:
Hana uses the “babysitter with weird child” sub-genre to deliver an urban ghost story that implicates the imbalance between work and life. Shot in one location, a stylish yet clinical apartment, which itself provides a big clue to unwrapping the central plot, Hana holds your attention long enough to deliver some subtle but powerful gut punches. Varied shots, coupled with a less-is-more approach to shock reveals, makes Hana’s payoff stay with you long after the film has finished.

Marianne:
Marianne was a seeming deconstruction of the haunted house tale using evocative images from the genre along with nervous narration. This was very much an analogue story; typewriters, lanterns crackling recordings and tracking shots of a long-abandoned house are intercut with a woman’s journey through a forest. Experimental films can be hard to decode but Marianne managed to create old-school textures more effectively than any expensive production design and made for memorable viewing.

The Hitchhiker:
My personal favourite, and indeed, an all-around audience favourite of today’s selection. Think: Near Dark meets What We Do in the Shadows. A group of women pick up a hitchhiker who’s more than she seems. The dialogue and performances hit their mark with comedy timing and, even though it was a short, there were several memorable lines that were laugh out loud funny. The Hitchhiker contained the seed of a much bigger layered story. If it’s ever realised as a feature, and I hope it is, we’re looking at a high-end comedy-drama horror.

The Dead Ones:
The Dead Ones was the most polished short in today’s line up. Subtle performances coupled with apt direction and nuanced production design made you sit up and take notice. The Dead Ones successfully blended film noir thriller tropes with your classic ghost story. It uses the aspect of guilt apparent in both genres to successfully build a credible story on a clever central idea. The film’s action climax on a London roof could have benefited from some faster cuts to pick up the pace and increase the sense of threat, however this was a minor point given its other fine qualities. The twist at the end is one I genuinely didn’t see coming and makes sense. Indeed, the finale makes you think about exactly what genre of film you think you’ve been watching. Clever stuff.

Abyssus:
A buried alive tale with an interesting twist. Films like the Vanishing and Ryan Reynolds’ Buried have used the buried alive trope that you’d think there was nothing more to unearth (sorry). Abyssus finds a way, though. It innovatively uses sound design to take the concept to another direction and provides the build-up to a terrifying conclusion. Shorts like this really re-enforce the fact that imagination trumps budget when it comes to creating effects which land.

Glitter’s Wild Women:
Glitter’s Wild Women tells the tale of two women living together who ostracised by their bizzare behaviour but who decided to reach out to the neighbouring townsfolk by organising a film festival. This makes for some droll, Richard Linklater-esque humour, which were laugh out loud funny. The contrast between their desire to interact with the outside world and their bizarre behaviour should strike a chord with any long-time horror fan.

The Video Commercial:
A VHS tape monster interrupts the filming of a local video store in this tribute to physical media. The monster design in this looked compelling and was well-crafted and one physical horror effect was particularly well done. The central performance by the proprietor was funny and infectious enough to hold your attention through this short.

The Cunning Man:
An old man living on a farm becomes the target of a swindle and decides to use black magic to combat bureaucracy-backed theft. The Cunning Man was well directed and the choice of actor for the lead role and the textures on his face held your attention for the time he was on-screen. The subtle implication of black magic and its effects are shown at scale: insects to animals are gradually resurrected in an effective visual sequence. My only criticism was that the swindlers never got a satisfying comeuppance which would have made for a satisfying end.

The History of Nipples:
An attention-grabbing title if ever there was one. The History of Nipples uses body horror to highlight modern anxieties of physical inadequacy, but with a male rather than female character. The film delivers its equal share of squeals and laughs. The film’s closing action sequence pays off its most horrific scene with a series of laughs as its lead character races to the hospital where he indirectly rescues his loveless relationship. A film with a sweet message, laughs and shrieks – a textbook short.

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London Horror Comic Launch @ Art In The Park Leam 2019

Pictures of all the fine folk that picked up London Horror Comic and Dregs at Art in the park Leamington Spa 2019.

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