OCTOBER 18, 2009
Today kicked off my longest day at Screamfest - 12-10pm (assuming everything runs on time, which so far it has). Ten straight hours of horror goodness! Plus the film Necromentia.
Anyway, the day kicked off with two more blocks of shorts, and as with yesterday, a few caught my attention and are worth noting despite being behind on feature reviews and an overwhelming amount of other work to do (Saw interview videos don’t edit themselves - sadly).
ELSE (French: LA FEMIS)
I quickly dubbed this “Something David Cronenberg would jerk off to”, and I would be pleased as punch if they wanted to use that for a quote. This very sexually charged movie about a wide-spread mutation plague features some truly incredible visuals and effects work, and at its core is a relatively simple, touching story about the love between a young couple. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a wall turn into a vagina. Easily the most unique short of the entire fest so far; keep an eye out for director Thibault Emin (who co-wrote with David Lucas).
This one felt like a possibly compressed full length film, but the quick pacing pays off - the movie hardly lets you breathe despite a fairly twisty plot (for a short film). It starts off with a terrific slasher sequence, then barrels through the killer’s trial, and ends in a confrontation between the killer and a reporter attempting to get him to talk. Great visuals, above-average use of flashbacks, and a touching backstory combine into one of the more cinematic (this is definitely one of the ones that made me feel like I was watching a feature film) entries thus far. And I say all of this without knowing what "clemency" means! (I looked it up later.)
The story has been told before (kid can draw monsters into reality, uses it to get back at those who hurt him, including his father - see Twilight Zone, Tales From The Hood, etc), but it’s quite entertaining all the same, due to terrific performances (Tim “Padre” Guinee and the Linda Fiorentino-esque Jennifer Christopher chief among them) and a strong visual eye courtesy of director Meredith Berg, who was the only female director of all the shorts, to the best of my knowledge. And as anyone who’s ever watched Repo with me knows, anything with a stuffed animal bobbing its head around automatically wins my approval.
Finally, a successful zombie/western hybrid. I don’t think it would work as a feature, but as a fast-paced ride through the initial outbreak of a zombie takeover in a typical western town it’s a blast. The requisite motley crew - a lawman, two crooks, a Native American, and a doomed bride (played by my future wife Lisa Marie DiGiacinto - if it’s OK with her) - are all likable and the actors have a good chemistry together, something that can cripple this type of story. Director Spencer Estabrooks also pulls off some nice zombie death gags, and the final shot is not only funny, but suggests a more interesting story down the road (one that I am surprised hasn’t been explored more often). Fun stuff.
HOW I SURVIVED THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
With that title I was expecting something funnier, but once I realized that it was more serious I realized that it was one of the better zombie shorts of the fest. Not only does it feature a mother/young-son dynamic that is incredibly rare in any movie, let alone zombie ones, but it’s also heartbreaking (the mother has invented a “game” to shield the kid from knowing what is really happening). And the entire thing takes place in a tiny house, yet remains visually interesting (go DP Jeffrey Siljenberg!). Great way to finish off the shorts program at this year’s Screamfest.
As always, I wish the shorts were just attached to the features. It gets a bit restless to keep starting and stopping (plus distracting, as folks tend to wander in/out of the theater more often during a block of shorts than they do during a feature), and also when you see so many at once it gets harder to remember details about them (I’ve had my Screamfest program guide by my side for the entirety of writing this wrap-up). And the short filmmakers would more likely draw the attention of agents and such if their film was playing right before said agents’ clients’ film(s). Everyone wins! Something to think about.