Final Girls Berlin Film Festival: Shorts Program Part 1

The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival is a fantastic new fest that showcases horror cinema that’s directed, written, or produced by women. They are committed to creating space for female voices and visions, whether monstrous or heroic, in the horror genre. The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival are lashing against the tokenization of women as objects and beautified victims, and are working towards the primacy of women as subjects in horror!

Block 1 - Obsessions
Coverage: Rebecca Tafline

Please Love Me Forever
Directed by Holy Fatma, France, 2016

This French short was unsettling in the best way possible. Combining the spectacle of Tim Burton with the oomph of Lars von Trier, this film involves a woman who keeps a taxidermied cat as a pet, can detach parts of her face at will, and teaches her shut-in daughter to hate men with a Mrs. Havisham-like vigor. This film challenges western feminism in a way that makes me both uncomfortable and ecstatic, and inspires me want to re-watch Little Shop of Horrors as soon as possible. With French subtitles, of course. 

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Fry Day
Written and Directed by Laura Moss, US, 2017

“Mr. Bundy’s a lucky man. He knows when he’s gonna die. You and I don’t have that luxury.”

Fry Day takes place on the day in 1989 when Ted Bundy was executed by the state for his many, many, MANY murders. The story follows a 16-year-old girl’s journey to make a few bucks selling photos of the people gathering to watch Bundy burn. As the sun sets, she takes a ride with a few boys and things get tenser than they should--but my favorite aspect of this film is the lack of release. Or maybe there is one. I guess it depends on who you are ultimately rooting for.

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Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix
Directed by Jennifer Proctor, US, 2017

This clever short is both visceral and boob-filled, which is my favorite combination. Ultimately criticizing mainstream film for its need to objectify women, (both in bathtubs and out) the film follows a collective narrative designed from iconic bathtub scenes from flicks like The Royal Tenenbaums, American Beauty, The Reader, and Carrie. The contrast of the cathartic nature of baths with the quick jump cuts created an uncomfortable yet familiar vibe with a clear message: These women may look comfortable, but they haven’t forgotten that you’re still watching them bathe. 

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Waste
Written and Directed by Justine Raczkiewicz, US, 2016

“The pig was always pork.” 

This beautiful film couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to win an award for best gross-outs or best cinematography, so in the end, it did both. This movie made my hair stand on end all through Wes Anderson-esque precision and grace. This film poked at my (minor) meat-eaters guilt through its beautiful framing and brilliant design, as I found myself wanting to gorge myself on its plot--I want of these characters! Marked by brilliant performances from both leads, I honestly couldn’t decide whether I wanted to cry or throw up when it ended. In the end, I did both!

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Dead. Tissue. Love.
Directed by Tasha Austin-Green, UK, 2017

“There’s more to necrophilia than having sex with a corpse.” 

I applaud the bravery of Natasha Austin-Green, as she has successfully made a short regarding the unusual fetish that is necrophilia. Becoming a necrophile was a “gradual thing that came together” over the years for the subjects this film was based on, and something she is passionate about shining a light on to remove the stigmas that surround fetishes. Her haunting narration over pretty black and white stills of naked flesh created a unique atmosphere that both enticed and repelled, as it helped to explain some common misconceptions the general population has towards necrophiles. I was both unsettled and fascinated, and now I want to learn more about this fetish, and more importantly, the people who practice it. 

Block 2: Metamorphosis
Coverage: Rebecca Tafline

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The Day Mum Became a Monster
Directed by Joséphine Hopkins, France, 2017

Another fabulous short from the land of croissants and cafes, The Day My Mother Became a Monster takes a metaphor and turns it into a real-life story that is all too relatable for those of us familiar with mental illness. It tells the story of a woman whose extreme stress manifests in very physical way. Using tropes from old Hollywood, this anecdotal story is both visceral and tender, leaving us with the message that while there are those that are monsters, they are still our monsters. 

