Final Girls Berlin has always dedicated a space to queer horror, platforming films that range between queer fears and a celebration of LGBT+ figures in front of and behind the camera. 2023’s edition was no different, with films exploring identity, fear and coming to terms with both.
Everything about this film is furthered by the complete commitment to the aesthetic. From the performance style and set dressing, the viewer is immersed in the world of two sex dolls who meet and imagine another life together. In embracing the stilted movements and exaggerated body parts this is instantly absorbing. It is to the film’s credit that it is able to be powerfully moving despite the stylistic restrictions placed upon it as the relationship is explored.
Identity and religion are competing within Tula -a young girl struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality and burgeoning feelings. Her internalised struggle comes to the fore through the inventive use of religious imagery that leaps off the screen. Maddison Dell’Aquila’s performance is excellent, able to balance both uncertainty and strength.
With a departure from more conventional narrative, Ricochet is a short (around 4-minute) exploration of a honeymoon gone wrong following the couple indulging in some acid-laced raspberries. This is a hazy montage of increasingly intense and sinister experiences that may alienate some, but there is no doubt that a real effort has gone into constructing the imagery that provides a hallucinogenic feel.
It Takes a Village
It Takes a Village also prioritises its visual style over anything more straightforward, constructing a candy-coated suburban village where something sinister is happening. Sound clashes and overwhelms, delivering on the uncanny nature of the situation while maintaining that clearly defined visual style.
Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You
After an arresting opening sequence, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You envelopes the viewer in a highly sophisticated and tactile haunting. Centred on a composer who seeks to use music and sound to connect with her dead lover, this has a palpable mood, enforced by layered sounds as jarring chords leap over static hisses. The time afforded to the story and the treatment of the ghostly goings-on allows for greater impact.
Violet Butterfield: Makeup Artist for the Dead
It is no surprise that Violet Butterfield secured the Audience Award at the festival. This charming, campy short features the charismatic presence of Violet (Michelle Colón) who has a special connection with her clients. The mix of the macabre funeral home setting and Violet’s quirky manner and style perfectly marry, but above all the film’s overall message of acceptance is intensely meaningful and uplifting.
The Queer Horror shorts block screened as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.