OCTOBER 13, 2007
In addition to the twenty or so features that Screamfest is showing this week, they also presented a block of shorts from around the world. I don’t really agree with this practice; I like it more when a short is shown before a feature. Not only does it give the filmmakers a potentially larger audience, but it also prevents folks from walking out before your movie starts. Since the directors for each short were in attendance, many of them with family/friends, you notice that after a short, those people would sometimes leave. By the time the last short screened, what was a full audience was down to like half. That’s pretty rude if you ask me, but also not entirely fair to the filmmakers whose films show near the end, as they are showing their film to an audience who had just been bombarded with 7 or 8 other stores.
Naturally, not all of them were anything worth writing a blog about, but I would like to talk about a few that really grabbed my attention.
One was called Stem, and it was a really nasty, darkly hilarious piece about a guy who discovered a new way of healing himself via stem cells. Think Christopher Reeve in that one South Park episode, and you’d be on the right track. There’s a nurse character in the film that is possibly the most cold-blooded woman in cinema history (the guy’s almost completely paralyzed, and as he longingly stares at a photo of him with his girlfriend, the nurse says “When they stop visiting it means they’ve moved on to someone else.” - Christ!). A great little piece.
Another, called Dara, was good, but the director seemingly forgot that he was making a “short” film. It went on about 5 minutes longer than necessary, after the joke/point was made, the film was just sort of treading water. But otherwise it was also darkly funny, with a lot of blood spilled in 15 minutes, which is always a plus.
Then there was The Election, which had the great casting of Ray Wise and Lin Shaye. Wise was rather subdued, but Shaye made up for it (since she was also an ace for many of the shorts on Fox’s On The Lot, this might be her calling as an actress). This was also one of the more visually interesting pieces of the bunch, as the director and DP found some really nice compositions in the middle of a junkyard (no easy task). Could have used a bit more of a zing at the end, but otherwise a solid piece. And one scene was shot near me! Valley power!
Eli was possibly the best LOOKING film of the night, with that cold bluish filter applied over almost the entire film, but unfortunately the script (and the music) was pretty much lifted wholesale from Michael Bay’s The Island (why rip off the one Bay film that didn’t make a shitload of money?) and other sci-fi/action movies. However, it did star that swordsman guy from Heroes and had a cameo by that ridiculously cute woman from Flight of the Living Dead. This one looked like it had the biggest budget of the lot too, it’s just a shame it was all somewhat wasted on a generic script.
And the last, and longest of the notables was In The Wall, another nasty one (I love how mean-spirited so many of these shorts were! Hurrah for assholes!), confined to a single apartment. It clocked in at 30 minutes (though felt shorter than some of the others) and was paced perfectly. The lead may be the least sympathetic character in horror movie history, but he gets his due, as does just about everyone else. I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say there were some great (and fairly shocking) kills packed into the piece, and an applause worthy ending. Also: MUTANT BABY PUPPET. Fuck yes.
No offense to the other filmmakers, but those were the only ones that were really memorable to me. Also, many of the films suffered from truly terrible compression/projection. I don’t understand how folks can submit a film to a festival and not make sure it’s formatted and presented in the best possible way. Many shorts are simply calling cards to get feature work – you’d think they would make sure their film looked as pristine as possible in order to catch someone’s eye. There was one film where I couldn’t even make the facial features of the main character out, because it was compressed for like Youtube or something and then blown up on a theater screen. Christ.
What say you?