Monday, March 21, 2016

Reviews: Short Films, March 2016

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet
Reviews are in alphabetical order, not by ranking

Attic Panic
Written and directed by David Sandberg
3:00 minutes, 2015
The people who brought you the incredibly creepy short, “Lights Out,” are back with a new quickie piece with a similar theme that is well written by Sandberg, and acted by Lotta Losten, who also starred in that film as well. A woman is locked in what looks more like a storage basement than attic, with little wire cages sealed by a gym lock. Something is moving around and as it creeps along, the light bulbs start twisting off by themselves. It’s creepy, short, and well shot. And effective. Little time, and lots of tension. I really like these guys. Interestingly, there is a “Making Of” available on YouTube that’s about twice as long as the film itself, but I didn’t watch it.

Computer Hearts (Vanessa2 Cut)
Written and directed by Turner Stewart
Hentai Cop Films
25:14 minutes, 2014
There is a maxim that states that the introduction of a new technology does not change any one thing, it changes everything, and that all technologies are a “Faustian Bargain”: to accept the good, you must also take in the negative. There is also a discussion going among New Technology scholars on whether it is accurate to compare internet usage such as on iPhones,  and laptops, to addiction. This aspect is explored in this surprisingly gruesome film.  Albert, a chubby telecommuter (played by the director, Turner Stewart), is living with his fiancée, Vanessa (Alix Miller).  But under his user name, Sgtecchi (ecchi, is Japanese hentai slang for “dirty” or “sexy,” FYI), he is not only uncontrollably drawn to a particular animated porn site, but with a particular character, also named Vanessa2 (Dionne Copland), to the point of obsession. He’s missed work and ignored Vanessa, nicely presented as having Miller talk, with no audible voice, as Albert stares past her at his computer. As a two-day period veers on, things take a sinister turn that will effect (and affect) everyone in this three-identity piece. There is bound to be some comparisons to both Her (2013) and Videodrome (1983), and rightfully so, but that’s okay because it goes to some nice and moist extremes. Some of the SFX indicate the low budget, but others are incredible considering the mico-budget. An particularly well-developed and intriguing film, I just want to add it’s worth the view, and also, “All hail the new flesh!” Oh, and although I’ve included it, the trailer below doesn’t really tell you much (okay, anything), but don’t let that fool you, it’s truly impressive.

KNK Acting Institute
Written, directed (etc.) by Bahaish Kapoor
7:21 minutes, 2014
A really nicely done short from India (in English) that seems to rely on the Japanese trope of the possible haunting by a dead child (Vipassana Kapoor). A doctor (Monica Gill) thinks she’s hallucinating, and trying to call a colleague in the middle of the night seeking help, but the apparition keeps turning up. There is a hint of why this is happening, but not much detail. It’s hair-raising and also employs the common Japanese device of the moving elevator. Even though these elements are oft used, it’s effective here.  

Night of the Slasher
Written and directed by Shant Hamassian
We Make Movies
11:16 minutes, 2015
Much like Scream (1996) – and I’m going to guess that I’m not the only one who is going to make the comparison – this film plays with the topes of the slasher film. Beautiful Jenelle (Lily Berlina) is acting strange, by drinkin’, dancin’, sexin’ with The Bait (as Scott Javore’s character is credited), and checking off the list of slasher film clichés, trying to draw out a masked serial killer (Adam Lesar). But not just jump scary, this also plays with the genre, such as The Bait mentioning that the schoolmates keep saying he looks like he’s 30 (i.e., actors playing teenagers being older than their characters), and that the Killer is wearing not a white Shatner mask, ala Halloween, but rather a Leonard Nimoy one. It’s both spooky and hysterical, especially if you get the references, and I’m only touching on them. Enjoyable and intelligent from the first frame to the last.