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Apocalypse Babies
Directed by Anabelle Berkani, Canada, 2017

You know a film is going to invoke a powerful message when it begins with an Ann Coulter quote. “...rape the planet; it’s yours.” This short chronicles the life (or what’s left of it) of two children made orphans by a dying society and planet. Complete with voiceovers from anti-science conservative pricks--whoops, I mean pundits---including Mark Levine, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Ted Cruz, this subtle-yet terrifying film gives us a glimpse of the future that awaits us if we continue to ignore the earth’s many, many signals. 

La Peau Savage (The Wild Skin)
Directed by Ariane Louis-Seize, Canada, 2016

Evoking an almost period-piece feel, Le Peau Savage tells the story of a reclusive woman who makes a new animal friend who she decides to keep as a pet. As the animal grows, so does the tank, until it grows too big for its own house. The lines between human and animal begin to blur not only inside her mind, but inside her apartment, as well. Filled with shots that made me squirm and rub my hands together just to make sure I didn’t faint, this is a perfect tale of exploration and excess, told beautifully in a silent and intoxicating way. 

Block 3: Mind Games
Coverage: Jacob Trussell

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Liz Drives
Written, Produced, and Directed by Mia’kate Russell, Australia, 2017

Two estranged sisters are separated when a strange man, covered in blood, grabs one of them and forces her into his car. The other sister, unseen, watches in horror as a second bloody woman screams from the backseat. Despite being able to see one half of the twist from a mile away, the final moment is definitely heartbreaking and impossible to guess. It works beautifully as a quick, tragic moment of one woman’s life.

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The Clip
Dir. Maria Forslin, Sweden, 2016

Fun little Swedish supernatural film that feels at times inspired by both the Japanese Horror boom of the late 90’s to more recently the rash of social media horror of today. A young girl gets a link to a website from a friend on Facebook that seemingly shows a live stream of her room. The friend has no idea what link she is talking about, as she realizes that the stream may be a premonition of future events. Maria Forslin is not treading really much new ground here, but it doesn’t matter because it is a solid ghost story. I could easily see this film getting the Lights Out treatment in the future.

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Highway
Written & Directed by Vanessa Gazy, Australia, 2016

First of all, the film is BEAUTIFULLY shot. The aspect ratio, the gorgeous landscape with vibrant colors that pop in all the right ways. I don’t know what it is, but I felt instant nostalgia for some place I’ve never visited. So, kudos on that point! The best short horror films in my opinion feel like a visual Creepypasta (for lack of a better term), a morsel of a clever idea that the longer you think on it the further it burrows under your skin. For Vanessa Gazy, she has a walkman that feels straight out of the Twilight Zone, giving deathly predictions to our heroine, a lone backpacker. On Gazy’s website she says that Highway is being developed into a high concept feature, so take it from me now that when it’s released: you gotta fucking watch it.

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Black Coat
Directed by Tatiana Vyshegorodseva, Russia, 2017

There’s so much to like it’s hard to pick one thing. The clear odes to everything from Del Toro to Jeunet's Delicatessen, Black Coat is dark folk horror that has a very well deserved left turn in the final moments. Much like the United States, Russia as a political power hasn’t the best reputation across much of the globe in 2018, but their artistic voice (especially from playwrights like Olga Mukhina, Yury Klavdiev, and Maxsym Kurochkin) has always resonated strongly as a voice of the people, and Tatiana Vyshegorodseva is no different. And I can’t wait to see more.

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Don’t Open Your Eyes
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano & Andrea Quiroz, Sweden, 2017

A sister gifts her younger sibling a guided meditation vinyl after the (I’m guessing here) death of their parents. Ya see, this specific vinyl Magnetisk Hypnos has, dare I say, opened the eyes of the sister to her full potential. She has a cushy new job, her life in order, and apparent happiness and she wants to share it with her sister. This take on a classic Jack Finney story totally caught me by surprise, and is shot absolutely gorgeously. I’m also a sucker for dope title card typeface and this one is especially aces. Sooner than later you will know the names Adrian Garcia Bogliano and Andrea Quiroz.