Guiltea

Guiltea is a short film based around a sentient, killer teapot.

Charity shops are places you can find a real bargain, but in Guiltea, the owners of a secondhand teapot are placed in peril by the pot’s high standards and sinister ways. The teapot, named Terrence Tealeaf has very strict ideas about the kind of person he wishes to spend the rest of his existence with and will go to any length to find them.

Guiltea is well-constructed and feels a little like a sequence of skits that would be found over a number of episodes in a sketch comedy. The first segment introduces the idea which allows the filmmakers to toy with the format as it progresses, at times playing to expectations and at others, subverting them. The result is a swiftly-moving and entertaining piece of work.

The DIY-style effects are in keeping with the overall look and feel of the film, with the simple design of the teapot allowing an anchor for the rest of the action to revolve around it. This simplicity allows the voiceover from Professor Elemental to take centre stage, delivering witty monologues about his situation and surroundings.

This is a quirky and well-realised idea that will appeal to fans of British horror comedies.

Guiltea was released on YouTube on September 3rd. You can watch the short here.

North Bend Film Fest 2022

The North Bend Film Fest returns for 2022 from August 4th – 7th, bringing independent shorts and features that highlight both established and emerging creatives.

I was lucky enough to cover last year’s festival and am thrilled to be doing so again. You’ll be able to see reviews from the festival soon. You can find these posts by searching North Bend. Many of the short films made it into my favourite short films of 2021 with a huge variety of genre and genre-adjacent material available, from the impactful stop-motion The Expected to deeply scary podcast horror Skinner 1929.

The horror shorts advertised for this year include Baby Fever, Black Dragon, Bug Bites, Darker, Death in a Box, Scooter and They See You. Featuring some truly evocative imagery, these films represent a wealth of short film talent and celebrate the art form.

2021’s event brought fast-paced action in the form of Tailgate and a more introspective, quirky look at relationships between sisters in Superior. This year’s event is no different, offering several Centerpiece screenings, including Rahul Kohli-starring Next Exit and tense horror Swallowed. In addition, Next Exit Mali Elfman director will be awarded the Dulac Vanguard Filmmaker Award as recognition for her feature debut.

From opening film I Love My Dad to closing film Please Baby Please, plus an anniversary screening of Bubba Ho-Tep, North Bend truly has something for everyone. You can check out the Film Guide to attend if you are in North Bend and stay tuned to their social media channels for news and events.

facebook.com/northbendfest

instagram.com/northbendfest

twitter.com/northbendfest

The Blood of the Dinosaurs

Joe Badon’s mixed-media approach delivers on an unsettling and pleasingly unquantifiable critique.

Synopsis: Uncle Bobbo teaches children where oil comes from.

If you have been lucky enough to see Joe Badon’s Sister Tempest you will already have a good idea of what to expect from Dinosaurs. The shorter format still allows for movement between different styles, from the nightmarish children’s TV show to puppetry and more conventional (although only just) live-action sequences.

Bookended by director and star discussions of the film’s meaning, this is a short that manages to pack a huge amount of content into a less than 20-minute run time. While some of the imagery and staging are, undoubtedly, unusual and lean heavily into a surreal tone there is a very clear and frequently angry message at the centre. The meta surroundings all contribute to a unique experience.

The collage effect of the film works to layer it, with stop-motion clashing with live-action and archive footage. The design of Uncle Bobbo’s public access show seeks to evoke the same kind of cuddly feelings of something like Mr Rogers (indeed, the most evocative quote applied to the film is “like an episode of Mister Rogers from hell”), but showing the seams around it like crew standing by add to an unnerving effect. This transformation of an otherwise cuddly, holiday-focused space into an almost liminal one is a real strong point.

Delays in sound and plenty of pregnant pauses further that sense of the film being both divorced from reality while also being deeply embedded within its socio-ecological messaging. The near-seamless move from a single camera setup for the show to roaming, more frenetic sequences shows a level of control that indicates that each element has a purpose. This is far from a collection of random sequences but a carefully plotted and effective short.

The Blood of the Dinosaurs is, perhaps it goes without saying, likely to divide audiences, but it does further Badon’s role as an exciting and innovative filmmaker worthy of attention.

