TADFF 2019 Shorts #1: We Three Queens/Eyes Open/Make Me A Sandwich

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Much to our surprise, we are going to be covering Toronto After Dark Film Festival remotely for its short films selections. The festival itself runs from October 17 to 25th this year at the Scotiabank Theatre. If you happen to be in Toronto, do head over to check out this festival with its great line-up of feature films. You can find all the info HERE.

Over the next few days throughout the duration of TADFF, I will be looking at these in various categories and pre-feature shorts will be batched in 3 (or 4) films. Most of these will be paired with their screening times. These three to kick-off the first batch of pre-feature shorts are paired with screenings from October 17th and 18th.

We Three Queens (2018)

We Three Queens

Director: Chris Agoston

Cast: Erin Margurite Carter, Soma Chhaya, Emma Hunter, Rachel Wilson

*Screens with Extra Ordinary at TADFF 2019*

Beard (Erin Margurite Carter), Charlotte (Soma Chhaya) and Janet (Emma Hunter) are an all-star carolling group called We Three Queens. As they go to pick up their vests from their seamstress, they end up waking up kidnapped in her basement. With Christmas just around the corner, they need to find a way to convince Shelly (Rachel Wilson) to release them before midnight so that they can finish their carolling.

Christmas horror is always a welcome idea. Carolling has probably (at least to my knowledge) never been used in the context of a horror film. In a premise like this one, carolling definitely seems like quite the competitive world although who doesn’t want to be a part of something important or get noticed by the people that they enjoy watching, right? Running at almost 9 minutes, We Three Queens is a fun little Christmas horror short that adds a little comedy to the situation. Its not hard to see where the story goes as there is some foreshadowing but the actresses here are also quite entertaining to watch especially with their dialogue. Something about having a lot of red on screen not only makes it have the feeling of holiday but also have this more troubling situation at hand that we never know how Shelly would react to their responses to her requests.

Straight-forward and fairly unique in its premise of carollers being the central focus, We Three Queens is a fun Christmas horror short to check out.

Eyes Open (2019)

Eyes Open

Director (and writer): Jawed J.S.

Cast: Angela Bell

*Screens with Witches in the Woods*

Eyes Open is a 2019 horror short about a girl who goes for a walk in the woods to soon find out that she is haunted by an unseen presence both physically and psychologically.

Horror set in the woods has become increasingly used. Its a great choice for a setting because of its emptiness and isolation. With Eyes Open, its (almost) 6 minutes is a huge difference from where it starts to where it ends. The horror actually builds in its moments. While there were some oddities to this one, it still works overall especially as the unseen presence that haunts the single character in Eyes Open shows what it is doing: attacking when she closes her eyes. There are some odd low-budget effects but still, for its progression of horror, it does a pretty decent job at making it intriguing.

Make Me A Sandwich (2019)

Make Me A Sandwich

Director: Denman Hatch

Cast: Anne Shepherd, Peter Hodgins

*Screens with James vs. His Future Self*

Make Me  A Sandwich is a 2019 horror short (and its very short) about a wife who is constantly being asked by her husband to make him a sandwich.

Nothing is quite defining of a short film than one that runs for 3 minutes and keeps things as simple as a wife constantly being asked to make her husband a sandwich. And yet, those 3 minutes say a lot with just the wife’s reaction to each aggressive demand. Anne Shepherd as the wife does a great job at using those little facial expressions to show her lack of patience each time and how she retaliates. At the same time, what seems simple and straight forward as this story has a very startling twist at the end. Deranged might be the way to say that twist ending and actually makes you think a little more about the whole situation here and what we just watched. Its rather unsettling to watch and yet its hard to not laugh at a little of the dark humor here (perhaps its dark humor..I’m not sure anymore). If satisfying unsettling is a term that works, then this might apply to Make Me  A Sandwich.

 

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?

Christmas 2018 Double Feature: Dreamworks Home For the Holidays (2017) & Trolls Holiday (2017)

Its Christmas day so I shifted things around to keep it light and fun. After some thought, the best is to put together another double feature of animated shorts. This time, it is two Dreamworks holiday specials, one for Home and the other for Trolls. Both of which I have not seen the films so watching their holidays special is going to be a completely new experience to dive into each of these worlds.

