Fantasia Festival 2019: Shorts

Fantasia Festival 2019 is over but as per usual, there were a lot of shorts showcased whether before feature film screenings (which is where all of these two segments of shorts were seen) or as a compilation (which I missed all of due to schedule conflicts). Regardless, there’s a lot of interesting selections to say the least.

Below are six shorts that I saw as opening during screenings.

Bar Fight (World Premiere, 2019)

Bar Fight

Director (and writer): Benjamin R. Moody

Cast: Aaron D. Alexander, Donald Brooks, Hector Gonzales, Nelson Nathaniel

When a machete-wielding cult walks into a bar, one bartender is in for the longest night of his life. – IMDB

Paired with The Prey (review) as a the opening short film, Bar Fight is 5 minutes of non-stop action. The premise of the story makes it feel like the world has fallen apart due to this cult as the constant pounding on the door above ends up with three thugs come into the bar. While the bar owner seems meek at first, he quickly fights his way brutally out of the situation. From the series of moves to how the short is done, its an impressive 5 minutes that is very entertaining to watch especially because its in a closed off space resulting in close hand to hand battles with some limited choices in weapons as defense and combat.

Bedtime Story (El Cuento, 2019)

El Cuento

Director (and writer): Lucas Paulino & Angel Torres

Cast: Nerea Barros, Miguel Galbin, Ismael Palacios, Alberto Sanchez

Opening for The Wretched (review) is this Spanish horror short about a family of three being observed by a witch living in an apartment across the street. As the kids settle into to bed, their mother comes in to tell them a bedtime story except it seems very similar to their current situation and bigger brother Lucas who is sleeping on the top bunk doesn’t know whether to look or not at who is telling the story.

No doubt that Spanish horror does really well. In the case of Bedtime Story, its satisfying horror experience. How its filmed and gloomy and darkness of the nighttime setup along with the mom’s unsettling behavior gives it a nice tinge of horror that blends well together. The whole element of being watched also is done very well with a decent twist at the end. Its a fairly complete horror experience for a short film.

Le Blizzard (2019)

le blizzard

Director (and writer): Alvaro Rodriguez Areny

Cast: Aida Folch

Le Blizzard is a 2018 horror short that paired with The Father’s Shadow (review) which tells the story of a woman waking up in the middle of World War II in a blizzard and goes looking for her daughter that has separated from her in the forest. Le Blizzard is not a bad concept to start with. It just feels a bit dragged out because it turns around in a circle. Somehow, it does have a fairly bizarre turn in events and has something of a loop element to it. There is an attempt of adding in a twist in there which does give it some intrigue but its an odd one.

Right Place, Wrong Tim (2018)

Right Place Wrong Tim

Director: Eros Vlahos

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Adam Buxton, Ella Purnell

A 90’s British sitcom is taken over by clones of the lead actor and descends into chaos. – IMDB

Perfectly paired with Daniel Isn’t Real (review), Right Place Wrong Tim is a horror comedy where a on-screen . Its bloody and funny and so over the top that it just fits together in the oddest way and still works. It also lingers on the part of how much of it is reality and how much of it is part of the effects of the show so the audience is still laughing as the scene gets more and more bloody and absurd and yet that just adds to the humor. Of course, this type of humor might be very unique to its audience and might not land for everyone but perhaps its the charm and talent of Asa Butterfield that I’d always enjoyed his acting and roles that this one worked for myself.

