The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Love, Simon has brought the teenage rom-com into the 21st Century, finally giving us a funny and heartfelt story about the difficulties of coming out (and falling in love). The Miseducation of Cameron Post is Love, Simon’s more serious sister film, a coming-of-age drama about teens sent to a camp to undergo conversion therapy. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year and is now making its New York debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) as her aunt ships her off to God’s Promise, after she’s caught having sex with another girl on prom night. Cameron meets a host of other teenagers, there to “recover” from their same sex attractions through the dubious therapies of Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher, Jr.), himself a supposed success story of his sister’s methods. But Cameron is resistant and begins to develop a set of friendships within the camp, particularly with Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck), who help her learn to perform her therapy without letting it truly affect her.

The film strikes a surprising degree of nuance and sympathy for all the characters—the misguided adults included—highlighting the sense of confusion and anger as the teenagers try tto change their own sexualities. Flashbacks and dreams show Cameron’s romance with her friend Chloe, as well as the reasons her fellow campers have been sent away to “get better.” Without focusing too heavily on the suffering of the embattled teens, the film delves into the evangelical mentality of “fixing” homosexuality with a combination of faith-based teaching and misapplied psychology. Cameron is encouraged to figure out what in her past “made her gay,” and thus purge herself of her same-sex attraction. The film exposes not just the wrong-headedness and damage caused by such a blending of badly applied scripture and twisted therapies, but also the degree to which the people using those therapies truly believe that they are helping. Reverend Rick has also been forced to alter and repress himself, his cheery smile concealing a pain that he cannot fully repress. Each of the teens handles the therapy in their own way, some coming whole-heartedly to the belief that they are broken and in need of God’s love, while others (like Cameron and her friends) come to recognize that there is nothing wrong with them to begin with. Coursing through the film is the uncertainty—that maybe something is wrong—as each therapy session and Bible verse is twisted to imbue in them a sense that they are sinning simply by existing,

Although the focus is ultimately on Cameron and her experience, the film encircles her with a host of other characters, each of them played with intimate nuance. There are boys rejected by their fathers for being too “feminine,” and girls desperate to fulfill their parents’ notions of femininity. The intensity of teenage desire is multiplied among teenagers who are constantly being told that they’re wrong, confused, damaged, sick; that they cannot be loved by God and be gay, or even be anything other than a very narrow understanding of what “correct” gender looks like. And the film doesn’t so much fault religion as it faults the abuse of religion—in a particularly powerful scene, a boy passionately quotes a Bible verse as he begs to be loved for his “weakness” in loving men. Director Desiree Akhaven proves herself a deft touch in this film, which allows for the explicit expression of sexuality (there are more than a few love scenes) without turning them into a mere titillation for the audience. These are teenagers just awakening to their sexualities, both aware of what they want and frightened of what it means. The insidiousness of evangelical teachings permeates everything, yet the film doesn’t dwell in darkness or suffering. It is, in its own way, about purification, about final acceptance of who and what we are, despite what we’re told to the contrary. The teenagers can’t leave God’s Promise, even when they want to—their parents or families might decline to take them back if they’re not sufficiently “cured.” And if they are changed, then they must live their lives denying themselves and who they truly are.

I won’t go into spoilers, but it’s worth noting that The Miseducation of Cameron Post is not about the suffering of LGBTQ teens. There’s a humor—sometimes an uncomfortable one—that runs throughout and helps to keep the narrative from dropping too far into the darkness. The strength of friendship, the searching for identity in a world that contains only narrow definitions of it, expands the story, giving it heart and understanding and even sympathy for the adults imposing their warped fears on teenagers who actually do know better. But the true heroes are still the teenagers, especially Cameron herself, who tries to survive without denying who and what she is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post will have its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.

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Tunnel of Fear (Episode 1-20, August 1961).

Any Avengers fan will tell you the sad tale of The Avengers Series 1 episodes. The very first season of the show is almost entirely lost, thanks to the habit of British television studios of not preserving the video stock used to record their shows. There were even a few episodes that were never recorded, just broadcast live. So all that remains of the first series/season of The Avengers are two and a third episodes, one of which (“Girl on a Trapeze”) that doesn’t even feature John Steed. But now we make that three and a third episodes, with the happy discovery of “Tunnel of Fear,” now released on DVD from Studio Canal.