Let’s check it out!

Dreamworks Home: For the Holidays (2017)

Dreamworks Home For the Holidays

Director: Blake Lemons

Voice Cast: Rachel Crow, Mark Whitten, Ron Funches, Matt Jones, Atticus Shaffer, Ana Ortiz, Nolan North, Ben Schwartz, Kelly Clarkson

Oh takes it upon himself to introduce Christmas joy to his fellow Boovs. Unfortunately, his well-meaning mission nearly destroys the city. – IMDB

While I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Home For the  Holidays, there is something here that definitely didn’t quite hit the mark and that might have to do with the animation or the character design or even just the type of humor it chooses to have. I’m not sure its something that I’d go and watch the TV series for or the movie for.

The idea of Home is cute to say the least and the characters I see can work for the young children audience. For me though, I can’t say that it worked quite as much. It also has the idea that it reminded me a lot of Lilo and Stitch in a lesser way and I hold Lilo and Stitch very close to my heart. Home for the Holidays is a fun 45 minutes though. It has some nice tunes and songs to keep it lively. There is a strong Christmas holidays all throughout and even has parts for Kelly Clarkson and Ben Schwartz, both that I like quite a bit.

Some good and some bad but in terms of holiday cheer, this one does have quite a bit. As a family thing, it does seem like maybe it might be more for the kids than the parents. But then, I’m not a parent yet, so maybe I’m wrong.

Trolls Holiday (2017)

Trolls Holiday Special

Director: Joel Crawford

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, James Corden, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, Walt Dohrn, Kevin Michael Richardson

When the Queen of the Trolls, Poppy, finds out that the Bergens do not have holidays, she enlists help from her friends, Branch and the Snack Pack, to help her bring holidays to the Bergens. – IMDB

22 minutes of fun Trolls time. I’m going to be honest here that other than playing with actual Trolls toys in the 90s when I was a kid, I have never watched the movie before. I’ve heard the song from the movie sung by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick but other than that, I have no idea how it all goes. Suffice to say, this one seemed and was absolutely colorful and fun.

I’m a big fan of Anna Kendrick, whether its her acting and her singing. I think she’s so dynamic as an actress so I have full confidence in her capability. And my first experience with it here definitely proves that its a pretty fun time and a lot of it has to do with all the quality singing that goes into each scene. Its abundant but that is what highlights the talents of both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake because it is their fortes. Of course, I can’t get past this one without talking about Bridget, voiced by Zooey Deschanel who I happen to love also. Trolls Holiday had all the cards on its side for me to absolutely enjoy and I did with all my heart. It was light, happy, colorful and fun. There’s a positive message about friendship and communication and listening.

While Trolls Holiday isn’t exactly a Christmas movie mostly because Poppy goes to her best friend, Bridget to pitch one of their many holidays to hopefully make them happier, it is still a happy experience because of how silly all the Trolls holidays are and how they present it.

This Dreamworks Christmas double feature is done!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler (Short 2018)

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler (Short 2018)

the final act of joey jumbler

Director (and writer): Harley Chamandy

A party clown must fight to keep his smile on. – IMDB

Have you ever wondered about the facades of the people you meet every single day? From the random passerby to the bus driver that you see everyday. Everyone greets and has all their polite moments, but the stories behind those smiles are sometimes the ones that we never expect. Its why we shouldn’t judge someone by what they do or who they are because everyone has hidden struggles that others do not know about. The Final Act of Joey Jumbler is exactly that. This short film takes us on a day in the life of Joey Jumbler as we see him start his day, go for his job as a clown/entertainer at a party and then back to his personal life, which is him trying to be happy and strong for his little girl.

