Arrow FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase 2 Reviews & Videos

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.

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 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.

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