“Tunnel of Fear” was the twentieth broadcast episode, nearing the end of the first season, and as such already has some of the hallmarks that would carry over into the second season and the introduction of Dr. Catherine Gale. But here David Keel (Ian Hendry) is still Steed’s partner in avenging, playing the occasional foil to Steed’s secret agent as they investigate nefarious goings-on at a local carnival. The episode opens with the arrival of Harry Black (Anthony Bate) on Keel’s doorstep. Harry is just recently escaped from prison, where he claims he went on a trumped-up charge. He begs for Keel’s help, and Keel only obliges when John Steed pops up (bringing with him a massive Great Dane named Puppy) and informs Keel that he’s been investigating the leakage of top secret information out of a Southend carnival, where Harry just happens to have worked. So Keel heads down to the carnival, while Steed takes Harry to the police, and promptly loses him.

Down at the carnival, Keel investigates, meeting a host of odd characters that include a hypnotist, the ghost-train runner Jack (John Salew), Harry’s mother Ma Black (Doris Rogers), and a bevy of dancing girls at a “girly-girly” show being run by none other than John Steed, having the goddamn time of his life as a carnival barker. The episode proceeds in twists and odd turns, very much reflecting the increasingly odd plot lines and character types that The Avengers would eventually become known for.

Patrick Macnee’s Steed is in top form here, a funny, energetic presence who loves dressing up and play-acting, but always with a canny, intelligent edge that can shift to steel if needed. Anyone who doubts that Steed’s feminism was inherent from the start would do well to really pay attention to what happens in “Tunnel of Fear,” and how Steed relates to the (numerous) women who pass through. He’s jocular and charming with Keel’s nurse Carol (Ingrid Hafner), and when he meets Ma Black, he embraces her as a friend, smiling over photos of her son with genuine good will. And while he’s having the time of his life corralling the dancing girls, it would be a mistake to understand Steed’s flirtations with them—especially Rosie (Julie Samuel)—as particularly lascivious. He’s playing a part, yes, and he’s enjoying it, but his flirtations are never predatory. We can easily see the man who eventually works his way into Cathy Gale’s affections, and makes Emma Peel fall in love with him. Steed was always a decent bloke.

Of course, there’s Ian Hendry’s David Keel, rightly considered the first Avenger, of whose influence we only get a taste, given the scarcity of the first season episodes. He and Steed spend a good bit of the episode apart, so there’s little time to process the chemistry between them. Keel’s a very above-board character, genuine in his desire to help people, but often a bit of a stickler for rules and adherence to his personal brand of morality. Maybe he’s underutilized in this episode, but it’s hard to care very much about him one way or the other. He’s there more as a foil for Steed than as a partner, and though his machinations eventually help his friend and solve the mystery, his time onscreen brings the mood and energy down a bit.

In the simplest terms, “Tunnel of Fear” is loads of fun. It maintains the slightly grotesque, film noir edge that all but vanishes in later seasons, helped along by the live television aspect of its taping. There’s a sense of the slap-dash the cardboard sets and reaction shots that is quite charming, if sometimes a bit hokey. The live aspects give the show a feel of a theater production, watching the actors play out their parts in real time, sweat and all. The DVD is well worth the purchase for any Avengers fan, or fan of 1960s TV. It’s more than just a curiosity—it’s a damn fine piece of television.

*If you purchase the Studio Canal DVD of “Tunnel of Fear,” be aware that the advertised Season 1 scripts are not included on the disc. You must contact Studio Canal (info@studiocanal.co.uk) to receive the scripts.

The Stolen Heart (1933)Most film buffs know Lotte Reiniger as the pioneer of silhouette animation and the creator of the first feature-length animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, a combination of One Thousand and One Nights stories that predated Walt Disney’s Snow White by over a decade. Reiniger was the creator of more than forty films using silhouette animation, a technique initially borrowed from the Chinese shadow puppet tradition that utilizes paper dolls to form silhouettes, then animated and photographed frame by frame. Reiniger is one of the frontrunners of stop-motion animation.

While Prince Achmed is certainly her most famous and ambitious work, Reiniger also made a number of shorter films, including The Stolen Heart, a 1933 short about a town populated by lovers of music who lose their instruments to an old demon. The thematics of the story involve the triumph of joyful music over evil, as the demon is eventually conquered not by anger, but by joy.