Lone Wolf (2019)

Lone Wolf

Director (and writer): January Jones

Cast: Joanne Booth, Charlotte Cook, Karla Hillam, Mackenzie Mazur, Izabella Measham-Park, Freya Van Dyke-Goodman

Opening for Riot Girls screening (review), Lone Wolf is a 2019 Australian horror short about a 15 year old social misfit called Sam who gets invited to a classmate Willow’s party and tries to blend in with her new classmates who happen to be a bunch of mean girls who are Willow’s best friends. However, she starts to go through some kind of inexplicable change and it just starts going out of control. Without ruining anything, that’s the best that I have for this short. Its tries to make fun a little of the situation because its really odd what happens. Sam’s transformation from a little decision of being accepted changes her as well. There’s not a ton to say about this. Its fairly on rails as to how the story progresses with what she gets made fun of as well as who comes to her defense and then we get a twist which explains her transformation. Lone Wolf tackles one of the horror subgenres that I feel is still fairly underused with a lot of potential to explore further so that was a great angle.

Cliché (2018)

Cliche

Director (and writer): Miguel De Plante

Cast: Anne-Justine Guestier, Lilie-Rachel Morin, Josian Neveu

Three young friends, a dark cabin, a wandering killer… You think you’ve already seen this movie ? You’re probably right… – Fantasia Festival

Cliché was the opening short for Aquaslash (review). I’m a huge fan of any concept that can make fun of itself. There’s a lot of really absurd moments here and it feels like the goal is to be over the top in presenting all the cliché moments in horror films and diving into those horror tropes that usually serious horror films would be criticized. Its not meant to be taken seriously and because of that, it dives into a lot of fun territory. It has some ridiculous ideas but then also embraces the idea of the final girl and challenging breaking away from the cliché moment. Its pretty silly and the comedy might not work for everyone but its not a bad guilty pleasure idea and really suitable for a short film.

That’s it for these 6 Fantasia Shorts!
A bit heavy and probably should have broken into two posts, but its what it is.

Thoughts? Which appeals to you more?

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Fantasia Festival 2019: Depraved (2019)

Depraved (2019)

Depraved

Director (and writer): Larry Fessenden

Cast: Alex Breaux, David Call, Joshua Leonard, Ana Kayne, Maria Dizzia, Chloe Levine

Depraved is a 2019 American horror film about a field surgeon suffering PTSD that successfully puts together and brings a human to life.

After a sour conversation with his girlfriend, Alex leaves her apartment to go home and suddenly is attacked. When he wakes up, his brain has now been transplanted into another body with only fragments of his memory left. Now named by his maker Henry (David Call) as Adam (Alex Breaux), he needs to learn how to be human from a clean slate. His curiosity leads him to meet Henry’s partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard) who has less responsible expectations of this successful experiment.

Playing out as a modern retelling of Frankenstein , Depraved stays a lot in familiar territory. Its hard to redo a classic especially with a lot of similar elements being played out with modern day distractions. There are obvious challenges to overcome and yet, its hard to say that Depraved truly overcomes the familiar territory with enough of a twist to make it memorable. Sure, the modern take of it gives it a lot more attractions to open up the eyes of Adam, the name of Monster. A night out in town quickly takes him to experience drugs and strip clubs as starters, opening his eyes to the world outside from his contained world controlled by Henry. And no, naming him Adam doesn’t have to do with Adam and Eve. There’s something more to it.

There are two things to appreciate in Depraved. The first is Adam’s design as a character. He isn’t this bulking huge scary beast but still has his stitches and cuts to make him feel pieced together. At the same time, Adam has a past that flashes in his mind and it helps that the movie starts off with the perspective of this fellow before he is transformed into this new person. From the first moments of Adam, there is undoubtedly the character with a lot to discover because he is essentially a newborn discovering the world around him. Here is where the movie truly excels in making Adam feel more forgivable than the Creature because he is made to be more normal and the world around him in general accepts him to be that as well. Alex Breaux delivers on the roles and fits the character very well.

The second element is that the director navigates the film through different point of views. The focal character changes with the flow of the story, revealing the motives for each of them fairly seamlessly. Alex’s point of view flows into Adam and Henry and then pivots into Polidori and so on so forth. Because of this change, the story moves forward and reveals each of its elements with a smooth flow. Its a unique way to navigate this story even if its still much of the standard fare in terms of a modern retelling. At the same time, its important to probably mention that the movie is best when it is showing the Adam and Henry aka Creature and Maker interactions because these two characters have the most depth and friction in the balance of the story, making Alex Breaux and David Call the standout roles here as well.