There is a lot to love in The Final Act of Joey Jumbler. It runs at about 10 minutes and gives us appropriate pacing in telling this story. It hits some moments but never dwells on it for too long. In just a few locations and a few acts, we get the idea of the life and feelings that Joey Jumbler has. Part of this is for the main character, Alain Boucher as Joey Jumbler who delivers a great role. “In Memory Of” at the beginning of the credits also reveals that the story is inspired by Boucher’s real life story, who Chamandy previously worked with in his debut short, Mirage.  At the same time, the credit goes to this 18 year old young filmmaker, Harley Chamandy who directed and wrote this short film, as well as cinematographer, Stephanie Weber Biron, in their collaboration and knowing when to use close ups and frame the shots. Its delivers the emotions and struggles in a heartfelt way.

Everyone has their own story and no matter their profession, deserves their respect. That is one of the messages here. There are a variety of messages that Harley Chamandy’s short film is telling. Be it the difference of social ranking from the scene with Joey Jumbler ridiculed for doing his job but seemingly offending the rich adults of the party or the idea that having money doesn’t make you a better person as both the spoiled kids and the adults were obnoxious. If you look at Making Of this film, it talks about this scene relating to the divisive feelings and conflicts reflecting the Quebec Anglophone and Francophone community and the Quebec. While I do live in the community, perhaps I saw it more of a generalized view of the differences between just wealth and disrespect being the central issue. While that angle will give it more of a personal angle, it also creates a box for the audience it can reach because this is a more regional issue. Touchy issues are good to use however, in this case, Quebec Sovereignty and the obnoxious wealthy Anglophone only makes this movie pin a judgemental view of the two groups represented by only a few individuals. Living in Quebec personally, its one that is deeply rooted and deserves more than a simple one scene to reflect on, perhaps if this issue is one that holds so close to Chamandy’s heart, it is a potential next project but one to be treaded very carefully as with most political films.

At eighteen years old, Harley Chamandy shows a lot of promise in the storytelling depth. It will be interesting to see where this filmmaker will take his voice into a full-length film and what he will deliver next.

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler is currently available to view on Vimeo. Check it out HERE.

Short Films: Latched (2017) & Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

Today, we’re venturing into a look at two 2017 horror short films, Latched and Goodnight, Gracie.

Latched (2017)

Latched 2017

Director: Justin Harding

Cast: Alana Elmer, Bowen Harding, Peter Higginson, Jarrett Siddall

An obsessive choreographer on a creative retreat with her toddler awakens a fairy corpse with disturbing intentions – IMDB

Latched is an interesting concept. Running at around 17 minutes, it is definitely one if the longer short films I have encountered. Its a little more predictable as to where the film wants to go however if anything, it is a disturbing thought when we learn the true intentions. Playing on concepts of mandrakes and fairies in the wood and a mother’s instinct to protect her child, Latched takes us on a rather thrilling ride with some genuinely creepy moments. While the plot itself falls into familiar themes, the standout of this piece is in fact the beautiful and haunting score accompanying it and the isolated location.

In all its beauty, Latched is a little predictable but also quite odd. However, there is a charm to this one perhaps in its attempt to let us understand our characters slightly while letting the horror aspects play out in a few jump scares after building the atmosphere. Its a creepy idea and one that is fairly well executed.

Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

goodnight gracie

Director (and writer): Stellan Kendrick

Cast: Caige Coulter, Courtney Gains, Zoe Simpson Dean, Brad Goodman

After mom gets hacked to pieces by her latest lover, a devout child fights to escape the same fate. – IMDB

 Goodnight Gracie makes a very good statement in how a very well executed film can have its moment just by well timed cues despite its length. Running at 4 minutes, Goodnight Gracie is truly feels like a scene of a film that has a deeper meaning of faith and perhaps the naivety of children. In the face of danger and witnessing something horrifying, Gracie chooses to lock herself in her room, go under the covers and read texts of the bible in seek of comfort or a miracle. There is terrifying moments best brought out with films that work on child endangerment themes from the close-ups of the killer to the quick mumbles of words as Gracie hides under the covers. It brings out the familiar of hiding away from the world and its problems to seek refuge. Its a great premise and the director writes a great script that is executed well with shots that shy away from revealing too much while still building tension and making us for that brief few minutes care for Gracie. And when the film ended, I wanted more.

Luckily, after some research, it seems they are looking to expand this idea into a feature film, which I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for it.