Horror Shorts Reviews: A Haunting Creature Comes Calling in “My Monster”; A Young Girl Takes a Fantastic Journey in “Sylphvania Grove”
Prolific filmmaker Izzy Lee continues her streak of excellent short horror films with Nihil Noctem Films’ My Monster, a Christmas-set tale of a woman haunted by visions of a mysterious creature outside her window. Though Lee’s shorts often have a dark humor to them, the comedy in this one is a bit more playful.
Horror movie veteran Brea Grant (of Beyond the Gates, All the Creatures Were Stirring, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, to name but a few) portrays Lily, a young woman who receives little sympathy from her lunkheaded partner Rob (Adam Egypt Mortimer) about her being repeatedly taunted by a disturbing presence. When Rob discovers that this being is not a mere figment of Lily’s imagination, Lee takes My Monster down an amusing, unexpected path.
Lee’s shorts — which include the Lovecraft-inspired Innsmouth and the tale of revenge from beyond the grave For a Good Time, Call . . . — are always wonderfully crafted, captivating slices of cinema, and My Monster continues this terrific trend. Lee usually adds a dash of feminist commentary in her works, and this short is no exception, though to discuss it here would mean going into spoiler territory. Her eye for visuals is as solid as her knack for storytelling and building suspense, which she combines marvelously here with comedic elements. Grant is outstanding as Lily, who has a great character arc. Mortimer is solid as her jock-mentality significant other, and Steve Johanson brings sympathy and a touch of humanity to the titular creature.
Though I’m certainly not the first person to say this, Izzy Lee is an superb writer and director whose short film oeuvre speaks for itself, and who greatly deserves to be at the helm of a feature film. See why as My Monster makes its film festival rounds this year.
Writer/director Rebekah Fieschi’s fantasy short Sylphvania Grove from Horrorromance Productions is the tale a troubled young girl who prefers the company of books to that of people and the world outside her home. She meets up with dark, otherworldly elements on a strange, nocturnal adventure.
Maxine Wanderer plays Mycena, an elementary-school-aged girl who shuts herself off from the outside world by reading books in her closet. When her babysitter Kim (Charlie Gillette) suggests that Mycena go outside and play with her friends, the youngster feigns sickness. Angered because her parents do not come home at bedtime but soothed a bit when Kim reads to her, Mycena finds herself being led to the nearby forest my magical beings. There, she encounters a sinister creature and a feral child, and finds herself empowered because of these interactions.
Sylphvania Grove is a beautifully realized slice of cinema that puts a young girl at the forefront of a heroic journey, and Fieschi has created a captivating realization of a child’s imaginary world. The short looks beautiful thanks to stirring set design, cinematography, makeup, and special effects, and the story is a strong one that, like classic fairy tales, offers plenty of room for interpretation and symbolism.
Wanderer is wonderful in the lead role, bringing an effervescent energy to the role of Mycena, and showing a wide range as her character grows during her magical journey. The supporting cast members acquit themselves well, too, including Gillette as Mycena’s sympathetic, patient babysitter, and Meaghan Bloom Fluitt as Dotoira, a mysterious being with chilling intentions.
Fieschi’s previous short horror-comedy film Mauvaises Têtes (Bad Heads), a charming spin on classic horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s, found great success on the festival circuit, and Sylphvania Grove should bring the director even more well-earned attention as it goes on its fest run.