Depraved is an okay movie. It executes a lot of elements that do make it unique in its way of telling this Frankenstein story and has a lot of merit to be discussed simply in making Adam into a different type of Creature. However, Frankenstein is a Classic and the story is very familiar and at times, while the story gives it some twists and turns to help reveal the ultimate goal of this experiment, it lacks a memorable climax. The tone is good and the execution is decent but the retelling doesn’t push itself to an exciting moment and feels rather flat. Not to mention, some of the acting leaves a little to be desired as well. Overall, Depraved has its pros and cons but it is a decent effort and if Frankenstein is a story that you enjoy, this could be one to check out for sure.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Aquaslash (World Premiere, 2019)

Aquaslash (2019)

Aquaslash

Director (and writer): Renaud Gauthier

Cast: Brittany Drisdelle, Nicolas Fontaine, Lanisa Dawnsen, Paul Zinno,

Aquaslash is a 2019 horror film about a high school graduating class who goes to a water park to celebrate when someone puts razors in the slide.

Before we start, its important to make a few things clear. One, the Aquaslash version seen at Fantasia is most probably not the final edit. Its a work in progress where the visual editing had not been completed yet resulting in some scenes to be dark and some to be in the day. There were also some sound issues that weren’t polished like ear piercing whistle sounds. Two, the director Renaud Gauthier referred to this version as The Director’s Cut. Its put together in the way that he would want it to be presented. Also, pretty much confirming that it won’t be this way upon its release. With those two points clear, there won’t be so much about the visuals but more the story, the characters and its 80s vibe and of course, the slasher elements.

Aquaslash is a fun movie. It has its flaws. Despite its short run time, it actually spends a lot of time in the characters’ drama. Its not all teenage drama but a lot of it is girls and crushes and love triangles and the likes. It uses this time to create the characters as well as some shenanigans and make some comedic moments. Aquaslash is meant to be reminiscent of the 80s with the park, the style and satisfyingly the background music and soundtrack.

The best thing about Aquaslash is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. Because of that, a lot of it is much easier to accept. There are a lot of moments that sometimes might feel disjointed or completely random. Yet the tone the movie sets never shifts into taking itself too seriously. While that might sound like a bad thing, its a compliment to be able to do that and stay consistent. Looking at the effects and the slasher kills, they are not quite so abundant however, there is a reminiscent feeling of the 80s slasher here that works. The most memorable one is for the razor blades slide set up and how it is done. Because it all happens around the fun idea of a race down three entangled slides, there is a suspense who will inevitably meet their end at the razors. Things get out of hand and there is a great amount of entertainment in how it all unfolds.

Aquaslash, in this version, has its flaws and in the visuals and effects polish has obvious further work to do, but putting that aside, the idea is a pretty good one especially since it seems like such a clever idea of instilling fear in a family destination like a water park and yet, doesn’t feel like its been done before. Its something of a guilty pleasure movie filled with some 80s reminiscent entertainment. It will be interesting to see what the final cut after all the post production is done will be like.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Harpoon (2019)

Harpoon (2019)

Harpoon

Director: Rob Grant

Cast: Munro Chambers, Christopher Gray, Emily Tyra, Brett Gelman

Harpoon is a 2019 Canadian dark comedy horror film about three friends who need to set aside their differences to survive being stranded when the yacht breaks down in the middle of the ocean.

Harpoon starts in a fairly dark comedy way introducing its film with a snarky narrator (Brett Gelman). Jonah (Munro Chambers) is a young man who recently lost his parents and needs to clean out their place when his best friend Richard (Christopher Gray) drops by and beats him up, suspecting that him and his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) had hooked up. After realizing it was all a mix-up which involved getting him a harpoon for his gift, he makes it up to them by going out to sea with his yacht. As issues arise between them, the yacht also breaks down, leaving them stranded in the middle of the waters with no help and not a lot of useful things to keep them alive except others company and more secrets to dig into.