Films like The Stolen Heart make a passionate argument for Reiniger’s place in the pantheon of animation greats, a symbol of the power of female directors. There is no dialogue, and Reiniger’s storytelling depends on the combination of the visual and the use of music and song. The film comes off as an anti-fascist parable, reinforced by depiction of the demon as a gigantic old man, looming over the tiny village and robbing the people of their joy. But joy in itself is stronger than oppression and it is the action of the instruments themselves that liberates the people – the music echoes across the landscape, awakening the villagers from despair and eventually crushing the oppressive shadow. Reiniger’s silhouettes meld and transform, and give the impression of witnessing real life through a curtain, warmth and love radiating even as sorrow nearly cows the people.

Reiniger tends to come off as a footnote in animation history, partially because of her gender, and partially because silhouette animation is now largely a lost cinematic art. But it is hard  to watch The Stolen Heart and fail to be moved by it. Reiniger is an artist, a director of the highest caliber, and anyone who fails to seek out her work has done a disservice to themselves and to the history of cinema.

In her first guest post, my fellow cinephile, amazing writer, former flatmate, and good friend Nannina Gilder eloquently analyzes A Wrinkle in Time.

We need to stop dismissing the experiences and tastes of teenage girls as shallow and superficial. Isn’t it the kiss of death to a “serious” band, or actor, or book to say that its fanbase is young and female? Unfortunately much of the art created for young women is made by people who have never been young women, and is often cynically trying to cash in on the demographic without ever truly looking to understand it. The knee-jerk reaction to dismiss and diminish anything that reads as feminine means that when an artist with a firm grasp of the experience creates a work grounded in it, its craft, structure, and innovations often get shrugged off as unworthy of analysis. Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time has been reluctantly hailed as a disappointment, a kid’s movie with little to appeal to adults, a good-hearted brightly colored Disneyfied muddle. But that is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what DuVernay has done. How unique it is in its whole-hearted immersion into the head of a 13 year-old girl, and how that is a worthy and fascinating place to spend two hours of your life.

A Wrinkle in Time, as Madeleine L’Engle conceived it, is firmly rooted in the feminine experience and imagination, and Ava DuVernay’s adaptation visually brings this concept to life. At its core, emotion drives the film rather than action, and many people have criticized it for being full of sudden unexplained jumps and changes, but this ignores the fact that an adventure of emotion has a different pace and structure than the classic hero’s journey we are used to. Think of the wild mood swings of a preteen, how confounding the world can seem. The way L’Engle structured A Wrinkle in Time was not just shoe-horning a girl into masculine archetypes; there is not just one type of hero’s journey. In fact there are countless predecessors to Meg Murry in the folklore traditions of the world. Traditionally the heroine’s journey, like Meg’s, begins with loss; a loss of family or love, and she sets out to reclaim that part of her, tested over and over on her way. Each time she thinks she finds success she is given a harder challenge, and when she reaches her goal, it is marked by a deep betrayal.

Ava DuVernay understands that the way a filmmaker approaches this story should be fundamentally different, and she sees power in the things that the world tells girls are frivolous. In a change from the book, Meg Murry’s guides on her journey, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit, do not look like eccentric tramps, dressed in a weird assortment of mismatched clothes, but are gorgeously arrayed in dresses that look like something that might have been doodled on the margin of a 13 year-old’s notebook in her sparkling jellyroll pens. Each time they travel through time and space, or “tesser,” their wardrobe and make-up are gloriously changed, flying in the face of criticisms that in order to be taken seriously a woman needs to reject self-expression through fashion. Though Meg’s own wardrobe of a flannel shirt and jeans could easily be worn by her friend Calvin, she is never coded as masculine. Her love of science and propensity to get into fights are not viewed as being at odds with the fact that she’s a girl, but intrinsic parts of her. She is allowed to be neither a girly-girl nor a tomboy, inhabiting a middle ground of femininity that many will find refreshingly familiar.

