HMAD Short Watching Day #1

DECEMBER 3, 2011


To recap, feeling guilty because so many folks had emailed or tweeted asking me to watch their shorts and never actually doing so, I decided to dedicate a couple hours on Saturday to watching your stuff. Folks submitted their links here with the understanding that I'd post a review of them all (whether I liked them or not), and luckily I had time to get to them all (well, each person - some of you submitted multiple links). So without further ado:

T Is For Tow (dir: Adam Myles)
This was an entry for the 26th "ABCs of Death" slot, where budding filmmakers could compete for a chance to be included in the upcoming anthology (the other 25 letters were already set with "proven" directors attached). If you're online a lot, the contest probably drove you up a wall with what seemed like hundreds of entries. This was a fairly typical example of the entries I saw, in that there was some stuff to like (a cool ominous score, refreshing emphasis on being SHORT at a quick 4 minutes) and stuff that probably didn't help the filmmakers' chance at being picked (a very jarring sound mix, particularly in the final scene with the tow truck). The actors also weren't the best; the girl was overly shrill and the guy seemingly couldn't say a line without adding an F-bomb to it. When I'M sort of turned off by foul language, you know it's excessive.

I must say though, I was a bit surprised at the bland/bad titles on just about all of these shorts - you guys should know by now how seriously I take the title work!!! That said, this had by far the best of the lot; a striking white on red with some classy font mixed with what looked like paintbrush scribbles. Cool stuff! Next time I do HMAD Short Watching Day, I want to see some cool ass titles!!

Ouija Bored (dir: Lee Jordan)
This ran a bit long considering the simple premise, but the lead actor was quite good as the poor loser stuck home alone on Halloween night, and the premise (he gets bored and pulls out a Ouija) builds toward a fun surprise. Not sure why the director claimed it was "scary" as it was very much a comedic short, but it worked. Bonus points for figuring out a way for the ghost to spell out "Mmmmmm" with the planchette.

The Voyeurs (dir: Jason Von Godi)
Honestly I had no idea what was going on during this one; a guy starts seeing himself on TV, some dude kills a woman as he bangs her, the main guy freaks out and kills him, then some other guy shows up... I dunno. I even watched it again and it still didn't make sense to me. It was also too dark - rent a light! Nice scare with the mirrored image on the TV (something on-screen doesn't appear in the real world), but otherwise this one didn't work for me. Also: I've never heard of "Colton" being used as a girl's name - awkward choice for a largely unseen character. I just assumed the main character was gay and worried about his boyfriend/husband, and then was like "Who is this woman?"

Einstein's Brain (dir: Ben Sweeney)
I was charmed by this as it reminded me of my old film school 8/16mm shorts, as well as a video my good friend JiB made called "Auto Bot Beat Machine", which also concerned scientists and a Frankenstein-ish monster. It was also silent, utilizing only a cool 8-bit NES game type score and some sound effects. In fact, it might even work as a music video (think Beastie Boys type), since the lack of dialogue makes the story a bit puzzling at times. Very energetic effort!

Get Off My Porch (dir: Patrick Rea)
My favorite of the bunch, with a guy being terrorized by persistent "Adventure Girls" (same as Girl Scouts, except they still come door to door instead of hanging out in front of Target or grocery stores), building toward surprisingly weird reveals concerning their nature. Their creepy non-stop giggling and the occasional goo gag won me over, enough to forgive the unnecessary "epilogue to the epilogue". Also, it had a Harry Manfredini score that I actually enjoyed! That's twice this week. Weird.

Dead Space Anticipation (dir: Kiel Chenier)
Poor compositing aside (the people seemed oddly stretched against their original game backgrounds), I would have liked this Dead Space fan film even more had director Kiel Chenier stuck with the charmingly low-key setup, showing what crew members do on a normal day (carving pumpkins, in this case) when they're not facing off against alien monsters. I also would have had him use one of the game's slicing weapons to make the carving for an extra sight gag. The weirdo in me often wonders what folks do on these ships when nothing exciting is happening, so that was much more interesting than the "action" ending, which of course wasn't particularly exciting given that this was a no-budget affair. However, very creative way to implement the backgrounds with the new footage, and I was charmed by the homemade suits and weapons. P.S. Mr Chenier - tell me more about this Romero documentary! Sounds quite interesting.

Ending the Eternal (dir: Justin McConnell)
This was well shot, had some terrific gore/makeup work, and the lead actress was smoking hot... but I grew quickly tired of the vampire (Samuel) bitching and moaning about how hard it is for him to die. This was a prequel to something called "The Eternal" (why is it called ENDING The Eternal then?), which has been in development for years (a January 2009 post says it will be shooting in the fall, the most recent says "in 2012"). It sounds like a cool idea for a movie and I hope they can get it off the ground, but I'm not sure this is helping much. Perhaps a trailer, where they shoot key moments from the script on their own, would be more helpful in attracting interest. If that's not going to work, maybe editing this down a bit might help.

