Well, the kids were gone over the weekend and my girlfriend is out of town. What’s a horror-loving guy to do? That’s right, I watched 18 horror short films that I’ve had in my in-box for way too long. I’m not going to review all 18 of these horror shorts (trust me, most of them were not worth the effort), but I will review some of the better ones.
First up is Hades (2015; 15mins). This is one of those experimental short films that is difficult to describe and explain. The best I can say is that this short is about a woman trapped inside a dream where she has to cross five rivers in Hades–each representing a different stage of her relationship. Visually, the film is stunning with big, bold colors. It reminded me of the best of the Italian giallo films of the 1970s. Actress Anna Heidegger does a fantastic job as the woman stuck in her dreams (or is it that she’s stuck inside this relationship?) and gives a strong performance. Thankfully director Kevin Kopacka (who co-wrote the story with H.K. DeWitt) had the restraint to keep Hades to fifteen minutes. Any longer and the film would have surely outlived its welcome. This is an interesting film to watch for the symbolism and the set design.
The next short film asked the question, What could be worse than the zombie apocalypse? After watching this film you will know things can be so much worse than a zombie outbreak. Abed (2012; 50mins) might be short on actual zombies, but it has a disturbing theme that’ll have you thinking about this one long after watching it. The short begins well into the zombie apocalypse. The survivors have come to accept that the zombies aren’t going anywhere and they are now a “normal” part of life. The story focuses on one family who lives isolated in a farm house. The head of the household is clearly mama (Vicki Deshaw-Fairman), an older woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Mama’s daughter-in-law, Meggie (Rachel Finan). Meggie lost her hubby early on in the zombie apocalypse, but mama refuses to give up on having her a grandchild. Abed is a one-note short. You’ll know the story is building up to something, and that something is really the entire point of the short (no spoilers here). But unfortunately, there’s not much else going on here. The fifty minute run time feels more like two hours, but at least the performances are good and the overall story is strong. And yes, the reveal at the end makes it worth your patience, but just barely.
Tasha and Friends (2013; 15mins) could have easily been a train wreck of a short, but writer-director Greg Kovacs does a great job controlling the material and keeps this short focused. Tasha (Stephanie Christiaens) is the host of a local kids’ puppet program and doesn’t like James (Nathan Hawkins), the guy who animates the main puppet. She wants him fired, but the puppets all seem to like James and don’t want him gone. Sure, you know where this one is headed, but there’s a lot of fun even if it is a bit predictable. This is surprisingly gory–even the puppets bleed!!–and there’s a great payoff at the end. Tasha and Friends is a super fun short that’ll make you think twice before kicking a puppet!!
In the next short, Mr. Spontaneous (2013; 9:30), Mr. Normal (Alino Giraldi) is kind of going through a mid-life crisis. He is bored with his life and wants some action and excitement. One day he happens upon the notorious Happy Face Killer (Charles Lo Manto), who is hacking up a victim in an alley. Something clicks inside of Mr. Normal, and he tells the Happy Face Killer that he “needs to experience exactly what he [the killer] is experiencing.” Lucky for him that the killer is in a nurturing mood. Before you can say “killer on the loose,” Mr. Normal becomes Mr. Spontaneous and hacks up a bunch of people in a bar. This short is fun, fast-paced, gory, and a little bonkers, This one is ton of fun, but there has got to be a better way to get through a mid-life crisis!!
It is obvious that from its opening scene that Dead All Night (2013; 28mins) is writer-director Christopher Giroux’s love letter to Escape From New York. The short takes place in a dystopian future where the various territories are ruled over by ruthless gangs and corrupt governments. Snake Plissken …. er, I mean Gavin (Ry Barrett), is sent into a heavily guarded compound to steal a computer chip from The Veteran (Kyle William). The Veteran learns about Gavin and sends out various killers to stop him. There’s Skull Face, The Ryder, and Neon Samurai. The acting here is well done, but the short never really picks up the pace to where it needed to be. There was an overall lack of energy with this one, and this resulted in the short never grabbing my interest. Really good potential to be an Escape From New York homage, but the story just never picked up.
Remember the 1989 film, The War of the Roses? This was about a couple going through a nasty divorce, each one trying to make the other leave the house in increasingly hostile acts. Well, One More For the Road (2013; 17:30) makes The War of the Roses look like a Disney flick!! This short has a couple on a romantic getaway to try and work out the problems with their marriage. Things don’t go so well, especially when Bill (Jeff Sinasac) finds out that his wife, Diane (Lindsay Smith), lost her wedding ring. Their confrontation hits a fevered pitch and these two end up beating the s**t out of each other. I mean the ever-loving s**t!! This is the embodiment of what short films should strive to be. A fun story, great acting, lots of blood, and it keeps you guessing until the end. But be warned, I call this one “fun,” but damn if it isn’t dark. Like really dark. We’re talking black hole dark. I love it!!
And then there is Justice (2013; 10:30). This is a more low-key, cerebral short film. The short begins with a man, Michael, contemplating the ideal of Justice. When justice, in a civilized society, isn’t achieved and a horrible crime goes unpunished, what should be done? Should we ignore such a miscarriage? Should we take it upon ourselves to correct the horrible crime ourselves? As you may guess, Michael believes in the later. He has a rapist, Steven, tied up and is live-streaming a webcast. Michael wants to show the world what justice looks like, and he beats the living tar out of Steven. There’s nothing really graphic here as the filmmakers were more interested in the mental examination of Justice. As he starts to beat Steven, the screen fades until the next day where the police are waiting for Michael who calmly gives himself up. I enjoyed this one immensely and the acting and script really pulled together to give us a meditation on the nature of Justice.
I have many more short films to review, but I think this should keep you busy for a while!! Below are all the ratings of the shorts.
Hades: 3 out of 5 stars
Abed: 2 out of 5 stars
Tasha and Friends: 4 out of 5 stars
Mr. Spontaneous: 4 out of 5 stars
Dead All Night: 2 out of 5 stars
One More For the Road: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Justice: 3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer