One of the highlights of Screamfest for me, are the short film blocks. Sadly, I had missed the first block because I was almost dying on a Southwest flight back from Northern California. I could be exaggerating here but I will not admit to it. Luckily, I was able to catch the second block of short films featured this year on Friday evening and I must say, the majority of them were pretty damn good!
Synopsis: “A young man wakes up in a bathtub full of ice only to discover his problems have just begun. You’ve heard the urban legend…this is worse.”
Written and Directed By – Jimmy Weber
Cast – Luke Sorge
Thoughts – INCUBATOR is a great short film to open the Shorts Block with. Just giving the viewer enough details to go with, this film is less than 10 minutes long and really does a great job of creating the mood and disgusting the audience in just the right way.
Synopsis: The remote countryside, a picturesque home hides a terrible secret. A mother dead on the kitchen floor, a Father with blood on his hands, not all is what it seems! Father must come to terms with the past to deal with the present as he journeys in to the forbidden Forrest for one last HUNT!
Thoughts – While beautifully shot and well acted, ELLA made no sense to me. The pieces were there but they didn’t seem to connect in a coherent manner. By the time we got to the big end reveal, I was thoroughly confused.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
Synopsis: In a barren wasteland lies a circus tent. Inside, a ringmaster forces a mermaid to perform for a group of spectators. The mermaid, a lovesick, caged animal prays for release from her torture. Unwilling to surrender his meal ticket, the ringmaster rejects her pleas for compassion. With nowhere to escape to, the mermaid must make the choice between holding on to the hope of freedom and putting an end to her abuse.
Thoughts – THE LITTLE MERMAID was one of my favorite shorts from the evening. I suppose I’m not the only one to think so since it ultimately won the Screamfest Award for Best Short. For the length of the film and budget constraints, the set design, the makeup, and overall story really stood out from the rest of the shorts featured.
ALL MEN ARE CALLED ROBERT
Synopsis: A naked man, his body covered with bruises, is running in the woods. He stops suddenly : who is this mysterious woman calling for help? And who are those men who are trying to shoot him ?
Written and Directed By – Marc-Henri Boulier
Cast – Gwenaël Pzrydatek, Jean-François Picotin, Thomas Baelde, Alexis Samailovitch, Benedicte Alloing, Clotilde Monteyne, Daniel Dhollande, and Elizabeth Tissot-Guerraz
Thoughts – I must give it up to the multiple actors in this one who literally had the balls to run around a forest butt ass naked. And yes, we get a fair share of full frontal male nudity. I wasn’t quite sure about ALL MEN ARE CALLED ROBERT until the twist at the end. That hilarious twist made it worth watching.
Synopsis: In the near future, humanity has disappeared, leaving behind a large megalopolis devoid of natural life. From the destruction awakes ROSA, a robot part of the KERNEL project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem using recovered samples of long-extinct plant species. Wandering among the ruins of the lifeless city, Rosa will soon discover that she is not the only part of Kernel that has awakened.
Thoughts – While being a beautifully animated short, I found I wasn’t the only one a bit confused by the overall story of ROSA. It reminded me a bit of THE ANIMATRIX and 9 (the short). If it weren’t for that synopsis above, I’d still be unsure what this one was about but it was damn cool to watch.
Synopsis: Aurora´s husband has ordered her to be killed for bringing a deformed and dead first child into the world. But the people in charge of killing her haven´t done it right, she manages to survive and finds an old man that helps her recover. Aurora decides to come back and use the revenge as an act of redemption, to be able to continue her life in absolute peace.
Thoughts – Y VOLVERE, to me, was inspired by KILL BILL. The short seemed to be the longest of the program block. This one wasn’t one of my favorites but it definitely wasn’t the worst of the bunch either. The writing wasn’t as strong as some of the others featured in the evening but the production style seemed to outweigh that for me. Mostly enjoyable, I wouldn’t have been disappointed if the last scene was edited down a bit.
Synopsis: Hunted down and out of ammunition, Private Wilson suffers strange interferences.
Thoughts – There’s much about HIDDEN SOLDIER I liked. The production value was pretty nice. The action sequences kept my interest. Yet, the closing scene revealing the reality behind the whole short kinda pissed me off. I appreciate the twist and what the writers and director were trying to go for. But tying violent behavior with video game playing is a bit of a sore subject for me. Might as well follow this up with how heavy metal and rap music caused the Columbine Massacre as well. If I try to remain unbiased, I’ll say this one was decent….so I’ll just say this one was decent.
Synopsis: “Shelly can’t escape the monster pursuing her, but when she fights back the real horror begins. It’s Spreading!” INFECTED stars Alexis Peters (HATCHET II) alongside Brian Collins (BLOODY DISGUSTING) as the monster with appearances by Adam Green, David Foy and A.J. Bowen. Will Barratt is the director of photography and Bear McCreary (THE WALKING DEAD) contributed the score. Robert Pendergraft and Aunt Dolly’s Garage handled the creature F/X. Written & Directed by Jason R. Miller.
Thoughts – I like short and sweet when it comes to the short film format. With INFECTED, it seems like Jason Miller delivered the simple goods I required. In the short time span of the film, INFECTED created an urgent environment filled with violent dread and confusion. I really liked this one.
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
Synopsis: Spawning from the hit comic THE DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE, this short horror-adventure romp features the title’s two main characters Basil & Moebius. Basil (Ray Park) is a street tough brawler while Moebius (Zachary Levi) plays a dashing cat burglar playboy. The partners-in-crime, who work for the mysterious and supernatural Collector, pull a daring heist during an illegal gambling party thrown by an underworld kingpin (Malcolm McDowell).
Thoughts – NO REST FOR THE WICKED was a nice choice to close out the Shorts Block for the night. While I am unfamiliar with the comic book this short is based on, the quirky story and action was enough to keep my interest. Not to mention, the stars Ray Park and Zachary Levi have enough charisma to keep anyone interested. This horror/action/comedy was one of my favorites for the evening and I can’t wait for the next short THE DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE. Hell, maybe I should go find this comic book to see what all the fuss is about!
To sum up, this being my second year at Screamfest, I found this year’s short films to be a cut above the ones featured last year. Even though I wasn’t a fan of all the shorts featured in Shorts Block #2, I will say I was rather impressed with the above average production value of all those which were shown on Friday night. If this is the direction horror shorts are going, I can’t wait to see what Screamfest has in store for us next year! – Aaron Pruner