Posts Tagged ‘final girls berlin film festival’

A Tricky Treat (2015) and Shortcut (2016)

Playing in Final Girls’s Dying of Laughter shorts program is the comic A Tricky Treat, from director Patricia Chica, about one family’s worrying Halloween tradition. Less predictable than one might expect, this film takes a twist that I recall coming up in the anthology film Trick R’ Treat and gives it another little turn, resulting in a horror short that’s essentially a visual joke. It does remind the viewer that horror and comedy are closely aligned, and that we both laugh and cringe in equal measure at some of the more horrific things we come up with. While not exactly groundbreaking, this is a fun little film.

Prano Bailey-Bond’s Shortcut strikes a similar comedic note, this time as a horrific pun. While his girlfriend sleeps, a man drives home, finally opting to turn off the GPS and take a short cut. While it’s not clear what the film is leading up to, when the joke finally comes, it’s both hilarious and, yes, a little cringe-worthy. There’s a slight edge of revenge beneath the final shots, which the camera has set up for us without entirely telegraphing its intent. The lad-ish lead does increasingly unpleasant things as his girlfriend naps, making one feel that he sort of deserves his comeuppance. Sort of.

Both shorts highlight the close relationship between horror and comedy, and even find humor in suffering (as long as we know it’s not real). A Tricky Treat subverts expectations, while Shortcut plays on a verbal and visual pun. Both films take recognizable tropes and bend them, just slightly, altering perspective just enough to make us question our eyes and the assumptions we make. Both are clever and actually quite straightforward, if you pay close enough attention, but it’s to the directors’ credits that you might not know what’s going on until it actually pays off.

A Tricky Treat and Shortcut are currently playing at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. 

The Betrayal (2015) and Earworm (2016)

The Betrayal and Earworm, included in the Phantasmagoria program of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival this year, are among the shortest and most effective horror shorts I’ve come across yet.

Susan Young’s The Betrayal comes in at only five minutes, telling a rapid-fire story of medical violence and control through quick, almost single frame flashes of court case files and doctor’s notes. A woman comes to her doctor after being assaulted by her husband, only to come under the doctor’s control as he prescribes a series of drugs that she becomes increasingly dependent on. The flashing images and eerie, overlapping voiceover ramps up a sense of dread while creating character with minimal interference. It’s a sharp and nasty story, told brilliantly.

Earworm, meanwhile, is a tight and humorous little thriller, also coming at just about five minutes, and directed by Tara Price. A man awakens suddenly in the middle of the night with music blaring in his ear. He becomes increasingly distressed as he’s unable to sleep when the music suddenly blasts on at random intervals. What happens next is both disgusting and, in the end, quite funny.

Both films push the viewer into close proximity with the lead characters, focalizing through their experiences to create horrific experiences of the strange and even the mundane. The Betrayal doesn’t even feature on-screen actors, relying instead on pure cinematic renderings of images and sounds that shove the viewer into the position of the beleagured, assaulted woman. Earworm is the more linear of the two, but the sudden blasts of music and the man’s anguished screams lends terror to the narrative, focalizing through the lead. This is what horror cinema is all about – torturing your audience.

Both The Betrayal and Earworm are showing at Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. 

Rites of Vengeance (2017)

Izzy Lee’s other film at the Final Girl Berlin Film Festival is Rites of Vengeancea sharp and sad short about three nuns who seek revenge on a priest after he commits a terrible sin.

As with Lee’s Innsmouth, this film focuses on the combination of monstrosity and the terrible beauty in female relationships, in this case with a far clearer moral universe. There’s no dialogue, just image and sound, resulting in a lyrical ballet that is shocking, satisfying, and just a little bit sad. The determination of the nuns (one of them is named “Sister Mercy”) to punish their priest’s sins is shocking at first, but the film adds a small twist at the end that cements the viewer’s sympathies. While the subject might be a bit pat nowadays, it’s nonetheless powerful.

