Thursday, February 1, 2018

Reviews: Short Films for February 2018

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet
Poster can be made larger by clicking on them
Reviews are in alphabetical order, not by ranking

American Virus
Directed by Shane Ryan
Mad Sin Cinema
5:39 minutes, 2015
Short but effective, this transgressive film shows a group of home-grown biological terrorists who release a zombie virus, only to find it literally bites back. Co-written and starring director Ryan and Kathryn Eastwood (yes, the chair-talker’s daughter), it’s done cinéma vérité (rather than it’s ugly stepchild found footage, though there is some of that here, too), following their – err – followers and they roam around the city spreading the disease through injection into homeless people. Its second act is very bloody (as the image attached can verify), and Eastwood, who is both attractive and looks like she can take any of the women on “GLOW,” is a solid force as she mocks the audience. Terrorism isn’t just bombs, this posits, it’s so much more; as the title implies, though, is the real virus the disease or rather is it the people who release it? A really nice release that will just flow by quicker than the virus shoots through the dropper’s neck.
Trailer HERE

Directed by Shayne Ryan
Mad Sin Cinema
13:05 minutes, 2017
This film is an interesting experiment into late ‘80s style exploitation cinema with colorful pastel lettering that looks spray painted, which makes sense as it takes place in 1989. Without dialog (and with possibly the chance of a sequel which would not surprise me from the exceedingly prolific Ryan), we follow the before, during and after of a missile that brings a virus to California. We see this through the eyes of a 10 year old girl who shoots 8mm film of what she is witnessing (I wonder who will be alive to process it, but I digress…). She is strong, and trains herself in martial arts, and we get to see some of that action over electronic-ish 1980s style music that sounds like it could be from Rocky. To me, most of the impressions given feel more ‘70s than near 1990 (roller skating, arcades, big clothes, etc.), but it definitely is a beautiful portrait of some longer time gone that I’m willing to admit. It’s pretty easy to follow what the action is despite lacking dialogue, though a series of title cards for different time aspects helps. My fave part, though – and this is me being a media theorist – is the bloopers reel during the credits where Ryan shows how hard it is to shoot a period piece without the achromatic cell phone popping up everywhere. This is true; I recently went to a local (to me) Zombie Walk, and out of 100 pictures, only 15 didn’t have a cell phone it in somewhere. I also enjoyed how Ryan trips from one subgenre to another. This film feels a bit silly, but in a good way, like it was a child making it; I’m assuming that’s the point considering the age of the protagonist filmmaker. Also makes me thing of the mode of something like the Spy Kids franchise.

The Halloween Girl
Written and directed by Richard T. Wilson
Mad Shelley Films
18:52 minutes, 2015
I’m a little late on the draw with this one as I lost track of it for a while. I’m glad I had the chance to see this in its original incarnation, which I’ll explain later. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a horror film per se, but it does have a demanding ghost and a Halloween theme, some intense moments, and certainly a heart at its center. In the story, Luke (Nicholas Zoto) is a lonely kid with a sad, alcoholic mom (Christine Parker) who’s recently lost her job (because of her drinkin’?). In the playground, Luke meets and befriends the older and titular Charlotte (Catherine Kustra), whom he refers to as “The Halloween Girl” because of the colors of the clothes she’s wearing. It’s pretty obvious on some level who she is, but yet there still remain some nice surprises in store. It’s beautifully shot, with some nice angles, lighting, and moments that vary between Hallmark and Horror. It makes an enjoyable viewing. Meanwhile, as I was elsewhere, Charlotte has been spun off into the hit horror Web series, “Under the Flowers,” which is about to begin its second season. I think I may check that out, if this is the direction it’s heading.
Trailer for “Under the Flowers” HERE

Directed by Richard Powell
Fatal Pictures / Red Sneakers Media
13:58 minutes, 2015
Just because a picture takes us on a track that doesn’t conclude in that preconceived direction tends make it better rather than not. This intense tale from Ontario introduces us to a dad with a secret (Robert Nolan) and his barely teenage son (Mateo D’Avino), who travel a distance to meet up with his old college buddy (scream king Bill Oberst Jr.). They share a secret that of course I won’t share, but it’s creepy and it’s green. The first half could have been about any number of social ills plaguing the West these days, but this delves into something deeper, darker, and yes, greener. Everyone does a decent job, but it’s Oberst, who is a naturalistic actor of the highest level, that manages to keep the camera and viewer’s eye. The best way I can think of to describe his character is as follows: as someone once said to me about someone else in real life (as opposed to reel life), he’s just… not. But again, it’s also not what you might be expecting, either. This is a beautifully shot piece that feels a bit claustrophobic at times, which only adds to the chill factor. The Butcher Shop did a great job with the SFX, and there is some fine editing work here, as well. Worth seeking out.
Trailer HERE:

In Darkest Slumber
Directed by JT Seaton
Cat Scare Films
4:30 minutes, 2016

For hundreds of years, many of us grew up with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which in its pure form were often horrific (and many of which have been turned into genre films). And every once in a while, such as with the likes of Roald Dahl, there will be additions to the canon. Which brings us to this modern fairy tale of a comatose woman (the up and coming Samantha Acampora) who is dogged by a flamboyant evil spirit in modified clown – or possibly harlequin, as that is more trickster – make-up (Jonathan Grout). [As a sidebar, Acampora would make a great petite-yet-sexy Harley Quinn.]. With a flourish language written by the also quickly up-and-coming Michael Varrati, we get a great story and a moral at the end that is true to the Fairy Tale genre. The narration is by the legendary Lynn Lowry. The film has a bit of an ethereal feel to it, as the camera and editing flow a bit like a river, and nice plays with lighting. At less than five minutes, it’s quite the satisfying excursion in Girl Power!