Sweet Tooth (dir: Elvis Kunesh)
Another Halloween night entry, this one concerned a guy who was far too critical of the costumes worn by people who came to his door demanding candy, and how he got his comeuppance. The plotting was a bit strange (I get that the guy was weird, but inviting a kid into his house to take a picture and offering "better candy"? Comes off a bit rapey), but it had a nice 3 part setup (showing the 3 different types of trick or treaters - a little kid with a store bought costume, the lazy teenagers, and then the type who goes all out) and it was actually SCARY, something just about all of these lacked.

Bubbling Under (dir: Matt Compton)
This had the potential to be really creepy, but the ending chickened out and showed what was happening in his head instead of what was happening for real, which could have ended this on a really morbid/awesome note instead of just adding to the slightly obtuse storytelling. The acting was quite good and it had some scope (many of these were single location efforts), but I feel they were holding back some.

Zombie! (dir: John Garrigan and co.)
This energetic film school project was quite fun, a simple zombie vs. couple tale told in delightful black and white footage. I THINK it was film, but it was hard to tell with the overdone "film damage" effects - less is more when it comes to the flecks and lines, I think. Great location too, reminded me of where we shot our own film school zombie epic (where yours truly played a zombie who is stumbled upon devouring a corpse in a field, a scene that this includes as well), so you got me with some nostalgia here! P.S. Mr. Garrigan: this was a "History of Film" project? In my history class we just watched a great movie from each decade - yours sounded a lot more fun!

Animal (dir: Ross Peacock)
Yay! A quick, fun, scary tale about a guy who takes a shortcut through the wrong yard. It's not hard to see where it's going, but the werewolf makeup was admirably Jack Pierce-ian, and I dug the little epilogue concerning what our guy does for a living. This could actually be a feature ("Part man, part werewolf... ALL COP"), which makes the fact that it was one of the shortest of this bunch somewhat ironic. Good stuff.

Last Days (dir: Conrad Faraj)
Mr. Faraj said this was more Sci-Fi than anything, and he is correct, but it was still an ominous "end of the world" tale, utilizing television "snow", which I was just impressed he was able to create nowadays (I have tried making my TV show snow - it won't do it!). Not sure if using Howard's The Village score is the best idea with a The Happening type scenario (we don't like M. Night anymore!), but it's a good effort, laudably attempting something a little more expansive than you usually get with a short.

La Llorona (dir: Ian Messenger)
Is this part of a series where the grandpa tells stories to the kid in a living room that resembles a demo room from a local furniture store ad? The kid says something about the guy never finishing a story, so perhaps the abrupt "conclusion" of the ghost terrorizing the teen and his mother is just par for the course. Anyway, the La Llorona story is creepy, but the cheap makeup and confusing use of the legend (why is she bothering these particular people?) didn't quite work, and I was truly baffled by the final bit with the kid turning back to his grandfather - was there a missing shot or something? Also, it sounded like they were using the in-camera mic to record: big no no. If not, something must be wrong with the transfer, and if so, please invest in a digital recorder and mic. Even the cheapest crap you can find will sound better than the in-camera mic.

Overall, I was impressed with the diversity in the stories I saw today. So many shorts nowadays are built around twist endings, so it was nice to see relatively few in this lot of 13. As expected, some I really dug, others not, but they all had some merit and most were quite obviously made by folks who know what they're doing (I feared having to watch something akin to the crap I made with pals in high school before I even understood that separate sound recording was possible). And regardless of how I felt about the final product, all of the above got past the biggest hurdle - they finished it! Even in the land of shorts, there are plenty of projects that never see the light of day (I've "made" one myself), and thus whether or not I personally liked it is quite insignificant in the overall picture. Plus, putting it out there for a grump like me takes stones, which means you all have thicker skin than a few feature directors that come to mind.

Speaking of stones - unless I'm mistaken, all of these were made by male directors? Don't I have any female filmmaker readers? I want at least a couple female entries for the next HMAD Short Watching Day!

What say you?

P.S. Filmmakers - if you'd like I can link the short in each recap; let me know if you want that.


  1. Awesome reviews! The one for mine in particular made me laugh out loud. I look forward to the next round. Keep up the good work!
    -Jason Von Godi (The Voyeurs)

  2. For ETE, there is a teaser we shot a couple of years back.. and the feature is a big step in a different direction. We took a break from development of the feature to make a different, lower budget thriller called THE COLLAPSED.

  3. BC, thanks for taking the time to check out our shorts! Again, a very cool idea. p.s. I said it was "scary" for the mislead. :) pps, i wrote it, Lee Jordan directed "Ouija Bored."

  4. Thanks for the review Brian. Surprised you thought the ending chickened out - I thought it was actually creepier to leave the 'unpleasantness' to the imagination rather than show it but I appreciate the viewpoint. I also take a perverse kind of satisfaction in obtuse storytelling!

    Anyway, great reviews and some interesting films I shall now endeavour to track down and watch for myself.

  5. Thanks again for the review. I'll see about mailing you a screener of To Romero With Love. Also, thanks for the constructive feedback. This was literally the first film I made before film school.

  6. By the way - It'd be great if you could add a link. Thanks!

  7. Bit late on the response, but I'd love for you to post the link to Sweet Tooth. Thanks for watching!


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