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.

posted by admin at 4:30 pm  

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.

posted by admin at 5:20 pm  

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.

posted by admin at 9:31 pm