Following an international premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival, The Blood of the Dinosaurs will be making the following festival appearances:
Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA August 11th – 20th), MOTEL/X Lisbon International Horror Film Festival (Portugal, September 6th-12th) & Sydney Underground Film Festival (Australia, September 8th-11th)

Quiet Hours

A spirited short that pays homage to teen Summer slashers with energy and heart.

Synopsis: A group of friends just want to have a fun night, but someone knows what they did last summer.

The legacy of the 90s/early 2000s teen slasher and numerous franchise opportunities is writ large across the horror genre. It is no surprise then that their ‘whodunnit’ format has continued to inspire new horror filmmakers. Quiet Hours feels indebted to the genre and despite limited means manages to effectively evoke many of the elements that appeal to those fans.

Named for the ‘quiet hours’ of a holiday rental that the friends attend, the film focuses on a dangerous secret between a small friendship group after a night of fun turns into something far more sinister.

From the film’s opening inciting incident that debt to that era of slasher is evident, mixing the kind of upbeat, peppy soundtrack with location-establishing drone shots as the friends return to the house. Given the budgetary constraints, the film does an excellent job at investing in the unique, confined situation, skilfully utilising montage sequences to add a sense of scale and passage of time within the sub-30 minute run time.

The length of the work does hinder some elements, mainly around the development of characters. The need for more of a connection to and understanding of them would likely add more emotional weight to proceedings. The need to capture the history and connection of characters does end up requiring a considerable amount of exposition that does slow the pace. Still, it manages to hit many appropriate dramatic notes and well-tuned horror moments to hint at a lot of promise.

Managing specific references that will land with and entertain fans of the genre while also representing its own brand of queer-lensed, DIY aesthetic horror, Quiet Hours will be making festival appearances from August 2022. The first screenings have been announced:

8/21 – 1 pm @ The Guild Cinema – Albuquerque, NM

8/26-27 – 6 & 8 pm @ Cinemaestudios – El Paso, TX

8/28 – 5 pm @ The Fountain Theatre – Mesilla, NM

The Tortured Soul

An effective short with an excellent performance from Bianca Stam.

Short films can occasionally fall into the trap of doing too much or too little, becoming either advertisements for an eventual feature or straining a run time to include as much as possible. It is to The Tortured Soul‘s credit, then, that this short has the ability to refer to a much wider situation and context while also placing a direct focus on just one section of the story.

Utilising the arresting image above of Tamara (Bianca Stam), a well-dressed, seemingly composed woman sitting opposite a man who appears to be held hostage, the short immediately grabs your attention. The juxtaposition between the pair is striking, with the seemingly plush surroundings having been interrupted by violence. The film returns to the shot as the film develops, allowing that sense of a ticking clock towards further violence to take effect.

Otherwise, the camera finds itself mostly trained on Bianca Stam’s Tamara who is required to deliver a near-monologue that has to encapsulate both characters’ experiences thus far. It is enormously impressive that given the relative simplicity of the setting and the lack of another performer to bounce off in the usual way that she is able to fully embody the character of Tamara. This is an emotionally heavy piece of work that she is able to handle with skill. The camera rests on her more often than not, allowing her to take up that space and gradually turn up the volume.

Within the space of 10 minutes, this short interrogates the haunting presence of trauma and grief while also questioning what revenge may mean to those impacted. In removing distractions and placing such a focus on Tamara this short manages to do something different with a frequently used narrative.

The Tortured Soul is currently playing at festivals.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2022: Menacing Presences Shorts Block

Horror allows for multiple expressions of horror, from jump scares and overt monsters to the more subtle, even implied horrors lurking beneath the surface. The focus on metaphor and scares that can be wrought from social issues or personal threats all dominate these films, showcasing how menace can become an overwhelming entity.

Inheritance

Inheritance focuses on a family dealing with an inherited deed on a cabin. As the deed passes to the younger siblings, the pride they feel about the ownership is marred by the presence of sinister figures watching them. While the figures remain static, their anger is clear and adds a deeply sinister quality to the film. This largely quiet film really allows you to soak up all the atmosphere as the racial tension and the awakening of it within Nora (Victoria A. Villier). The cabin setting and a unique solution, highlighting synergy between nature and technology make this a compelling watch.