Love Is Dead
Written and directed by Jerry Smith
Sickening Pictures / Dexahlia Productions
10:50 minutes, 2016
As the song says, “Love hurts / love scars…” We learn the truth of that from the two protagonists of the film after a prelude of Peter (porn actor Aaron Thompson) talking to his shrink (genre-regular Ruben Pla, who tends to play doctors in films like Contracted and Insidious). In flashback – and in the shower – we meet the naked and tat-covered Peter, and his equally tatted and naked wife, Mara (Joana Angel, also a porn star, though she is pushing into more mainstream genre-style films). It is obviously not a joyous moment, which leads to further unhappiness. While this is not classically a horror film, the tension is strong. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to make out what the sobbing Mara is saying, but the point is understood. This is Jerry Smith’s second film (both shorts), though is he known more for his writing about genre films¸ so it’s great that he’s actually participating now. He manages to get some decent shots in what is obviously a cramped space, and the story is short enough not to lose the viewer. Yeah, I found the sheer volume of tats a bit distracting, expecting Ray Bradbury or Rod Steiger to show up any second (not really, considering they’re both dead, but hopefully you get my point). It’s a well-made short, and worth the view, depressing as it is.

The Minions
Directed by Jeremiah Kipp
Lauren Rayner Productions
11:17 minutes, 2014
Not to be confused with the Pixar characters which are every-witch-where [sic; pun intended], the title here focuses on William (the veeeery tall Lucas Hassel), who is caught in a bind. He hears Abigail (Lauren Fox) chastising him for getting involved with two “witches’ minions,” the very drunk Katrina (Robin Rose Singer) and her friend Sarah (Cristina Dokos), who is trying to get her home safely. The film plays one of my favorite film thriller motifs of what is real and what is imagined. The film mostly takes place on a dark New York (and Brooklyn) street, with nearly all the color drained out of it, giving it a faint, wan hue to match the mood perfectly. As William becomes more besotted and entranced, events evolve suddenly and sharply. This is a lovely film that plays games with both the characters and the audience.
Film HERE:

Oni-Gokko (Tag)
Written, edited and directed by Shane Ryan
Mad Sin Cinema
8:13 minutes, 2011
Director Ryan takes on J-Horror in this languid yet skeevy story – told in Japanese – about two sisters, Miki (Eri Akita) and Aki (Mariko Miyamitsu, aka Mariko Wordell), who once played a game of tag that did not end well. How much is a ghost story and how much is a guilt story is left up to the viewer. Razors are one of my ewww points, and it’s put well to use (even if not in close-up). Despite some screechy dialogue between the siblings, the pace is slow with long shots of the birthday suited duo. Even though short, it takes some patience to take it all in. A nice, neo-arty excursion, and I’m glad Ryan took the chance.

Directed by Jeremiah Kipp
Action Media Productions
15:54 minutes, 2014
Even though this film is a few years old, it’s even timelier now when doctors are either overprescribing or removing opioids like Fentanyl due to its addictiveness, leaving some in constant pain, suffering both from withdrawals and the original pain for which the drugs were given in the first place. For this film, through flashbacks we learn about two romantically involved scientists (Thomas Mendolla and the cute Kelly Rae LeGault in an obvious wig) who genetically design a small crab-like creature that, when imbedded in the spine, lives off pain while releasing endorphins. Of course, this being a genre film, there are unforeseen consequences. In a nice touch, it’s not just the effects on the host, but those who are attracted to it. This is solid body horror, but despite its physical harshness, it’s not what I call a squishy, making it palpable, on some levels, to a more general horror audience. It’s well done; the pacing is solid with a nice build-up.

Directed by Marc Cartwright
Glass Cabin Films
0:15 minutes, 2016
Yeah, sweet and very short. And yet, for its exceedingly brief time on the screen, it actually works as a narrative. Sure, there are no deep philosophical meanderings, nor any kind of subplots and exposition, but there is a bam! If you’ve ever found a hair in your food, this may do more than just gross you out. I don’t want to give anything away because, hey, you’ll get there in a quarter of a minute anyway. Baker Chase Powell, who has a kind of Zac Efron vibe, does well in conveying emotion without words and without much time. This is a really fun watch, and even if you hate it (though I don’t know why one would), shit, it’s 15 seconds of your life. Give it a try.

1 comment:

  1. Richard, thank you for reviewing Richard Powell's HEIR here, for your kind words about it, and for all IndieHorrorFilms does for our genre.