Like the Mrs. Ws’ fashions, the worlds Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin travel to are deeply rooted in the feminine imagination. The first planet they tesser to, Uriel, has the heightened Technicolor extravagance of an animated film. Even the distant hills have a disconcertingly flat quality. Its excess can be overwhelming, and isn’t always appealing, but it has the feeling of a young girl’s bedroom, with butterfly flowers that undulate, speaking the language of color. Even the not entirely convincing form of Mrs. Whatsit after she transforms into a flying cabbage leaf are images that I have seen, either in my own childhood imaginings, or in the doodles and drawings of my friends. This is the world of Meg Murry’s mind. As are the amber balance beams of the Happy Medium, revealing Meg’s insecurity in very literal ways, and the ever-morphing evil planet of Camazotz, which deceives and changes at every turn, cutting into each person’s most vulnerable places with the goal of making them conform. It is not an accident that some of the surreal images on Camazotz, such as the use of bouncing balls, echo earlier scenes from Meg’s real life in school.

Just because A Wrinkle in Time is rooted in the fantasy lives of young girls doesn’t mean that it is haphazard or uncontrolled. Ava DuVernay is an expert at centering her films on emotion and grounding their visuals in the feelings of her characters. From her first features, I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere (dealing with grief and lives put on pause), DuVernay has deftly used close-ups and sound to both isolate and bring together her characters. In her masterpiece Selma she took an epic subject and, without removing its grandeur, grounded it in the intimate moments between the characters. This epic intimacy is turned up to eleven in A Wrinkle in Time. The way DuVernay frames her close-ups often gives room to reveal the distance or proximity of two characters in space. These shots emphasize relationships, emotion, and empathy and the inherent drama of these qualities, favoring them above action and physical conflict. This is a deliberate subversion of expectations for an adventure story, and says that the things women and girls are often belittled for can be their strengths. As Mrs. Whatsit says “Meg, trouble-problematic Meg. To you, I give the gift of your faults.”

Of course this doesn’t mean that the people and critics who don’t like A Wrinkle in Time are wrong, but what many of them aren’t getting is that it is an incredibly specific world, that wasn’t made for them. A Wrinkle in Time is a good movie, a beautifully crafted movie, an incredibly deliberate movie, and not everyone will like it. Not everything has to be universal (though trying to see the world through the eyes of others is a great exercise in empathy and the onus has been on girls to practice that far more than boys (and girls of color even more so)), but the fact that something isn’t universal doesn’t mean that critics get to dismiss specific works of art as small and inconsequential. Ava DuVernay has created something new, a sci-fi adventure in the mind and imagination of a girl, and in doing so has deliberately broken many rules in order to put new ones in place. I hope that it will find its niche that will allow it to be celebrated as the radical, feminine, beautiful, psychedelic cult classic it is.

-Nannina Gilder

Nannina is a screenwriter living in Western Massachusetts. You can get in touch with her via Twitter @NanninaGilder

No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948)

No Orchids for Miss Blandish is based on a book of the same title by James Hadley Chase – a notorious 1939 crime novel that the writer supposedly composed on a bet to “outdo The Postman Always Rings Twice.” Despite the controversy surrounding its depiction of sex, violence, and general nastiness, the novel was a major success and later became a stage play. It was finally transformed into this film, which is a study in all the worst aspects of film noir and indulges its enjoyment of sex, sadism, and melodrama to a degree that’s still kind of shocking.

Linden Travers is Miss Blandish, a bored heiress about to marry an equally boring man who is summarily knocked off during a simple jewel robbery. After bludgeoning the bridegroom to death, one of the robbers takes Miss Blandish hostage, intending to ransom her back to her father. He’s murdered in his turn, this time by the Grisson gang, headed by Slim Grisson (Jack La Rue) and Ma (Lilli Monar), and Miss Blandish once again changes hands. It doesn’t take long for her to fall for Slim, however, as he offers her a life of excitement and cruelty that her regular world was sorely lacking.

On the face of it, the story is pretty bog standard for a film noir, but this film milks every lurid detail, doubling down on the gangster patter – while a British film, some of the cast are American and Canadian, and it makes for a weird and somewhat jarring combination of American accents and attempts at American accents. No one is particularly comfortable with the words they have to speak, though, as the actors appear to be doing game impressions of Bogart, John Garfield, Edward G. Robinson, and Rita Hayworth. But even Bogie couldn’t have made much out of this script, which insists on tossing in every single gangster cliche in the book, and inventing a few of its own. No one is nice, not even Miss Blandish, who is a combination of – ahem – bland and heartless. The lack of anyone to root for, or even anyone to enjoy watching, makes the film feel that much colder and meaner, exacerbated by its continued insistence of depicting coercive sex and violence with a clarity that somehow made it past the censors.