Housekreeping

Housekreeping utilises multiple misdirections in its 6 minute runtime, revolving around a woman cleaning a hotel during the off season. The isolated situation and repeated intrusions from a co-worker ramps up the expectations for what is about to happen. The result is a heart-stoppingly creepy squence that makes the most of holding back the reveal until the very end.

Sudden Light

I have already reviewed Sudden Light as part of the Cinema Vista shorts from the North Bend Film Festival. This short slowly unfolds the nature of its central metaphor with excellent techniques.

Cloud

Last up is Cloud, focused on the appearance of a mysterious and possibly radioactive cloud. Eugenie (Cypriane Gardin) escapes her troubled home life to travel with Capucine (Solène Rigot) and her ailing mother (Catherine Salée). What follows is an impressively rendered story of self-discovery that balances these quiet moments with an incredible sense of scale and gravitas.

The Menacing Presences shorts block played at part of Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. You can find out more about the festival on their webpage.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2022: Midnight Shorts Block

The Midnight shorts block is curated as a space for the most proudly strange shorts that don’t always fit into other, neater boxes. Within this block, there is animation, live-action, splatterfests and wider social commentary, to name only a few elements that make up the eclectic mix.

Verified

Social media is everywhere and as a result, is a preoccupation of horror that seeks to reflect the current time as well as explore the lengths of our obsession with likes, shares and engagement might take us. Verified places a focus on the success of influencers due to notoriety and negative attention rather than more positive, perhaps twee content. Arrielle Edwards plays Nicky, an aspiring influencer who despairs of her modest following for her makeup tips and daily coffee outings. A chance encounter during a video drastically increases her popularity but with serious side effects. This short articulates so well the all-consuming nature of social media and its intrusion on ‘normal’ life as well as the appetite for negative or sensational content, no matter the human cost.

Arm

Arm is a film that focuses on the impact of loneliness. Finding herself isolated during a health crisis and following a break-up, Katharine desperately tries to occupy herself to blot out the loneliness. The flat feels suitably closed in, walls almost closing around her as the film progresses. A turn comes with an impulse purchase of a body pillow that takes the film in a rather more wacky, but still tension-filled direction.

It Came From The Kitchen

The retro styling of the title is echoed in the effects of this film but this combines with a more modern take on depression and lack of direction in a young woman’s life. The effects here are very fun (as seen in the image above) and the design around this furthers that idea of someone stuck in their current situation. Peppered with details like a Google search history on a phone screen to add depth and some mild humour to the situation, the production design really stands out here, with a sense of fun at times despite the seriousness of some subjects.

Young Forever

I have already reviewed Young Forever as part of the North Bend Film Festival. Please check out that review in that post.

Victim No. 6

A beautiful colour palette supports this rich thriller set in 1975 that continuously hints at its conclusion, switching directions and creating tension and suspicion in everyone. With an active serial killer in the area, a woman goes out to a bar, where she finds herself surrounded by tension from all angles as the pressure of the murders takes its toll on everyone. An incredible, searing monologue later in the film leaves a vital impression.

Posted No Hunting

This fun, brilliantly articulated short stop-motion takes a simple idea but pulls it off with an excellent grasp of tension, humour and an understanding of found-footage leaning tropes that skew the images. All of these come to form a perfectly fun slice of horror animation.

Crafty Witch

Possibly the shortest run time of all the shorts coming in at just a minute, Crafty Witch uses cut-out animation techniques and silent movie-style cards to detail the persecution of witches. Taking on the history of the ducking stool, the animation is charming and quirky to sell a story that perfectly fits the length of the short with no wasted motion.

Death Valley

Taking place on New Year’s Eve in a world where the central characters are no longer on Earth, but the lure of taking on some yoga practice on an uninhabited desert proves too strong for one woman. Although the effects here are on the lower side of the budget level, they fit the content of the short well, contributing plenty of disorienting lights and sounds to develop the overall effect.

Visitors

Visitors is a really wonderful example of how even a short film can turn expectations on its head. Originally cultivating a mysterious, sinister vibe as a group of friends head in search of their friend Souta, the film shows how well it can build an unsettling atmosphere. It makes it even more impressive that the film is also capable of throwing a ton of gore, effects and noise at the screen, all to excellent impact.

