Final Girls Berlin Film Festival: Shorts Program Part 2
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 4 - Family Dysfunction
Coverage: Rebecca Tafline
Dir. Aidan Weaver, USA
This bleak and beautiful film follows a babysitter who has been called last-minute by some first-time parents. Upon arrival, she senses that something isn’t quite on, as both parents are giving off one hell of a Psycho vibe. It had me going back and forth between “is this baby going to eat someone” to “ah crap, am I gonna have to see a dead baby” until the very end. And I was still wrong. Marked by wonderfully precise performances by the cast, this perfectly unsettling short was the equivalent of that film that coats your mouth after eating whipped cream.
Madame Macabre Tells a Terrible Tale About Tongues
Dir. Tracy Rosenblum, USA
This film takes a unique turn into Tales from the Crypt territory, complete with a narrator and creepy, stationary, overheadly-lit shots. The story is a familiar one--a coming-of-age mother/daughter story, but this one involves eating body parts. A clear commentary on eating disorders, it presents the expectations and standards of female beauty with a more “dead and rotting is the new black” twist.
Dir. Elaine Xia, USA/China
What better way to tackle the horrifying theme of domestic abuse than with humor and gore. Metamorphosis boasts incredible colorization and tight shots that gives it an almost unclean feeling. After a tragedy claims the life of an abusive patriarch, a mother and daughter decide to pull the ol’ “worst pies in London” technique to make the best out of a bad situation. The only problem is the mom may enjoy finding the best of bad situations, and decides a spree of bad situations might be just what she needs.
Dir. Andrea Niada, UK
“When something is hard, it can never go bad.”
I have always been amazed as to how I can never seem to get used to seeing rotting flesh. Home Education has helped me with this, as the rotting and death and what is most assuredly a smell are not the most uncomfortable things about this film. Following the story of a young girl who lives with her mother in an exceedingly organized home, this short conveys the message of what can happen if severe OCD combined with Agoraphobia are left untreated.
Dir. Natalie Erika James
This film had almost a bright feel upon opening, but that feeling quickly dimmed once the story unraveled. The story follows a woman helping her woodworker father out at his house with some odd jobs. As the plot unfolds, we get a better picture of the state of the man’s mind, as well as the state of the home and grounds on which it sits. While I want for there to be a supernatural aspect to the bleak nature of the tale, it’s the honest exploration of the brutal nature of natural deterioration that makes this piece simultaneously spine-tingling and realistic.
Block 5 - Serial Killer
Coverage: Rebecca Tafline
Strange As Angels
Dir. Austin Elston, USA
Tightly-shot films tend to leave me freaked, and this beauty was no exception. Following a woman after a Tinder tryst, we’re quickly thrown into a world that may look mundane, but is anything but. Using both literary and slasher film tropes, we see the clear commentary on who can kill and why. With a quick yet thorough feel, I was uncomfortable from the first scene--and although we get the closure we deserve, the ending still leaves you yearning.
Dirs. Stephanie Liquorish & Isabel Stanfield, Australia
This short had an R.L. Stine-meets-Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang look and feel, and I was all about it. We get to follow a curious young girl as she ducks into a nearby hobby shop. We soon come to find that the shop owner has a few hobbies that few would enjoy, the girl is almost an expert at hiding, and I can honestly say even David Lynch wouldn’t wear out his welcome in this place. Beautifully gory and equally creepy, Hobby Shop makes me glad that I can order super glue from the safety of my couch.
Dir. Lucia Forner Segarra, Spain
This hilariously grim short tells the tale of a wannabe murderess who can’t tell reality from cinema, but is more than determined to accomplish her goal. Wonderfully refreshing and oddly inspiring, this film was both sharp and concise, using traditional themes in unconventional ways. I was surprised and awed by the filmmaker’s abilities to make something that conjures so much of what we love about horror movies while surprising us with original takes on old-movie ideas.
Don’t Ever Change
Dir. Don Swaynos. Producer: Jennifer Harlow, USA
I am a sucker for hyper-realistic set design, which is one of the reasons I loved this short from the first frame. The film takes us through the story of a woman whose past is of interest to many people, mainly the young man who comes to visit her on a random afternoon. Taking serial killer-worship to a whole new level, it serves as a clear commentary on the process of aging and the frustrations of losing one’s abilities. Not only did it make me laugh, but it surprised me, as well, by giving us unique perspectives from those from whom we don’t always hear.
Block 6 - Dark Gatherings
Coverage: Jacob Trussell
WHAT METAL GIRLS ARE INTO
Written and Directed by Laurel Veil, US, 2017
With a title as good as What Metal Girls Are Into you know instantly going in, if you EVER liked metal even a bit, you will dig this film on a base fundamental level. There is a fun interconnectivity that metal films have, from the most well known down to my JAM Trick Or Treat, that all metal fans connect to. And in a subgenre of music that is an ocean of men, seeing a celebration of women in metal is always going to be a cause for celebration. Three metalheads are staying in a rental while checking out a metal festival in town, but creepy landlords gotta be creepy landlords and after they discover a hand in the freezer things just continue to go south. Look, we’ve seen this story before, but who the fuck cares because we rarely get to have this type of story told to us by a woman, from a woman's perspective with a womans best interest in mind. Can it be a little on the nose sometimes? Sure, but how many times have countless horror classics been on the nose so hard that they basically just cut the nose off? Plenty, I’m just glad it’s not coming from some basic ass white dude again (and this is coming from a basic ass white dude). As a feature, this story will have the room to breath and build the proper tension that it can’t do in 15m. When Laurel Veil makes a feature, she is going to kick our teeth in and I can’t wait.
