EROTICIDE (dir. Matthew Saliba) There wasn’t a more devastating short film this year. There wasn’t a harder film for me to write about this year, despite wanting to sing its praises at every given opportunity. Saliba continues to mine the erotic horror subgenre for standout material, but this time he leaves the over the top bombast of his previous work (Amy’s In The Attic) behind for something as quiet as a whisper and as personal as reading one’s journal out loud to a room full of strangers. In the wrong hands, with the wrong cast this sensitive material could have been high camp. Luckily, Saliba and his trio of performers (Jocelin Haas, Stephanie van Rijn and Lisa di Capa in one of the most striking performances of anyone in any role of the year, period) are more than up to the challenge. EROTICIDE deals with one man’s (Haan) need to submit, not out of any sense of pleasure the act gives him,but due to complete and utter self-hatred. He buries these feelings down deep, so that not even his longtime girlfriend (van Rijn) knows about them. The only person tuned in to them is his spurned ex-Mistress (di Capa) and a chance encounter finds her willing to exploit his weakness with no regards to boundaries. Ninety percent of the potential audience for EROTICIDE will be turned off by the subject matter, finding it weird, even deviant. But those who understand at least a small part of Haas’ dilemma, will appreciate the way Saliba steers this sensitive material. Above all else,EROTICIDE is about making heartbreaking sacrifices. In a year crammed with excellent short films, EROTICIDE stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
I think I might love short films more than features. The most satisfying part of curating films for our monthly screenings has been the opportunity to dive headfirst into the cavalcade of short genre films popping up on the festival circuit and digital outlets these past four years.
I’ll say this for certain, while 2013 was most certainly a down year in terms of the quality of feature length screeners, it was a bonanza for short films. The list below supposedly contain my ten favorite ones, but I can tell you that if I wrote the list at a different time, or had a ham sandwich instead of chili before jotting down the list, it could have looked much different. In fact, I’m doing away with the top ten list here since the first seven film listed below could go in any order depending on my mood. Think of it as movie jenga. The final three films are listed in order as my top three of the year.
I AM MONSTER (directors Shannon Lark & Lori Bowen) The lovely Ms. Shannon Lark might be the only woman on God’s green earth that could make necrophilia an erotic journey. Lori Bowen builds on the visual flair she established with her previous work Stella Buio, trading the vivid reds and greens of her Fulci inspired short for the sterile white and polished steel of a hospital morgue. Lark plays a young women that has an **ahem** affinity for the dead. The ladies hold nothing back and I would venture that those who won’t admit there’s a little bit of a turn on amidst all the repulsion are lying to themselves.
MINIMUS (dir. John Hopkins) When you imagine the Roman Colosseum you picture brawny gladiators chiseled out of marble with biceps that could crush walnuts. This comedic short is not about one of those types. As the choir sings the praises of each warrior before each meets their grisly demise in front of joyfully bloodthirsty crowds, Minumus cowers in his seat, furtively trying to puzzle a way out of his situation.
CRAZY FOR YOU (dir. James Moran) If romantic comedies about fish out of water couples make you want to gouge out our eyeballs with salad forks…you might enjoy this short film about a serial killer in love. Charlie (Arthur Darvill) has a very specific trigger-polka dots send him into a murderous rage that cannot be sated until he’s disposing the offending corpse into a nearby dumpster. But when he meets Jessica (Hannah Tointon) he vows to do his best to leave all that behind. This Hugh Grant rom/com meets American Psycho mashup has a load of charm and laughs and a sweet underbelly that you just want to plunge a kitchen knife through.
LEGITIMATE (dir. Izzy Lee) A potent political statement from first time director Lee, Legitimate contains some effortless beautiful shots, whether its a smug Senator (the always excellent Michael Thurber) twinkling his class of scotch while smirking to himself, or Karin Webb’s exotic dancer luring him into her deadly trap one gyration at a time. Lee’s film is a call to arms, and a reminder that old, straight white guys need to shut the fuck up about women can and can’t do with their bodies.
YELLOW (directors Ryan Haysom & Jon Britt) A stylish neo-giallo film that finds a grizzled investigator tormented by a serial killer he’s hot on the trail of. There might not have been a more visually sumptuous short all year. Yellow’s colors pop off the screen, and even the close up extreme moments of gore manage a special kind of beauty. Add the up tempo synth driven soundtrack to the mix and you have a film that updates the template laid down by Argento and Bava with aplomb.
TIGHTENING OUR BELTS (dir. Jordan Shankman) This student project might have the most gorgeous set design of any indie short I watched all year. The main setting is beautiful amalgamation of a haunted house and charnel house. The story itself concerns a young boy trying to escape the clutches of a pair of foodies turned cannibals that want him as their table’s centerpiece. Belts has a the type of gut punch at the end that makes me love the short film genre so much.
HELL NO! (dir. Joe Nicolosi) The collective grown that accompanies every screening of this hilarious short film is the sound of a hundred horror nerds kicking themselves for not doing this first. This four minute short acts as an extended trailer for a horror movie where everyone acts sensibly: teenagers decide not to explore the rumored to be haunted insane asylum after midnight, the puzzle box with the cryptic engravings is left well enough alone and friends stick together and alert the authorities when trouble arises. Nicolosi plays the material straight for hilarious results.
FIST OF JESUS (directors Adrian Cardona & David Munoz) The Son of God raises Lazarus from the dead. This act serves as the catalyst for the first zombie mass attack of human history in this short film that rivals Dead Alive for the sheer amount of wanton gore and carnage heaved at the screen. If the sight of Jesus skewering a cowboy zombie with the skeletal remains of a giant fish doesn’t give you a horror boner, then you need to see your doctor for some Viagra.
DEATH OF A SHADOW (dir. Tom van Avermaet) A deceased soldier strikes a deal with a demonic collector. He can travel through time and space to “capture” individual death on photo, with the opportunity to earn one more chance at life alongside the woman he loves. One of the most visually gorgeous and original short films of the year, this is well worth your $3 purchase on iTunes.