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  

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