The Midnight shorts block played as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. More information on the festival is available from their webpage

Favourite Short Films 2021

Short films are often seen as somehow lesser than their feature-length counterparts, but festivals continue to allow them to shine, either paired with thematically similar features or within their own blocks. More than a stepping stone to perceived ‘bigger’ things, the best shorts are those that tell their story perfectly within a more brief time period and often on far lower budgets. As the pandemic has resulted in a varied release schedule for many films, there may be some films here that are technically 2020 but are included here due to their appearance on the circuit in 2021. If you want to check out my picks from 2020 you can do so here.

Before the list kicks off, an honourable mention to Mountain Lodge, directed by Jordan Wong. A collage of internet media set to a text-to-speech narration of a viral Tumblr post about an infamous Yankee Candle offering. It would be difficult to put it on the list because it is so closely related to the original post, but the selection of clips ensured it was one of the films I laughed most at this year when it screened at SoHo Horror Festival.

20. Mashed Potato Face
Every now and then you watch a short that leaves you speechless. The first, but by no means last entry on this list from the SoHo Horror Festival Shockdown Saturdays series, Mashed Potato Face is definitely one of them. If someone turned up the nightmare quota on the creations from The Mighty Boosh until they broke the dial, they might get close to what Mashed Potato Face is. The kind of film where you’re not really sure you should be laughing quite as much as you are.

19. Man or Tree
Sometimes, all a short really needs is a simple idea executed well and Man or Tree certainly fits the bill on that front. Possibly the shortest runtime of any short on this list, this focuses on a man who wakes up believing he has been turned into a tree…or is it the other way around? A fun voiceover and sense of chaos make this a fun time. Played at Celluloid Screams and Abertoir Horror Festival.

18. The Mill Creek Strangler
The Mill Creek Strangler played as part of SoHo Horror Festival’s physical festival this year. Amber Pratt stars in writer/director Aaron Egbert Allsop’s short as a woman obsessed with a local serial killer who finds herself in his orbit. Light-heartedly tackling the (usually) white, female preoccupation with true crime media, this two-hander is simple, yet entertaining.

17. Wererock
Another one from SoHo’s Shockdown Saturdays, Wererock is a film as howlingly silly as it is delightful. Stylised poor dubbing and dubious effects combine with a genuinely funny idea that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

16. Guts
Chris McInroy’s Guts played at Celluloid Screams ahead of Ultrasound, starting the day with an overtly comic burst before the more serious, mind-bending themes to follow. Guts revolves around a man who suffers from an unfortunate condition: his guts are outside of his body, ruining his day, the day of his colleagues and numerous shirts. Gleefully splattery and despite its one-joke nature more than delivers on laughs.

15. Seen It
Seen It is a charming short, based on the folklore stories of writer Suresh Eriyat’s father. Watched as part of Fantasia Film Festival in their Things That Go Bump In The East block, Seen It‘s interesting animation style and the way it balances warm conversation with descriptions of otherworldly happenings makes it a genuinely wonderful watch. Happily, you can now see the film on YouTube.

14. Kalley’s Last Review
As part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival’s Cyber Horror shorts block, Kalley’s Last Review manages its tone expertly. Director Julia Bailey Johnson also stars as the titular Kalley – an aspiring vlogger with designs on being a beauty influencer. As the film progresses, the initial comic skewering of Kalley as a somewhat vacuous, desperate figure evolves into something far darker and more upsetting, managing to pack a real punch by the time the credits roll.

13. The Expected
Impressive and haunting stop-motion animation The Expected builds its horror during a period of grief, confining its characters in a state of torment within their home. Dialogue-free, every ounce of pain is poured into the surroundings and an increasingly nightmarish scenario. I saw this one as part of the North Bend Film Festival in the Cinema Vista block but it also played at Celluloid Screams.

12. The Lovers
The Ultrasound block at Celluloid Screams not only brought Guts but The Lovers. An almost muted progression gives way to an impressive punchline that arguably isn’t the most surprising development, but one that is pulled off well, given the limited means.

11. The Wheel
This is one of two shorts on the list that have genuinely terrified me. Played at SoHo Horror Festival’s physical event this ultra-creepy and jolting tale of a mysterious Ferris wheel model managed to quickly get under my skin.