Mostly set on the yacht and in the water, Harpoon is something of a one location film. It opens at Jonah’s home but quickly shifts over to the yacht and the waters. The film is shot in Belize and the overhead shots of the yacht constantly shows the isolation of the location. Harpoon utilizes its space, or lack thereof, on the yacht proficiently and its water around it as well to structure its scenes and consequences. As expected in one location, three people can be many especially when it is three best friends with grudges and suspicions trying to survive. The trajectory isn’t exactly unpredictable but the narrator, done by Brett Gelman adds a lot of substance to the story especially as they are aware to get the story paced tightly but the narrator will fill in the gaps of what the viewer needs to know to give the characters and situation more depth. At the same time, it helps to relieve some of the tension as he brings in the dark comedy of overlooking the situation. Its a nifty addition that adds quite a bit of fun to it all and Brett Gelman is a fantastic choice at getting this job done.

The film is reliant on the three characters being like onions, peeled layer after layer to keep having more to discover. Munro Chambers, Christopher Gray and Emily Tyra do a great job at delivering their roles as the situation get worse on the yacht and the secrets and tensions start building. All three of them have their own traits that balance out this friendship but because each of them have their own little secrets and their own motives, the whole situation ends up having a lot of depth. It turns into a game of trust and wondering when the next thing will be revealed and the tables turn again. The film is rather over the top deliberately in parts and it helps justify some of the overacting here. Fact is, while acting-wise all three do a great job, the characters are more in depth in terms of Jonah and Sasha perhaps because more of the past involves their mishaps and emotional hardships while Richard’s character in comparison is less complex and feels less fleshed out.

Harpoon has its obvious issues. There is some leaps of imagination here and there are gaps in the story, especially when pulling in the idea of survival based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. A lot of common sense probably needs to be tossed out the window to accept their actions but desperate measures, right? However, the tone right from the beginning with the narrator and the contrast with the tension in the reality of the situation makes for a lot of dark humor that lands really well. Its not for the squeamish though since it does have a decent amount of blood and violence. The title Harpoon is really probably just a metaphor or the start of things breaking down for their situation. Bottomline, Harpoon has its issues but its easily looked over due to a well-executed and sharp script. Whether its the one location, the characters and its blend of dark comedy and horror suspense elements, this movie is worth a look.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

Koko-di Koko-da

Director (and writer): Johannes Nyholm

Cast: Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Peter Belli, Brandy Litmanen, Morad Baloo Khatchadorian

Koko-di Koko-da is a 2019 Swedish-Danish horror fantasy about a couple who tries to reconnect on a camping trip but soon finds themselves stuck in a time loop with an odd entourage attacking them.

When a happy little family, where the couple Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlund) is still very in love and all enjoy taking their daughter,  goes on a little trip and end up getting a case of food poisoning that results in serious consequences. Three years later, the couple are still dealing with their emotions and decide to go on a camping trip to try to reconnect one last time. However, they end up in a time loop where entourage of three odd people, the leader (Peter Belli), the giant  (Morad Baloo Khatchadorian) and a weird girl, come to humiliate and kill them. As the husband wakes up each time from this nightmare, he tries to find a new way to avoid their tragic death.

Set in a time loop filled with death, humiliation and cheerful uplifting tune in the background, Koko-di Koko-da is strange. In its five or so loops that the story goes through, its a curious trap to say the least. If it wasn’t for the opening and closing sequences, it wouldn’t be quite so easy to link the events together especially why this particular entourage is haunting this couple. Symbolism is a big part of Koko-di Koko-da and it all sprouts in relation to the loss of their daughter. Every element is a part of the couple getting through this emotional trauma and whether the audience connects to those elements will be key to how much the film is appreciated. It can be fairly vague especially when its not only the curious trio that show up but also white cats crossing the path and attack dogs come into the equation. It takes away from the serious emotions between the couple but add this extra element of strangeness and mostly lead through Peter Belli’s over the top leader with this top hat, cane and a bright smile while being equally brutal in his ways.