As I’ve gone through these screeners from the Final Girls festival, I’ve grown increasingly convinced that female writers and directors are among the most interesting voices in horror, expanding an always unique genre’s viewpoint and developing new ways of telling stories (and new stories to tell). Horror has gone through many different permutations, but it has too often been male-dominated, with masculine perspectives and prerogatives prized while relegating women to the role either of monster or victim (or both). Here, women are the heroes, the victims, the manipulators, the psychos, the monsters, and the misunderstood villains. Simply putting a woman behind the camera alters the perspective, and certainly these directors all have something to say. Final girls no more – they’re the Final Women.

Rites of Vengeance (2017) is playing at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. 

Innsmouth (2015)

The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, celebrating women in horror, began yesterday, launching a program that includes some past and present horror shorts by female directors. Today, its Body Horror slate premieres, which includes the Lovecraft riff Innsmouth, from director Izzy Lee.

Innsmouth takes “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” one of H.P. Lovecraft’s more notorious stories, and boils it down to a murder mystery, as Detective Olmstead (Diana Porter) heads to the town of Innsmouth after discovering a woman’s body, murdered and apparently the host to fish eggs. The only clue is a photograph of the dead woman with the name “Innsmouth” written across the back. Not long after Olmstead’s arrival in the sleepy little community, she’s accosted and brought to see Alice Marsh (Tristan Risk), the daughter of Captain Marsh, the founder of Innsmouth.

The film breezily riffs on Lovecraft’s story-and happily avoids the story’s more problematic issues-and seeks to express a new horror all its own. It draws out some of the psycho-sexual undertones of much of Lovecraft while simultaneously manipulating those concepts, placing women and female characters central to the plot and allowing them full scope to possess, and subvert, their own monstrosity. The lead actors are excellent – especially the delightfully bizarre Tristan Risk as Alice Marsh, who fully taps into the gleeful malevolence and sexual threat of her villain.

Coming in at a scant ten minutes, it’s hard not to want the film to be longer and more developed, engaging more profoundly with the weird mythos it plays with and seeks to alter. Innsmouth feels almost unfinished, as though it wanted to do more with the creepy concepts, but didn’t have the time or space. Frankly, I enjoyed what I saw, but I really wanted more.

Innsmouth is showing June 10 at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival as part of their Body Horror shorts program. 

Goblin Baby (2015)

The terrors of motherhood are ripe for horror films, but female directors have only just recently taken possession of them. While films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Brood seek to cast the experience of pregnant women and mothers as sources of the abject and terrifying, it’s only recently that those experiences have been truly focalized through female characters, from a female perspective. We can add Shoshana Rosenbaum’s short Goblin Baby to the list of freaky motherhood movies that finally – FINALLY – take things from a female perspective.

Goblin Baby tells the story of Claire (Oriana Oppice), a new mother pushed to her limits when her husband Jamie (Joe Brack) leaves for a few days and their son Charlie will not stop crying. After leaving Charlie alone for a few minutes, she returns to find the baby curiously calm. She soon becomes convinced that Charlie isn’t Charlie at all, but a goblin changeling exchanged for her real baby.

Goblin Baby is a tense, sharply edited film, packed tight with meaning in its fifteen minute run time. Claire runs the gamut of emotions–exhausted by her crying baby, angry at her detached husband and mother-in-law, and despairing and paranoid at the apparent shift in her son’s demeanor. The film walks the line between the supernatural and the psychological – are Claire’s fears to be taken seriously, or is her exhaustion and possible postpartum depression to blame as she begins to see shadowy figures running through the woods? Just how the film will resolve the conflicts is uncertain, and so the tension rises with each passing frame as we delve deeper into Claire’s psyche.

There’s so much to be enjoyed with Goblin Baby that I was quite sad when the film ended – I wanted more of what Rosenbaum has to offer. Would it be too much to hope that she might someday expand Goblin Baby to a full length feature? Man, I really hope so.

Goblin Baby showed June 9 at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, as part of their Mommy Issues shorts program.