10. Sundown Town
Sundown Town played at both SoHo Horror Festival and Salem Horror Festival. Kicking off with the dreamy soundtrack of Get Away by Surfclub, a gay couple’s break turns sour when they stop in a mysterious town. Fusing very real fears with supernatural elements, this features some heart stopping moments and imagery that really drives home the film’s central concerns.

9. The Moogai
The thing I’ve always loved about horror is how the genre can become a place for telling a wide range of stories and feature voices we perhaps wouldn’t normally hear. The Moogai finds horror based in Aboriginal belief and spirits but also connects on a level that transcends that and moves into wider fears on parenthood. Scary and beautifully shot.

8. Dana
Dana made me glad I hadn’t posted my favourite films of the year before attending Fractured Visions. The rape-revenge sub genre is a contentious one, with varying interpretations about how representation of rape takes place and how it may be claimed or rejected by viewers, especially those who are survivors. Dana follows the titular woman who finds herself frustrated by a recent law change that means sex offenders are being released from prison. You can kind of guess where things head from here but the film does it with such skill and occasional shots of dark humour that it stands out.

7. Fragile.com
Another entry from Final Girls Berlin’s Cyber Horror shorts block, Fragile.com is a disturbingly crafted study of internet exploitation and the turning of emotions into a commodity. Carly Stewart’s excellent performance as Mara, a girl targeted by an older man and introduced to a community where emotional performativity is a currency, grounds it, although there is never a respite from how deeply uncomfortable it is.

6. Ad Lib
Played first at SoHo Horror and later as part of Abertoir Horror Festival’s virtual edition, Ad Lib is a stylish and powerful take on domestic violence and the lack of power that comes with being silenced. Joseph Catté handles the material with sensitivity by dialling up the metaphor, but is still able to present an impactful and more often than not, upsetting portrayal of abuse.

5. The Three Men You Meet at Night
Beck Kitsis’ short is probably one of the most “real-world” terrifying films on this list. The Three Men You Meet at Night is concerned with the everyday dangers that women face. The film expertly ratchets up and unravels the tension repeatedly, creating a punchline that stays with you. Thanks to ALTER you can now watch the film on YouTube.

4. The Fourth Wall

Kelsey Bollig’s ultra-stylish The Fourth Wall takes a visit to a troubled theatre performance where the constant unprofessionalism of her colleagues is beginning to weigh on Chloé (Lizzie Brocheré). A pulsating soundtrack that feels like it reverbs through the film’s strange corridors adds texture, while ramping up to something grisly and also throwing in some great lines about the world of theatre on the way. First seen as part of Final Girls Berlin’s Revenge Horror shorts block and later as part of SoHo Horror Festival.

3. Skinner 1929

The spookiest offering on this list, Skinner 1929 (seen as part of North Bend Film Festival’s Ethereal Fantasies shorts block) concerns an online livestream whose hosts are looking into mysterious film reels that relate to one of their family history. The audio commentary over the older imagery creates an uncanny disconnect between the old and new media forms – something that becomes all the more uncomfortable and deeply creepy as it progresses. Definitely one that found footage fans will love.

2. You’re Dead Hélène

One of the longer entries on this list at around 25 minutes, You’re Dead Hélène, justifies its extended runtime by managing to tackle a wealth of material throughout. Incorporating scares as well as incredibly beautiful, moving moments this really has it all in its story of a relationship breakdown like no other. As a result, it is hardly surprising to see that it is to be made into a feature by the same director, although possibly more surprising that Sam Raimi is producing. As of the time of publishing the film is still on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination in the Live Action shorts category.

1. Synonymous With

From the moment I saw Synonymous With as part of SoHo Horror Festival I was almost certain I’d seen my favourite short film of the year and while the standard of shorts has been exceptionally high and varied, nothing hit me quite like this did. I’ve written some more detailed thoughts on the film you can read here. This gorgeous, delicate love letter to the Other and those drawn to it has stayed with me, with its DIY quality allowing the sentiment to take centre stage. The film has been available to watch online for free here.

