Screamfest LA 2018 had a ton of shorts on offer, including some stunning and weird titles that were played in blocks over the weekend attached to random features. Here are but a few of these.
The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds (USA) (2018)
One night, at Camp Nawgonamakit, some of the older kids tell each other scary stories. Once of these is the story of Squirt Reynolds, a former camp kid who was bullied and pushed too far. Written by Anthony Cousins and John Karsko with Cousins also directing, The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds builds its world in a very 80s-slasher way, having kids and camp counselors deep in the woods telling scary stories until one of them goes very wrong. The atmosphere built makes the film here along with the performances from the entire cast who clearly give their all to make this a fun little campfire tale of a film. Between the visuals and the acting, the film and its story are in good hands. Add to that great special effects and a fun slasher killer and you get a film that is the perfect re-do of the period’s best offerings with a touch of extra, self-deprecating at times, humor. The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds knows the tropes it’s playing with and it plays with them beautifully, bloody well.
This short about how fear can control a person and the lack of fear can also be problematic is a beautifully shot, amazingly acted short film from writer/director Faye Jackson who takes this story of an old woman taking her fear and stashing it under the stair to then realize that she may actually need a little fear is a well-told tale of aging, emotions, freedom, and enjoying life.
Fears (Miedos) (Spain) (2018)
A little girl keeps waking up screaming about the old lady in the closest to her father. He does what he can to assuage her fears, but will it be enough? Is there really an old lady in the closet? This short by Germán Sancho is much more than it originally seems and keeping its secrets and twist is tantamount to keeping its emotional impact. What can be said without ruining the film is that it’s a strong short with fantastic writing and great directing paired with talented performances with particular attention needing to be placed on Claudia Placer who plays the little girl scared in her bed. Her performance sells the films and makes it hit so hard when all is revealed along with the performances of Carlos Santos and Sheila Lloyd. The cast here are what gives the film its impact on top of the writing as they keep things in the right emotional range to give the twist just the right impact. Miedos is a powerful short about much more than meets the eye at its start. It’s a short that handles more than one would expect and does so with class and restraint.
"My Left Foot." Daniel Day-Lewis broke two ribs during filming from assuming the hunched-over position in his wheelchair for weeks of filming. He also would refuse to come out of character. On visits to the set canteen, other people would have to help him with food.
Catcalls (Ireland) (2017)
A man flashes 2 young women he asked for directions, as he heads home, he discovers how much of a mistake it was as they are not going to stop until they get what they want. Written and directed by Kate Dolan, Catcalls is a fun take on what would happen if men catcalled or flashed or harassed women who turned out to be predators and much more than able to take them on and take them down in a violent manner. Here this is explored well and makes its point very quickly. The film does this from the great writing and precise directing by Dolan but also from the performances including those of Cesca Saunders, Edel Murphy, and Martin O’Sullivan who all do work that is perfectly align with the film’s needs and what the story calls for. The film’s cinematography Piers McGrail works great with all of this, showing the viewer just the right amount of what is going on and, paired with the lighting, it keeps some things veiled while others are out in the open, helping the film has its impact. Catcalls is a timely short film that shows what many women wish they could do to defend themselves and those around them from the many catcallers, flashers, and other harassers out in public.
Wyrmwood: Chronicles of the Dead (Australia) (2017)
This short film is more a teaser of what is to come in the world of Wyrmwood as it is the six first minutes of a new series. Here a woman is tied up and muzzled in a basement where people are being kept for zombie bait. Her fight to get out of there is gore-soaked and action-packed. This little teaser from writer/diretor Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner works well as its own short film and packs one hell of a punch. Lead actress Nandalie Campbell Killick kicks major ass in her part, fighting and clawing her way out of the this compound and doing some serious damage to her captors and their location. Her presence is magnetic and her fighting is fascinating to watch, setting her up to be someone action fans will want to keep an eye on. The short film is a blast to watch in great part due to her performance. The gore is great and plentiful here with fantastic practical effects showing what can really be done in this kind of conditions. The zombie sub-genre is one that is tired at this point, but this short film shows how a crew with lots of talents and great ideas can give it a shot of adrenaline and wake it up for one more ride.
Three Major Horror Franchises Were Inspired by the Same Serial Killer. It takes one particularly terrifying creep to inspire Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, and Leatherface, but that’s the legacy left by horrifying serial killer Ed Gein. When he was finally caught and his house of horrors in Plainfield, Wisconsin, discovered, police found masks and lampshades made from human skin, among plenty of other atrocities. His astonishing depravity proved a source of creative inspiration.
The Coatmaker (Australia) (2018)
A coatmaker readies to close shop for the night. As he grabs his coat and heads out, something is watching him, wanting him to stay. In this short by Scott Dale, the simpler things are given a go and atmosphere and ambiance win over flashy effects and complex stories. This short is deceptively simple and uses light and sound to build up a dread of what may be to come that may very well be worse than what is actually watching. Or is it? Lead actor John Jenkins sells the premise and the action by giving his best to the evolution of fear, from mild annoyance to full blown fright, his work here is perfect for the film and its evolution. The short is one that takes a bit of time to set itself up but once that is done, it goes full blown and manages to scare in just a few minutes of screen time.
Meet You in the Parking Lot (USA) (2018)
Two young women set up a circle to call out their future selves and be able to learn how they are doing later on in life. As they do this, one is skeptical and the other is all in. One of them will get more than she bargained for. This short from writing and directing duo David Sloan and Jordan Eakin takes a simple premise and works with it in a manner that creates mystery and an ending that both makes sense and has an emotional impact. In the short time given, they create a strong story with interesting visuals and lead performances by Arielle Gordon and Gabrielle Stephenson who give the film a truth, an honesty, something that takes the film from a mere good idea to something that is fully fleshed and effective. Meet You in the Parking Lot is a simple premise that is taken to a height where it becomes much more than just the sum of its parts. The ending’s emotional impact is something that is almost expected and is something that definitely shows talent from all involved.