Directed by Caitlin Koller, Australia, 2017
Two sisters, both bored AF (and maybe a little tipsy) decide to throw caution into the wind and instead of playing a stereotypical party game like “Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board” they perform a rather nasty Blood Ritual. The unintended side effect? They cannot stop bleeding. While the menstruation metaphor is on the nose, it really doesn’t matter because watching these two actors hilariously attempt to figure out what is happening to themselves as more and more blood pours from their bodies feels like the greatest synthesis of a “Fire Marshall Bill” sketch from In Living Color. Caitlin Koller from Australia, a country which continues to produce some of the best new work of our time, is a voice to watch.
Directed by Joe Savage, Produced by Natasha Jalonen, UK, 2017
The set up is simple: a group of friends go out into the woods at night to play a game of Flashlight Red Light/Green Light. That’s it. There is literally NOTHING to give us any clue anything spooky is going on, outside of the general unease you get being surrounded by trees at nighttime. We know going in its classified as a genre film, but that’s it. But it’s the subtle power of how little we see, but how much we hear, that kept me riveted despite very little happening. If you’ve ever stared into the dark, waiting for something to scare you...this movie is going to frighten you.
Written and Directed by Laura Spark, UK, 2017
An absolutely fascinating piece of folk horror with some strikingly eerie animated imagery that feels straight out of a Brothers Quay film. The film is silent (except, of course, a score), but from the imagery it’s clear that a young woman has just come to a strange convent on an island populated by ominous nuns who are secretly practicing some bizarre witchcraft. After the young woman discovers them though shit. gets. real. As an animated film it’s fantastically effective, but as an audience member I would love to see this story feature length.
THE PENNY DROPPED
Written, Produced, and Directed by A D Cooper, UK, 2016
Stylish, quick, and leaves you begging for more, A D Cooper’s The Penny Dropped is in great company with other Bibliosploitation films (ya know, Book Horror!) like In The Mouth of Madness and The Dark Half! A great haunting atmosphere, dreary and gray, it evokes an effective mood even if I felt I was playing catch up with the narrative, but once the ending finally arrives you are left wanting to know so much more, in the best ways possible.
Written and Directed by Katie Bonham, UK, 2017
A lot of times horror is described as dark fantasy, which I would agree with to an extent, but mostly fantasy will always conjure images of something much more terrestrial and unknown rather than from beyond, which is exactly what Katie Bonham’s Mab feels like. A mother has her daughter taking deliveries to Mab, for all intents and purposes a witch, who creates these pouches (the mystical elements were left intentionally vague) that bring out a hooded figure. While she is making these deliveries we see the daughter with her older boyfriend, who grows more sexually dangerous with each scene. It’s fucking heartbreaking. The ending is nominally unclear if for no other reason than it felt hurried, not allowing us to really sit in trying to decipher what exactly just happened after the daughter comes in contact with the hooded figure. If Katie Bonham continues to be inspired by this blend of dark fantasy/folk horror, I guarantee her debut feature will make numerous End of Year lists.
Directed by Edda Manriquez, US, 2016
Honestly there is not much here in terms of plot or narrative outside of some horrific, slightly religious imagery but good GOD. The imagery is profoundly effective. Like, if someone gave me a VHS tape with this short film on it, and I watched it late one night in 1997..I LEGIT would think I was about to get murdered. So, to that respect, kudos Edda Manriquez. Please keep creating more of these nightmares!
Written, Produced and Directed by Aimee Morgan, US, 2017
Aimee Morgan’s film’s overall style and tone feel like a nice blend of John Waters, David Lynch, and the music video for Soundgardens hit “Black Hole Sun”, and while I personally can only take that brand of Americana Bizarre I know others will eat it up like the Pie contest in the short. The nod’s to David Lynch are on the nose, but honestly who really cares? I personally love seeing random people in suits with a full bunny mask on a'la Lynch’s Rabbits.
DEVIL IS ON HIS WAY
Written and Directed by Ophelie Neve, Belgium, 2017
The short film from Belgium is beautifully shot, succinct and biting, but it does suffer from one drawback short films can fall into: it’s clear this is a portion of a much more fleshed out idea. The three main lead characters, a coven of witches (maybe? Devil worshippers? Super Immersive Latin Class? I don’t think it matters just yet), dupe a douchebag into becoming their next sacrifice. There are some specific shots in here, just simple looks at the camera, that makes me want to know more because I can see that there is more there. So the double edged sword is that while as its own short feature it doesn’t pack as much of a punch as I’d want it to, but as a part of a whole I instantly would buy tickets to this movie. So, what I’m saying is, remember the name Ophelie Neve.