With so many high quality shorts, this list has been almost impossible to narrow down to a reasonable number for an end of year list. The vast range of topics, storytelling and craft make this such an exciting time for watching short films and giving them the same time and attention as features.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2021: Busting a Gut – Comedy Horror

Comedy and horror make for perfect bedfellows as both seek to gain an immediate, impulsive response from their audiences. The films in this block marry the elements to create films that are by turns, odd, touching and timely. All films are available to watch on February 6th from 9 until 11pm CET. You can see more about the shorts and buy tickets from the Comedy Horror webpage. The block is available internationally, but not in Canada.

Le Jet / Stream

Directed by Eve Dufaud

I have to admit to being slightly perplexed by this short, although the fact that it is based on a section of a novel may mean I’m missing something. Working from the quote, “When they piss standing, all men are works of art.” Le Jet puts its voyeuristic protagonist in a bathroom stall, staring at the men using the facilities around her. Turning this simple, private act into a spectacle, Le Jet employs neon visuals and slow motion to romanticise the act of watching.

Growth

Directed by Allison Miller

Allison Miller takes directing, writing and lead performer duties in Growth about a woman who is struggling with extreme pain that only seems to dull if she gives into the urge to post vicious online comments. The striking image of green bile dripping from the woman’s chin throughout the film works as a prominent reminder of her inner, concealed anger in civilised spaces. While it is difficult to see it as too much of a critique of social media its veering to body horror elements is a welcome touch.

Hitte / Heat

Directed by Thessa Meijer

Another of the shorts with a very short runtime at just over two minutes, Hitte utilises a simple idea but pulls it off with a huge helping of style, engaging effects and a soundtrack that compliments the off-kilter idea and serves to turn up the temperature a little higher.

You Don’t Know Me

Directed by Isabelle Giroux & David Emond-Ferrat

A darkly comic tale of a derailed road trip turned claustrophobic, comedy-of-errors farce. You Don’t Know Me first appears as a road movie, complete with soaring drone shots, but Paul (Stephen Maclean Rogers) and Sarah’s (Métushalème Dary) stop at a petrol station takes them on a very different journey when they discover a dead body. The comic timing is excellent, with a particularly fun performance from Claire Jacques.

The Mother

Directed by Hope Olaidé Wilson

Vera’s trip to a farmer’s market takes a strange turn when an overly-friendly kombucha seller invites her to meet his mother. Initially reluctant, but intrigued Vera finds herself going along with it, despite the objections from her friend. This quietly sinister film leads into its absurdity and is all the better for it.

Make A Wish

Directed by Dinh Thai

Receiving a birthday gift has never been more tense than in this sparky, wish-fulfilment shocker. Josephine Chang stars as Lexie, a woman under pressure when her partner Freddie (Edward Hong) isn’t as enamoured with his gift as she expected. The key is in the performances here as Chang and Hong both escalate to mania throughout the narrative. The idea is a simple one, but is enhanced considerably by the two being so game.

Waffle

Directed by Carlyn Hudson

Waffle was paired with Homewrecker at the Fractured Visions Film Festival and the two feel genuinely made for one another as portraits of female loneliness turned dangerous. Katie Marovitch’s highly-strung performance as isolated waffle heiress Katie is excellent, as is Kerry Baker’s gradual realisation that something is very wrong. Despite the comedy, there’s a sad undercurrent of the commodity of company that stays with you, beyond the dark scenario.

Ding-Dong

Directed by Suki-Rose

The glossy, minimalistic shooting of Ding-Dong works in its favour, allowing the sci-fi elements to take centre stage. The drop in sound as Cricket Arrison zones out at her self-obsessed friend’s chatter does a great deal to enhance the inanity of the situation before it is disrupted. Those zone outs recur throughout the film and give it a great sense of detached strangeness.

The Claw

Directed by Lael Rogers

This punchy comedy about a struggling band whose primary concern of getting their setlist exactly right means they ignore the plight of Kiran, who is steadily growing a claw. A punk-rock meditation on pre-show nerves and wider anxieties with a deadpan sense of humour that keeps its tone light and irreverent.

Melted

Directed by Nikki Chapman

An adorable animation that explores some very deep, dramatic topics after the purchase of an ice cream triggers an existential crisis for Nora. The animation is wonderful, fluid and energetic with a brightness even over lines like “ice cream melts while dead flesh rots”. Short, but sweet.

