Screamfest Shorts (Saturday)

OCTOBER 17, 2009


Because I’ve been doing October Extras every day for the previous Screamfests, I usually missed a lot of the short films, because I’d be at home watching a movie I’ve seen before, ALL FOR YOU! But since I’m not doing them this year, I got my ass down to Mann’s in time for not one but two blocks of short films today. The following shines a brief light on the ones that caught my attention for one reason or another, though it’s worth noting that all of the films were quite professionally done (more than once I thought the next feature film had accidentally started). And I liked how many of them were on film (and I liked even more how many were PROJECTED on film as opposed to the usual DVD) - way to go FILMmakers!!!

Hands down my favorite of the bunch, this odd little piece feels like an extended sequence from a lost Jeunet/Caro film, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s not really horror (though the sounds/sights of a bunch of fat guys slurping on a variety of food is always unsettling), but it is most certainly entertaining. And contains the best rhinoceros sight gag in cinematic history.

This film was quite good and featured some truly incredible special effects work. But I was alarmed at how it (and several other shorts) had a crew of about 50-75. If you have all of that manpower - why not just make a feature? Usually, the main purpose of a short is to show what you can pull off with limited resources and crew members, so you can display your skills and hopefully use it to expand into features; if you have dozens of people backing you up, and access to professional quality CGI and such, it’s kind of hard for me to judge what YOU (the director) specifically brought to the table. I'd almost rather see a poor effect or some questionable production value if it meant being able to see the inherent talent of a few people wearing multiple hats. That said, everyone obviously brought their A-game to the table for Harry, especially in the FX department (the main creature seemed lifted from Army of Darkness).

Full disclosure - this film was produced by my Bloody co-worker Tim Anderson. And for a journalist he’s a pretty damn good producer. The story was a tad familiar (maybe because it’s Saw season, but I am just tired of people waking up and having flashbacks to what got them into their current predicament) but the production value was top notch, and director Steven Shea did a fine job of linking the flashbacks to the present scenario in a cohesive, natural way. Also, it sounds like pointless praise, but the vampire teeth were spot on perfect, something that you can’t always say about even feature films. And they manage to pull off a dead dog joke without making me angry, so that’s laudable in and of itself.

This one felt like a feature idea compressed into a (kind of) short film. And if Kody Zimmermann got to make a feature, I would be first in line. It’s the usual sort of “Apprentice eventually resents his master” tale, but well-told, with some great humor both overt (main baddie Bolivar trying on the jogging pants of a guy he just killed) and subtle (the requisite Van Helsing type is named Thomas Holland). And even though actor Paul Hubbart is terrific as Bolivar, his look reminded me of the great Gary Cole, who would make a feature all the more entertaining. Maybe if the upcoming Cirque De Freak does well the studios will be rushing to get their own comedic vampire buddy movie going and Zimmermann will be ahead of the game.

There was a surprising dearth of actual SHORT films (most of them clocked in around 20 minutes). Every now it’s then it’s nice to see one that comes in around 5, with a setup and a punchline and not much else. Ironically, this one could have used another 30 seconds to explain where the two protagonists’ car was (they are lost in the desert), but you won’t really notice as the couple begins to fight over the last bottle of water, with horrific and then hilariously ironic results.

I am not a big fan of digital, as you know, but even I can’t deny how f-ing good this movie looked. It was shot with the much lauded Red camera, and when projected properly (as this was), the level of detail is simply phenomenal. When our lead makes herself a sandwich, you can see individual pieces of grain on the bread - that’s how crystal clear the image is. Black levels still need some improvement, but man, if you can’t shoot film, I don’t see how you can do any better than this. And the story was good too! I’m a big fan of the “what people do when they are among the only humans left” stories, which most of Paul Moore’s short depicts. And it’s rare to see a woman in the “last one standing” role, so that’s worth noting as well. And a darkly funny ending caps it off, putting this one squarely in the win column.

As I said earlier, there weren’t too many that were put together by the usual small crew, and even less were in the 5-8 minute range, but they were all well-made and largely well-acted, and I would welcome more shorts and/or a feature from any of the filmmakers represented here.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. I really really hated that I had to miss this festival, and see that so has been one of the best (at least on the Short´s side)... oh well, there´s always next year...

  2. I have to disagree with your justifications for making a short film over a feature. The primary reason should be that the story dictates the length. Some stories would just have to be needlessly padded to make feature length but are supremely suited to, say, 25 minutes. I would rather see tight storytelling and economy rather than filmic diarrhea. And if economic storytelling takes 150 pairs of hands to do it, well, as long as the result is worthwhile...

    That said, I certainly don't look down on shorts as a way to go if your budget is less than grandiose. If you can edit and re-shape a feature idea and keep the thematic elements in place and not make it feel truncated, then major props to you!

  3. Your facts on Tinglewood are incorrect. They actually had a crew of about 25 people, which is not excessive at all.

  4. Oops, I might have confused it with another. I know one other one in that block had a feature-esque credit roll. Will fix, thanks!


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