Arrow FrightFest 2018 – Short Film Showcase 2 Reviews

The second day of FrightFest’s Short Film Showcase curated by Dr Shelagh Rowan-Legg was just as strong as the first set (link to Showcase 1 reviews here).

Ideas and execution once again worked in tandem for all the shorts.

Visually, they all looked better than some of the films I’ve seen on the main screen, which is testimony to just what you can to with very little.

Given that over 500 entries were submitted, there’s definitely a case for these shorts having a festival of their own, with maybe the winners short-listed for showing at FrightFest. It’s something I’d pay money for at least.

Anyway, onwards with my mini-reviews in the spirit of the shorts:

Catcalls: A modern take on Cat People played out against the backdrop of catcalling. The mise en scene at the start has shades of Taxi Driver and gently lulls the viewer in to what you might think is a straightforward slasher. Things take a surprising turn when the driver returns home and the pacing, editing and effects deliver the thrills.

Madder Isle: A stop motion animation was our next port of a call. Right from the start the director sets the tone of this world through some beautiful choices of colour, texture and score. As an aside, I find if an animated work is too polished, it actually prevents me from investing myself in it. One of the themes of this work was the relationship between people and the earth and I felt the production design supported this theme well, so much so that I found that my eyes feasted on the detail while my brain tried to keep up with the plot. It would be a pleasure to re-watch this a couple of times to take in all the information.

Wrong Number: The pacing that introduced Wrong Number was strong and the performance of the lead actress pulled you through. I think though that most people could see the ending coming and so that lessened the tension somewhat.

There Are No Dividends:  This one delivered its fair share of laughs to the crowd. A combination of Dragon’s Den, David Brent and the perils of trying to emulate a discount Lawnmower Man scenario. It was great to see a piece leading on the performance and chemistry of the actors. The central concept behind the story frayed in the middle, and this pulled me out of it slightly, but overall you were left with a positive balance of laughs, which is no mean feat.

Be Uncertain:  A time-loop cause-effect themed thriller in the style of John Carpenter was next up. Films which progress along one narrative and then re-reference earlier points later in the film through a different point of view have to be built on some fairly strong logic. The notion being that seeing things happen from a different point of view provides you with overall more information about the story. While this short was well shot, I didn’t completely get what fate the central character had brought about, why or how.

The Blue Door:  This was fucking brilliant and my favourite of all the shorts. A care worker attends to an elderly lady in care when strange things begin happening around the house. This was such a well-crafted piece: well-shot, well-paced, a story told in pictures and not words, genuine tension and a terrifying finale I genuinely didn’t see coming but which made sense. Kudos also has to go to the film makers of making the most of a simple single idea and sticking to it.

Marta: Proof that a love of genre films and geek talk translates into any language, Marta sets up a comedic ping-pong between a killer and her victim as they both negotiate the fine line between fantasy and reality. Laughs a plenty in this dark little comedy.

Reprisal: A film from Lebanon explores the terrors of living in hope as a woman waits for news of her partner who has disappeared. The actress had a lot to carry through her physical performance throughout the piece as there was very little dialogue. A film with a strong message.

Salt:  The shortest of the shorts starring Alice Lowe looked like the best scene from a million-dollar monster movie I’d go see. Incredible physical performance and kinetic filmmaking along with some great creature effects would make this something I’d like to see in a longer form. A great proof of concept.

Fire in Cardboard City: The title is literally the plot in this short punchy animated adventure which oddly resonated with me giving the world and current events. Superbly executed with some great in-world gags.

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