The frank depiction of pretty coercive sexuality is the film’s most cringeworthy theme. Miss Blandish’s first kidnapper attempts to rape her, only interrupted by the arrival of Slim; it’s implied that Slim also has sex with her, though the film subsumes that slightly and indicates in a few lines that she kind of wanted it.  A nightclub singer has an extensive song entitled “When He Got It, Did He Want It?”, which proves to be a celebration of famous rapes. The newspaperman Flyn (Hugh McDermott) later breaks into the singer’s room, holds her at gunpoint, then promptly sleeps with her. Miss Blandish’s excitement with Slim seems to be mostly about him being so violent and dangerous, which could have proved an interesting amour fou, if there was any heat between them. But while Travers is a decent enough actress, La Rue is a bargain basement Humphrey Bogart, and his shift from ruthless killer to tender lover makes very little sense.

The ham-fistedness of No Orchids for Miss Blandish does provide a kind of perverse enjoyment, however. The shifts in tone are wild – one minute we’re watching gangsters summarily execute each other in the most brutal manner possible, the next we’re treated to our lovers making eyes at each other in a forest. There are some odd attempts at humor, like the scene where two members of the gang debate the merits of Italian cuisine, or that horrifying rape song. The sheer dedication to nastiness is fascinating on its own, as we watch one gangster smash a bottle in a guy’s face, or stomp a man’s head in. This film was banned in some British territories, denounced by Bishop of London, and roundly condemned by critics. Unsurprisingly, it was commercially successful.

I stumbled across this film because I remembered learning about the controversy surrounding the book during a crime fiction class. While I can’t claim that my life has been materially improved by watching No Orchids for Miss Blandish, it was certainly a unique experience. At least we learned that the Brits really shouldn’t try to make American films.

No Orchids for Miss Blandish is available to stream on FilmStruck.

Outrage (1950)

Between 1949 and 1953, actress/writer/director/producer/general badass Ida Lupino directed five feature films, making her the most prolific female director of her era. She was only the second woman to join the DGA, and she learned to direct during one of her extensive suspensions from Warner Brothers, where she wandered the backlots and watched directors at work. She was vocal about the need for more female directors, for directors to take on more taboo and out of the way subjects. And, like so many of her fellow female stars, she was far smarter and more talented than she was probably ever given credit for.

Outrage was her third film as a director, and in it we can see most clearly the development of the talent that she would hone to perfection with The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist. And like those films, Lupino takes on a deeply taboo subject with an unforgiving clarity of vision that transcends the film’s somewhat pat third act.

Outrage deals with rape and sexual assault with explicit attention (for the era) and a degree of sympathy that’s as refreshing as it is surprising. The film focalizes itself not through the pain suffered by those surrounding the victim, not through the search for the attacker or the machinations of the family, but through the victim almost exclusively. Lupino makes use of multiple POV shots to drive home the audience’s sympathy with the violated woman, her sense of fear and shame and undirected anger, and how she finds a way to cope with the trauma of her assault.

Ann Walton (Mala Powers) is a young woman working as a bookkeeper, with a boyfriend who becomes her fiance (Robert Owens), a loving family, and a normal, middle-class future. As she leaves work late one night, she’s followed and then attacked by the man who works the concession stand near her workplace, and who we see early on hitting on her with no response. Ann runs and then blacks out before the attack; she can’t recall the face of the man, remembering only the scar on his neck. Her sense of shame around her family, her fiance, and her fellow workers eventually drives her out of town, fleeing to the countryside where she finds a kind of solace with the help of Rev. Bruce Ferguson (Tod Andrews). But her assault continues to haunt her, even as she tries to repress it, and her terror soon takes a darker turn.

Outrage has so many interesting elements that it’s difficult to pick up on a single one. Lupino treats the subject with sympathy, but also photographs it as a film noir. When Ann flees from her hometown, she does so with the air of a criminal – she hides her face when her disappearance is talked about on the radio, and begins to act guilty when she’s introduced to a local sheriff. She changes her name, and declines to talk about where she came from or why she left. All of this is part of the recognizable tropes of film noir – the man or woman on the run. But Ann is the victim, not the criminal; her shame was something that was forced upon her. The film takes pains to avoid placing any blame on Ann for her assault. She hardly knows the man who attacks her; her greatest crime is turning him down, and even then it’s a rejection that carries very little weight. Like many women, Ann is catcalled and whistled at and she generally ignores it or takes it in stride as a simple fact of being female. Up to her assault, Ann is treated as an average woman, without any particular neuroses or anxieties; the sort of woman about to marry a long-time boyfriend, with a family that loves her and a good job that she enjoys. She is, in other words, a normal girl for the 1950s.