Your Monster

Directed by Caroline Lindy

One of my favourite shorts of the block, this tale of Laura (Kimiko Glenn) and her monster (Tommy Dewey) is an oddly sweet and charming film about rediscovering self-esteem and a sense of place in the world. Balancing its charm with moments of pathos and bite, the chemistry between Laura and the monster extends the film from beyond a quirky idea into something that feels far more touching.

Danny’s Girl

Directed by Emily Wilson

A frantic and strange tale of the first meeting of a long-distance relationship and the new things the central couple discover about one another, including a particularly unusual possession. An unashamedly madcap film that embraces animation in its stranger moments, but really rests on the gameness of Rémy Bennett and Danny Dikel’s performances.

Check out the full line-up for Final Girls Berlin Festival 2021 at their program page.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2021: Young Blood

Much horror draws on the technique of using young eyes to show a different side to the world and the genre regularly deals in coming-0f-age tales that alter the protagonist completely. The wealth of young talent on display in this block is incredible, with bold performances across a range of supernatural or all-too-real horror. All films are available to watch on February 6th from 5pm until 7pm CET. You can see more about the shorts and buy tickets from the Young Blood webpage. These shorts are not geo-locked and can be enjoyed internationally.

The Rougarou

Directed by Lorraine Caffery

The Rougarou features Gerty (Victoria Dellamea), a young girl who is forced to confront an ugly truth when her gang member father Vin (Jacob Tolano) is released from prison. Their distance from one another is enhanced by their repeated needs to question one another on favourite foods, animals and other trivial content that serves to show how superficial their relationship is due to Vin’s lifestyle. The film views the aftermath of violence through Gerty’s eyes, with the acts blamed on the titular Rougarou. All the dialogue feels deeply meaningful, especially sections where Gerty’s love of unicorns seemingly hints at something more than surface beauty. The camera places us alongside Gerty as she starts to explore her surroundings, finding awe in the smallest places to great effect.

She-Pack

Directed by Fanny Oveson

A small moment of defiance sparks increasingly transgressive chaos in this film of a young girl’s birthday pool party gone awry as the group test their power and push boundaries. Starting with the small act of taking “too much” cake and escalating to drink-related testing of one another’s nerves that genuinely made me feel a little unwell, before spilling out into the wider pool area this is a film that gradually turns up the volume. A scene of the girls screaming an insult directed at them, turning it into a rallying cry and badge of honour, is provocative but empowering, pushing back against the expectation for the girls to be meek and quiet.

The Little Demon

Directed by Carol Van Hemelrjick

The Little Demon examines the rising tensions in the house where two parents (Sean Van Lee and Giles Cooper) have become petrified of their daughter (Kaedi Atkins). While she’s outwardly happy with them, despite not being allowed to watch horror films, at night she scratches their door and appears to have a second voice that expresses them harm and a growing appetite that causes further concern. Despite being excellent at drawing on this tension and sense of threat, The Little Demon is also an incredibly sweet tale of a family trying to adapt to the needs of one another.

The Curse

Directed by Ellie Stewart

One of the shortest run times, but The Curse still has a fully developed, fun and excellently styled idea. While it is difficult to say too much about this without spoiling it (although the title should go some way to letting you know what you’re in for here), there’s a comic attention to detail here that deserves celebration.

Bakemono

Directed by Sumire Takamatsu

I’ve been lucky enough to see this delightful short previously as part of the LAAPFF horror shorts block. An act of rebellion from Ayumi (Claudia Fabella) during a hallowed tradition extends an invitation to an unwelcome entity. The effects showing the presence are excellent and keep the tone light enough without losing the sense that it is a horror film.

Fish Whiskers

Directed by Roney

The first thing to highlight about Fish Whiskers is how brilliant each of the young performers is. Introducing us to Agnes (Juliet Di Gioacchino), Grace (Rebecca Chan) and Hannah (Holly Macintyre) as they discuss Agnes’ sporting prowess there’s a sense of sparky confidence that ebbs throughout the film. Grace has a moment of excellent comic timing but it’s Macintyre that has the most difficult role, adding a considerable sense of sadness and later intensity. There’s an excellent building of mood and tone that strikes a very different chord than the opening positivity.

Check out the full line-up for Final Girls Berlin Festival 2021 at their program page.