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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

WIHFF 2017: Short Film Highlights

This past weekend, the first Women in Horror Film Festival was held. It was a fantastic festival with loads of wonderful films that showcased the talents of some incredible women directors, writers, actors, editors, composers, and more. I got a chance to attend all the screenings, so here are my thoughts on all the short films of the festival! Be sure to check out my reviews of the feature films as well!

dir. by Emma Bell

This short film tells the tragic tale of a woman plagued by a scratching sound that seems to come from a narrow gash in her bedroom wall. The authentic 50’s look and feel of Scratch is definitely its strongest feature, and the performance by it’s lead actress Bel Deliá and music augment this greatly. It’s a tight and unique short film that’s worth checking out!

Girl #2
dir. by David Jeffery
I got to see this short at last year’s Buried Alive Film Festival, and it’s still one of my favorite horror-comedy shorts in recent memory. It starts as a sorority house slasher, but takes a comedic turn when one girl assumes she will be killed first because she’s prettier than the other girl. The results are genuine and hilarious and make Girl #2 one of the most clever shorts to hit the scene.

Blood Sisters 
dir. by Caitlin Koller & Lachlan Smith
This Australian short film begins with two college age girls chanting, “sister to sister, blood to blood,” but when one cuts the others hand to complete the ritual, she whines that she cut it too deep. As the girls go on with their girl’s night, watching “Sarah Michelle get killed” in a Buffy marathon, they begin to notice that their hand wounds are a little more serious than they thought. The performances by Emma Gladwell and Hannah Vanderheide as they argue about how to save themselves–and still save their girl’s night–are what really sell the film and make the simple concept an exceptionally funny and entertaining one. 

Blood Shed
dir. by Jams Moran
This comic book and Creepshow inspired short sees a suburban couple struggle with the fact that the husband’s beloved tool shed is some sort of bloodthirsty monster. It’s an extremely funny film–I keep remembering the scene in which the wife reads out the Newspaper article that explains where her oblivious husband purchased the wood for the shed: “Warning! Warning! All items come from notorious serial killers’ belongings!” The silly concept is made all the funnier by the fantastic performances and chemistry between Shaun Dooley and Sally Phillips.

dir. by Chelsea Robinson

It’s a tale as old as time: girl invites boy over on Halloween while her parents are away, girl seduces boy, boy is attacked by killer doll. Smile has a great classic horror vibe, from the lighting and cinematography to the music. It’s a fun concept that has an understated backstory as details begin to come to light, and the ending is fantastic. This would be a great one to watch with some popcorn and candy on Halloween night!

Adam Peiper
dir. by Monica Mateo

This Spanish short portrays a small window of a dystopian world in which a man is forced to seal envelopes with increasing efficiency. What really stands out here is the production and sound design, both of which were stunning and far beyond what I usually see in short films. The set was incredibly detailed and futuristic, with working switches and lights, hundreds of carefully shelved envelopes, and a strange orange tubing that created a unique look to the environment. The sound, too, had an incredible amount of depth and darkness that added a lot to the stark and at times abstract story.

Alfred J. Hemlock
dir. by Edward Lyons

After a young woman is dumped and left in an alley by her less than chivalrous boyfriend due to his jealousy, she wishes she was dead. She soon finds herself dealing with Alfred J. Hemlock, a personification of suicide or death, who is ready to take her away. The film is very well crafted and is fantastically feminist, with the lead character finding the strength to defeat Hemlock as well as her emotionally abusive boyfriend in a moment that elicited cheers from the crowd.

Jules D.
dir. by Norma Vila

Through great narration, this wonderful short film chronicles the tale of Jules, a young boy who becomes obsessed with Dracula after seeing the Bela Legosi portrayal of the character. He reads the books, obsesses over vampire bats, and creates a classic Dracula getup. Jules D. is funny, endearing, and extremely well crafted. Of all the shorts I saw at the festival, this is the one I think has the best shot as a feature film, and one I’d love to see!

dir. by Aislinn Clarke

A mother with an extreme aversion to anything dirty or messy deals with her curious son who wants to play with the dirty children outside in this smart and disturbing short film. It takes a Wes Anderson sense of style in many places, and the 8-year-old child actor (Luke Walford) is incredibly charming. Childer is a very nicely done short that tackles some of the more unnerving aspects of pregnancy and motherhood.

Dead City
dir. by Myriam Destephen

A very cool concept is at the heart of this stylish short: beginning in WWI, the dead no longer leave the earthly plane. Rather, they continue about life as walking corpses with all their faculties in tact, but treated like second class citizens. The city of Los Angeles has ghettos for the dead, complete with their own bars with zombie bartenders and singers. It's got a lovely noir style, and the idea is very intriguing. While it felt more like a proof of concept than a satisfying whole, I think it would be very interesting to revisit in a longer format!

Huff and I'll Puff
dir. by Jennifer Bonior & Dycee Wildman

I didn't know that my life was missing a French New Wave style werewolf noir, but it absolutely was! A super stylish and entertaining short that lovingly recreates the look of Godard's Breathless while introducing some very interesting gender elements amid the absurd transformation.

dir. by Aidan Weaver

This extremely unnerving short uses the creeped out babysitter subgenre to seriously great effect here. Unbearing was one of the creepiest, most suspenseful shorts of the entire festival, and also explores the uncomfortable horror of the loss of a child and difficulties conceiving. This one got a big response from the audience, and I'm excited to see what this team does next!
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