This act of rendering a victimized woman completely sympathetic, avoiding even the shadow of blame attached to her, drives several points home. The terror of the assault is that it really can happen to anyone; Ann’s greatest error is an understandable fear that slowly morphs into panic, which in turn makes her make bad decisions and errors as she runs. In Lupino’s work, victimized women are not “asking for it;” they are not “fallen women,” they do not “lead men on.” They are normal, average women victimized not just by a single man, but by the expectations and taboos of the culture surrounding them.

The film’s strongest and most terrifying scene is the lead up to the assault, as Ann’s eventual rapist pursues her through an empty urban landscape. Ann’s walk through the empty streets and industrial yards is at first relaxed; it’s quite obvious that she has done this often, and she’s comfortable in her surroundings. As her attacker pursues her, occasionally whistling or calling out, her panic develops. She’s clearly aware that she’s alone, isolated, and under threat. Lupino’s camera draws away from her into overhead shots combined with medium close-ups, emphasizing her isolation. Belatedly, Ann begins to do what most women are instructed to do in such situations – she heads for a cab, that quickly pulls away from her, and then begins banging on windows, calling for help. But no help comes. Ann finally resorts to hiding from her would-be attacker, but fails at the last to escape him. This combination of panic and an attempt at clear-headedness is believable – as any woman who has ever been followed by a man will tell you – and reminds us that most women who don’t actually fight their rapists are not actually consenting. Ann is terrified, she runs, she finally blacks out to defend her mind from the attack. It’s heart-breaking partially because the story is all too familiar.

As the film goes on, Lupino develops the terror that men can be for women, including ones that technically “mean no harm.” Ann’s fiance Jim at one point chases and grabs her, trying to convince her that they should run away and get married barely a week after her assault. Late in the third act, another man attempts to kiss Ann, despite her repeated denials. Ann’s horror at men and the prospect of being married, is part of her trauma, and the film doesn’t blame her for it. The men that she’s able to connect to following her assault are the ones like Bruce, who do not obviously view her as sexual, and who do not attempt to touch or coerce her.

Outrage’s greatest weakness is in providing a kind of solution to Ann’s trauma via Bruce, a reverend and a former Army chaplain who attempts to break through Ann’s reticence with a recounting of his own traumatic experience. The film relies on a pat combination of psychological and religious salvation that jars a bit with the earlier, noir-ish tone. In this, however, Outrage shows its generation more than anything. There are really only two solutions for Ann in the 1950s – salvation, or condemnation, and there was every possibility that the film would err on the more recognizable side of the “fallen woman” trope and plunge Ann into a life of vice or prostitution. But Lupino does have a defter hand than that. If the film somewhat shirks in its otherwise clear depiction of rape culture in the final act – including a decidedly post-war explanation of the attacker’s warped psychology – I think it can be forgiven.

Outrage is very much a film of its time, but it renders a sympathetic, complex understanding of the aftermath of rape, told through a woman’s eyes and with a woman’s camera. While Lupino would make technically better films, she probably never made a more significant one.

Also showing in the “Dark Gatherings” shorts block is Blood Sisters, a humorous entry from director Caitlin Koller that entertains, even if it doesn’t completely stick the ending. Two young women spend an evening doing what all young women do: watching movies, drinking vodka, and performing blood rituals. The pair cut each other’s hands and chant incantations to become “blood sisters,” but soon find that things have gone wrong when they won’t stop bleeding.

The humor is strong here, as the two girls debate going to the doctor and attempt to fix things themselves. The punctuation of horror with laughs works well, for the most part, and undercuts the scares without totally relaxing the tension. The final few minutes, however, don’t really pay off, as the girls come up with an idea to stop the bleeding. It feels like the film needs to be five minutes longer to develop their reasoning, rather than jumping from one event to the next without a clear connection. At the same time, though, it’s a well-made short, with good performances from the two women, and a sharp script. It just needs to be a bit longer.

Blood Sisters will show in the “Dark Gatherings” shorts block of Final Girls Berlin on February 2.