Opus Dei
Written and directed by George Najdzien
Terror Vision Pictures
8:23 minutes, 2015
In the lush countryside of West Sussex, along the southern edge of the U.K., we meet a Priest (Tom Driver) and a cop (Tim Cullingsworth-Hudson). I won’t go into details as this is short and sweet so I wouldn’t want to give the twist(s) away, as this would certainly be more thriller than horror (though the definition of “Opus Dei” scares the crap outta me more than most fictional tales). What I will say is that in its brevity, the actors, especially Driver, are effective in this account that has a bit of a Miller’s Crossing (1990) vibe, but is more present day than flashback. Najdzien, in his first film, effectively presents the viewer with a premise and then sucker-punchers you. Honestly, I figured out the twist before the big reveal, but that didn’t stop it from working. I was impressed by Najdzien’s camerawork, especially one scene where you see the front of a car at an angle, and the trunk close in the windshield reflection, rather than the actual action. Nicely done. I certainly look forward to more work from him.

Written and directed by Cameron McCasland
Red Headed Revolution
14:20 minutes, 2015
Perhaps I’m from too far up in Yankee country (Mason-Dixon wise, not the Bronx Bombers), but I’ve never heard of this Appalachian=based American Folk Horror Tale of an English speaking big cat that comes after people in desolate areas who have taken his tail. What the beastie says, over and over, is “Taily-po, taily-po, give me back my taily-po” (it’s pronounced “-poh,” and in “po’ boy”). Hunting for food in a desolate area free of game (I think there is a hint that the cat is the reason) is a backwoods man, Levon (David Chattam), who shares his cabin and life with his beloved dog, Jasper (Ranger). Taking a shot at some apparent food, all he gets is the tail (enough to make some soup). Well, you know who’s gonna come a-callin’ lookin’ fer it back. Without giving too much away I hope, the creature is a bit reminiscent of the Michael Jackson Thriller werecat, made by puppetmaster Dustin Mills, who knows about these things.  It is man (and dog) against creature, but I won’t say who wins. The fall (spring?) brown-leafed woods of Kentucky fills in beautifully under McCasland’s direction in a story that’s loyal to the folktale, and shot to give a bit of a claustrophobic field, even in the out of doors.  You can see the whole film below:

Directed by Mike Diva (aka Michael Dahlquist) and Sam Shapson
Legendary Pictures
7:41 minutes, 2014
Nick Gregorio is stuck in a room for a reason we are not privy to for a while, locked by a bunch of chains and combination locks. He works on the numbers methodically and takes them off one by one until all but one is left. Time, however, is running out, as demonic creatures are ever moving forward. It takes a while for this to take off, but once it gets going, it does not let up. With CGI backgrounds and creatures, great and small, we get to see and feel his terror. The thingies looked a bit familiar, and then I realized some of the work was done by ScreamerClauz, who did the effects for (and directed) Where the Dead Go to Die (2012). Some imagery is also reminiscent of both The Mist (2007) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), but by no means is the story weighed down by it.

Trouser Snake
Written and directed by Alex DiVincenzo
Grimbridge Productions
4:50 minutes, 2016
While being, quite frankly, nonsensical, every moment of this film is enjoyable. And that’s with an estimated $100 budget! The setting is a world that is kind of a mix of mid-1950s “Gee Whiz” dialogue and visuals, and present day bone-jumping horndogs. Perhaps this is a spoof of a “Sex Warning” scare film, though it’s in full and clear color. It shoots back and forth between the narrative of poor Thomas (Alexander Gauthier), a [supposed] teen who is having a bit of trouble you-know-where (read the title, that’s all I’m gonna say). His doctor (Michael Thurber in a facially expressive turn) doesn’t know what to make of the – er – situation, and Thomas’s girlfriend Lucy (Jamie Lyn Bagley, who as I’ve said before, has a wondrous sense of both comic timing and expression; she should be hired on a sit-com) is in the car and ready to take it to the next step…aggressively. There is no explanation for the events (hey, it is under 5 minutes), but who cares. I’m assuming it’s both a satire of a cautionary tale. Screw it; I just know I smiled through the whole thing.

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