While some horrors can remain metaphorical, sometimes only a well-realised creature will do. This selection of short films pits people against creatures looking to invade, take over and otherwise alter their lives in a variety of ways.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Hell Gig previously with an appreciative festival crowd and it is a real joy to see the sparky dialogue in this short land with a room full of people all on the same page. Maeve (Bruce Bundy) heads out into the desert to rescue her friend Eli (Jamie Loftus) but soon finds the situation is more out of control than she imagined. The pair are struggling stand-up comics and their insecurities and need for work have left them impatient with one another. Obviously, being within the Creatures section, you know there will be a creature but the reveal is absolutely joyous, with the puppetry adding a genuine sense of character that makes this so much fun.
Alix Austin’s short neatly marries the physical and metaphorical while also merging practical and CGI effects to match. Sam (Sophia Capasso), worried about her sister Caitlin’s (Annie Knox) isolation, heads to her house to try and see what is behind her strange behaviour. Confronted with a unkempt flat, she starts to clean, until Caitlin reveals what has been holding her there. Searing audio-visual snippets showcase the internal turmoil while quick cuts enhance the uncanny nature of the reveal. This is such a clever way of handling this story, managing to convey its central metaphor as well as providing a satisfying creature film.
You’re My Best Friend
This quirky and enjoyable short makes great use of fun montages to sell its concept and the passage of time. What begins as an amusing, if slightly ridiculous concept is given a genuine sense of heart by the finale. Each step of this short takes you with it, delivering on gags at a high rate, whether in the initial trawl of dating apps or in the montages. The apartment styling allows the film to imprint a sense of style and a geography – by the climax this is a film that feels truly lived in.
If there is anyone out there who doesn’t appreciate Rachel Sennott’s turns in either Bodies Bodies Bodies or Shiva Baby, I’ve not met them yet. She has an unmistakable charisma and an ability to deliver strong character work in such a short space of time that she’s near-perfect for short-form storytelling. In Appendage, she plays a nervy trainee designer trying her best to pitch her idea to an intimidating designer who undergoes an energetic and unusual battle with her confidence. This has an impressive energy and really does answer the question of what happens when body horror meets the critical inner voice.
Kid Free Weekend
Kicking off with a quote from ‘a very wise person’ about not interrupting a woman’s first taste of freedom, Kid Free Weekend immediately throws us into a cosy domestic space full of retro stylings. Sun streams in through the windows and our heroine Vivian looks set for a luxurious, quiet time. However, as night approaches, it soon becomes apparent that something is threatening her alone time as she is drawn into a battle with an invasive creature. What is really impressive here is how much the house is transformed as the tone shifts with the bathroom lighting becoming a harsh glare during the conflict.
When Emma first watches Paul pinning insects she is intrigued by the process, so it is perhaps no surprise that when Paul leaves her alone, she forms an attachment with a praying mantis. This short utilises some incredible sound design and extreme close-ups for maximum discomfort and that under-your-skin quality. Despite that discomfort there’s also a sensual quality, with the slow, sophisticated photography enveloping the viewer into their isolated relationship.
Fishwife uses dialogue sparingly, for the most part introducing us to our lead character through the earthy tones and quiet rituals of her life before rupturing that with a late blast of energy and threat. Offering tantalising glimpses rather than overexplaining and indulgent detail, this manages to maintain a palpable sense of unease throughout.
The Creatures shorts block screened as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.