OCTOBER 17, 2010
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (SCREAMFEST)
As with years’ past, I thought I’d take time to talk briefly about a few of the shorts I saw at Screamfest. There were more than usual this year (many playing with features, something I’ve suggested in the past – hurrah!) and most of the ones I saw were pretty damn good or great. Congrats to all of the filmmakers who had their film shown! Onwards with the mini-reviews, presented in glorious alphabetical order!
CABINE OF THE DEAD
Vincent Templement’s amusing zombie short was one of the better zombie entries of the festival (there were many), due to expert execution of a simple premise: you’re trapped in a phone booth and everyone you call is worthless. The climax gets a bit drawn out, but it’s a charmer, and features one of the best sight gags in a zom-com ever (one that, if nothing else, proves once and for all that slow zombies pave the way to more creativity).
Usually, it’s hard to discuss a short in any detail without spoiling anything, but Devil’s Creek (written/directed by Mohit Ramchandani, who also appears in the film) is the rare short that is far more complex and interesting than its plot (which, at its core, is seemingly another “hero gets taken in by tormentor in the middle of nowhere” story). You have to give it your full attention to make sense out of everything, but it all pays off in an oddly moving way (the A+ score doesn’t hurt). Bonus points for some inspired production design, which again is one of those things that won’t quite make sense at first. Be patient! One of the most original shorts in the festival.
IT COULD BE YOU
The buildup is a bit too long compared to the execution (director Andrew Morse must be a Ti West fan), but it’s a funny “what if?” scenario, and one of the few actual SHORTS in the festival – what’s with all the 10+ minute entries? I like all lengths! More fivers, please.
This one reminded me a bit of Clive Barker’s “Coldheart Canyon” at first, but instead of diving into the world of rapist monsters and children with very adult size genitalia, it sticks with the sad tale of someone who is getting “old” and losing the looks that made them famous. It’s got some clever touches (one of the best introductions to a flashback in recent memory, for one example) and gorgeous production value. Not really horror, but a winner all the same.
THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM
HOLY SHIT! One of the best shorts ever made, period. Don’t even try to argue with me. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling its surprises, but I will say that Weird Al’s "Nature Trail To Hell" may have been an influence on the basic plot. Writer/director Jerome Sable was sadly not in attendance, but if he was I probably would have kissed him. Inspired genius + crowd-pleaser attitude = perfect short. Can’t wait to see it again.
A very brief animated short with a grim/funny punchline; if it hits Youtube or whatever, it would make a fine “preview” before popping in your Trick R’ Treat DVD or Blu-ray this year. Bonus points for the old school animation approach.
OK, perhaps I was smitten with actress Briana Feehan, but the team of Matt Blundell and Nati Braunstein have still delivered a good spin on the vampire tale, and like a lot of the shorts, was surprisingly moving as well – Phoebe is a “good” vampire (orders animal blood through the mail) and longs to simply go outside. The dark/light setting makes for some great moments too, such as when she needs to make her way across a room with tiny beams of light shining through holes in the wall, or when her would-be killer has to use his muzzle flare to find his way around. I also love the lighting – she has a bunch of those battery operated stick-on closet lights everywhere. And now I want to subscribe to her video blog, which doesn’t really exist (yet?).
I enjoyed it, but the twist was a bit obvious to me. If it’s not for you, you’ll probably enjoy Federico D’Alessandro’s grim tale even more. Something that might be worthy of a feature with more of a dramatic approach.
ST. CHRISTOPHORUS: ROAD KILL
I never quite got why the main character was pulled over in the first place, but this is a surprisingly fun black comic romp, with our hero going through a borderline Ashley J Williams-level of abuse over the course of an evening, and it’s kind of charming how much carnage is caused in one small area of backroads countryside. Also: one of the best “character takes his eyes off the road and OH SHIT” scenes in recent memory (short or feature). Fun stuff.
UNITED MONSTER TALENT AGENCY
It’s sort of an SNL skit concept (monsters like Dracula and The Wolfman are real, hired for movies like any other actor), but since it’s directed by Greg Nicotero, we get top notch recreations of the monsters, tons of great cameos (Frank Darabont dressed as Indiana Jones being my personal favorite), and most importantly, tons of respect and deep-rooted love for the source material. Nicotero says he’s making a feature version; not sure how that would work (even the short started to wear thin), but if he can rope in all of the resources he did here (and then some), it should be a fanboy’s wet dream. P.S. Best Jaws joke ever?
The others I either missed or don't have much to say about. However, all of the films were technically proficient and the Mann's continues to get better at handling the varying (mostly digital) formats - everything looked perfect. Grats again to everyone who had a film there!
What say you?