Festival shorts programs are challenging endeavors, but they can also be very rewarding. Most filmmakers cut their teeth directing shorts before making the transition into feature film work. Although most shorts in and of themselves don’t ever get wide distribution or make lots of money the skill sets that go into making shorts are crucial for other lucrative filmmaking ventures such as: Music Videos and Commercial work.
The best thing about attending shorts programming in film festivals is that you get to witness undiluted creative efforts from new uncorrupted and unrefined talent.
This can be for better or for worse. Additionally multiple formats and the necessity to change quickly can cause projection problems. And Screamfest 08’s Shorts #1 program was no different. The following reviews contain spoilers.
This program featured 8 unique short films.
A Break in the Monotony
By: Damien Shaw
A strange hybrid of CGI, pencil sketches, rotoscoping, and what looked like “poser” work. The film ponders what would happen after one a zombie apocalypse. The idea is neat, and there are some clever moments, but the monotonous and repetitive voiceover work drags the project down. This is definitely one that could stand to be trimmed and refined. But there is a good film in here somewhere. C+
By: Holger B. Frick
A hodge podge of horror film clichés decend upon a lone girl in the form of a methodical but hopelessly slow serial killer. The murky night shots and grainy stock almost made the film feel like Super 8. But the charm wears off quickly especially when the action is hard to follow. The reveal, that all horror victims are actually under surveillance ala –“The Truman Show” at the end is cute but not strong enough to make an effective payoff. C-
By: Eric Weigel and Salvatore Interlandi
In 17th century New England a Hansel & Gretle’esque setup depicts two children sneaking into a creepy house, only to discover that wicked witches do exist. I had seen clips of this film before the screening and was really looking forward to it. However I think the weak projection quality hurt this film a great deal. The photography is beautiful but became an artifacted digital mess in the theater we screened in. I wanted to like this film more than I did. I think some editing and better projection will do this film wonders. The climax at the end with the young boy being beheaded is completely unexpected and beautifully done. Rumor has it that the filmmakers have been picked up to expand this idea into feature length. If so I eagerly look forward to what they can do with bigger budget and more resources. B-
By: Kurtis Spieler
A seemingly immortal man sits alone in a room playing a desperate game of “spin the bottle”. On his single card table he has laid out a number of different fire arms. Hilarity ensues. I think more than any other film today, this one succeeded best at playing single its gag out to its logical conclusion with the least amount of lag. Silly. Kinda pointless. But hysterical. B+
By: Paul Campion
The highlight of the program. A definite crowd pleaser. A mutant half woman half eel is imprisoned and monitored in a heavily guarded military bunker. After seducing a hapless scientist she swallows him whole before crawling into a murky muddy bath tub to digest her meal. The final image is of the scientist futilely struggling from within her grotesquely distended belly. This film clearly had a significant budget and was helped along by creature effects from WETA. Official Site: http://www.eelgirl.net/
Definitely worth Checking out! A-
By: Jason Yim
Maki a shy and lonely Japanese girl takes out her frustration on her classmates with some Voodoo Origami. The film has a clever premise and some good effects, but feels overlong. The good parts feel reminiscent of Miike’s “Audition”. It will be interesting to see what these filmmakers do next. B-
By: Micah Ranum
A fun, if predictable tale about a married vampire couple trying very hard to reform, and also keep their marriage alive. Their Romance is renewed when a group of thieves try to break into their house. The best moments come from actor Rob Pralgo’s not scared, or angry but exasperated reaction upon discovering the thieves in his home. The final line of the film, a clever use of the slang phrase, “Bite Me” got applause from the audience. B+
The festival program has incorrect info on this piece, a strange stop motion/claymation piece about a strange girl living in a shack in at the edge of the ocean. She delights in torturing her mother(?), Newborn brother(?) and eyeless Grandmother(?), as well as ripping the tongue out of neighbor kids and playing the violin soulfully. The style is somewhere between Burton’s “Corpse Bride” and Fincher’s “Seven”. But I think the projection problems hurt his film a great deal as much of the time the image was too muddy and murky to fully understand what was going on onscreen. The dialogless story also felt a bit disjointed and clunky. C+
By: Christian Filipella
A short from Italy, shown on a fresh 35mm print (all of the other shorts were on digital projection) looks gorgeous. Two brothers take a group of girls to their old family home on a volcanic Island for a weekend getaway. But family tensions and an unsolved murder mystery slowly drive the group insane. Although the performances are fine, the dialogue is clunky and the relationships between the characters are unclear (though this may have been due the subtitle work and not the native script). About midway through the stylistic flourishes and the poor dialog make the film a bit tedious. Still nice work. B
Overall, not the strongest shorts collection, but filled with gems nonetheless, and I am glad to have been able to see it. None the less, a program filled with budding talent and and a cornucopia of wildly different and vivid visions. I bummed that I missed the second screening of this collection.
ENI will continue to cover Screamfest screenings with reviews and interviews in the coming week!