Most of Koko-di Koko-da’s story revolves around the father and husband role Tobias being the main focus as the person with the knowledge, making his decisions in response to the previous loop, therefore also the one that is judged the most and giving his character most of the development as well. Leif Edlund does a good job with this character, starting with the first loop where he is mostly pathetic and weak, turning selfish and then finally finding the courage to lead the situation. However, the wife character Elin, played by Ylva Gallon isn’t disposable either. While her role is mostly reactive to Tobias and many times questioning his urgency and the reaction to a bad dream, her loop is one that feels much deeper, perhaps symbolizing her pain being on a different level and each going through their own form of torment causing them to fall further from each other.

Koko-di Koko-da is a film worth a lot of discussion. Its vague in its portrayal and symbolism. There are a lot of between and beyond the lines interpretations of each element. Its time loops while around five times or so runs the entire segment each time. Despite its changes each time, it does feel slightly repetitive. Only just slightly with one or two loops. However, there are some great elements to talk about that add charm. One of them is the pairing it with this repeating Koko-di Koko-da song that is very cheery children’s music. The second is 2 segments of story shown as a little theatre made out of paper cut bunny family projected on the theatre which is a child-like way to present a story that draws parallels to the reality which is extremely charming.

At the end of the day, Koko-di Koko-da is not for everyone. Its not a long film but it has a lot of depth. Perhaps one that is a bit too ambitious for its own good depending on its audience.

 

Fantasia Festival 2019: Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)

Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)

Daniel Isn't Real

Director (and co-writer): Adam Egypt Mortimer

Cast: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins, Mary Stuart Masterson, Sasha Lane, Hannah Marks

Daniel Isn’t Real is as 2019 American horror thriller about a boy’s imaginary friend that starts taking over and controlling his life.

In the midst of his parents’ split, young Luke is lonely and confused. That is until he meets young Daniel, a boy that only he can see. As most kids do, they end up locking away their imaginary friend but years later, as his mother’s condition gets worse after he leaves for university and he starts seeing odd images, he is lead to believe that facing his imaginary friend is needed and so Daniel is unlocked again. Whats starts out as a fun little company turns out to be a lot more sinister. Luke starts questioning whether its his evil subconscious that created this companion and whether Daniel is real or not.

Daniel Isn’t Real is a thing of the worst scary stories when the innocent child’s imaginary friend who is normally a safe haven turns into a thing of nightmares. Under neon-tinted scenes and the borderline of fantasy and schizophrenia, this story is creepy and unsettling. Perhaps its because its born from such a naive source of creativity and dependence. The lighting is used with incredible care. Not only does the color change with red neon lit hallways or white spotlights for example, it works not only to making the film visually stylistic but also, it gives each shot and its character a different emphasis and vibe. The same can be said about how the shots are framed. Its identified as a body horror and probably not in the way most would expect, and is done so well. Its quick-paced and as intriguing as it is crazy and entertaining all thanks to great execution.

All that dials down to the the two mains. The first being imaginary friend, Daniel played spectacularly by Patrick Schwarzenegger. Given Daniel is crafted with a lot of suspense to begin with even as a child, he delivers on giving this ominous imagination so much character and charm. He’s controlling, dominant and cunning and all this seeps through with not only the dialogue, but also his looming (and lurking) presence navigating the scene while immensely charming with each perfectly dressed moment and evil grin, packing in so much self-confidence. His character is the opposite of Luke (Miles Robbins) which makes sense as Daniel brings out the confidence in Luke, giving him the power to see what he can achieve but in turn also creating the tension between the two as the balance starts slipping away. In a film like this, there is an obvious twist coming: one that seeds from whether Daniel is actually an imagination or whether on a deeper scale, mental illness or simply something else.

Daniel Isn’t Real has its little flaws though. Its minor and easily can be overlooked with all the style and charm and fear that the film does. It all dials down to one character, the psychiatrist who pushes the story back on the path by encouraging Luke to release Daniel in the first place as a help for his issues (which we all know is never a good idea especially in horror films). If this scene didn’t happen, there wouldn’t be a movie however, other than that part, this character is essentially unnecessary in any other scene. Its a mystery in itself why this was chosen.

Despite this little flaw, Daniel Isn’t Real is a must-see. Its a horrifying trip seeded from the most innocent of youth creativity and dives deep into the issues of mental illness and evil possessions. Its a jaw-dropping ride that escalates from the positives of having an imaginary friend to the negatives as it takes over and where to draw the line, when to let go and maybe even reconsider this notion and just lock them away forever.

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Father’s Shadow (A Sombra do Pai, 2019)

The Father’s Shadow (2019)

The Father's Shadow

Director (and writer): Gabriela Amaral Almeida

Cast: Nina Medeiros, Luciana Paes, Julio Machado, Eduardo Gomes, Dinho Lima Flor, Clara Moura, Rafael Raposo

The Father’s Shadow is a 2019 Brazilian horror thriller about a nine year old girl who experiments with sorcery to hopefully bring her family back together.

Following the debut feature of director Gabriela Amaral Almeida’s Friendly Beast (review), a movie that spirals into a lot of craziness of blood and sex, The Father’s Shadow tones down the physical crazy from her previous film, rather in this latest film hones in the mental breakdown and sombre elements especially of the father character. Dalva has lost her mother and lives with her aunt and her father. When her aunt moves away for her own life and her father has a few work issues occur, he starts falling apart and holding on further to his deceased wife and giving little care to Dalva. Because of this, Dalva starts experimenting with sorcery and trying to find the incantation that will bring her mother back and hopefully fill in the void needed to bring her family back together.

This story is slow burn and its a bit odd. Which is somewhat expected with Almeida at the helm if we use her previous film as a reference, in fact, this one feels more grounded in reality. There are some obvious nods to zombie horror films in the most literal way and inspires a lot of the actual story development especially the motivation of the little girl, Dalva (Nina Medeiros). She is the main focus of the story and she holds a lot of the attention because of the different ways she approaches sorcery, influenced by movies and her aunt as well as her best friend, who has quite the turn of events. This isn’t a wordy film, in fact a lot of the talking is from her aunt, Luciana Paes and the concern she voices. The opposite applies to her father (Julio Machado) who loses the parenting ability and has lessening concern towards of Dalva as he falls apart, its more shown through the lesser words and the isolation and the lack of care of the surroundings.

Every character in this story has their own scars. There are feelings of being replaced, unimportant and disposable whether in the family or at work. Its why Dalva becomes such a girl that feels leads the story with investment of seeing whether she succeeds in her endeavor or not. Looking at the horror elements, its more along the lines of subtle appearances of spirits and the uneasy feeling of expecting something to happen and some of the teasing still shots that make up for the subtle horror.  To be fair, the horror scenes here are done with a lot of care. It tries to break out from expectations at times and offers something a little different. At times, the horror elements do get drowned out by the drama.

The Father’s Shadow is a slow and doesn’t have a lot of dialogue. A lot of the story is told through the things that happen, the surrounding sound (or lack thereof) and how the characters react and take action. Its a good way to execute the film as it does give space for the audience link the story together themselves but at the same time, it does feel slightly lacking in pacing. Its not that there isn’t anything happening, more that the climax isn’t really quite there and then it just ends. The concept of sorcery and the cast, especially Nina Medeiros really does deliver, where it doesn’t quite hit the point is the execution.