The Final Girl Berlin Film Festival is a horror-film festival in its 4th year that takes place in Berlin, from late January to early February. The festival is a trans-inclusive event dedicated to celebrating women in horror, tired of seeing the depiction of women as victims, objects, or props. Which is why I was so excited to review A Real Scream – Comedy Horror block for The Final Girl Berlin Film Festival, 2019.
ALLEN ANDERS — LIVE AT THE COMEDY CASTLE
(Dir. Laura Moss, USA, 2018)
This 7-minute nightmare short, written by Tony Grayson and directed by Laura Moss, was a Staff Pick Premiere for Vimeo. Grayson, who wrote the piece, also performs as the manic comedian, Allen Anders.
Allen Anders, a tall, skinny, hyped-up comedian, who has what appears to be a nervous breakdown, during a set in the 80’s at the Comedy Castle. The tapes look as if they have been filmed, by a girlfriend or his Mom with a shitty VHS camera and then lost to time, after Allen Anders undoubtedly killed himself.
That’s not so far-fetched — it reminded me of Steve Lubetkin, a comedian who killed himself after a dispute with the Comedy Store in 1979. He was one of the comics who picketed during the strike, along with David Letterman and Jay Leno against the Store. When the conflict resolved with the comedians getting paid and everyone going back to work, Lubetkin felt that Mitzi Shore retaliated against him by not giving him slots. So he killed himself.
That’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard, for everyone involved. When I first watched the short, I wondered if that was what I was watching, the last set of Steve Lubetkin before he killed himself — but it wasn’t. It was something entirely new and even more creative and nightmarish, for, in Allen Ander’s world, suicide isn’t possible.
To explain: It’s a short about a real comedian — Tony Grayson, doing a character “Allen Anders,” an 80’s comedian, having an existential breakdown in front of the audience, and yet he’s killing. It’s cringe-comedy. The audience thinks it’s funny, because maybe they too, are having a breakdown because aren’t we all, always, having an existential breakdown?
The weirdest part is that the comedian keeps returning to the stage to repeat the bit, as part of the bit. It was The Bit Of The Never Ending Bit, I’m sure that gag was invented in Vaudeville times, but here, it’s used in a way to suggest that we’re all stuck in time, in a loop, repeating ourselves, over and over. Or worse, it suggests that perhaps the comedian is stuck, stuck in a rut, or stuck with lame material, and he has to go out night after night, repeating the same jokes about Mondays, and to what end?
Ever since I read Nick Bostrom’s essay on the Simulation Argument, I’ve pretty much accepted that we’re living in a simulation. And a shitty one at that, no dragons! But hopefully the simulation is finite and like an episode of a TV show, it will finally come to an end. But the scary thing is…Allen Ander’s set didn’t come to an end. Because it doesn’t have an end. It’s a loop.
Favorite Thing: Repeating B-roll shots of the audience, laughing, smoking, and drinking beer.
ALL MEN MUST DIE!
(Dir. Kate Beacom, USA, 2018)
I love the title of this short but as soon as I read it, I was like I bet there’s some dude who tweeted at the director: Not All Men Must Die! Written by Kate Beacom and Lacey Jeka, starring Lacey Jeka and Alex Song as Kyle and Prudence, two young women figuring out life.
Prudence and Kyle get high to celebrate Kyle’s birthday; they go to a bar, but Kyle gets trashed and aggressively hit on by a guy who keeps insisting “I’m nice. I’m a nice guy. I’m nice. You’re not going anywhere. I’m nice,” over and over again, like a self-serving facebook post, without letting her leave. Certainly, this scene is relatable to most women.
The title of the short is, I think, a reference to Game of Thrones; in the series, the people of Braavos have a greeting: “Valar Morghulis,” which means “All men must die,” and the standard response to that greeting is “Valar Dohaeris,” which means “All men must serve.” Looking deeper, there’s a moment in Game of Thrones when Missandei says to Khaleesi: “All men must die,” and Khaleesi responds “All men must die, but we are not men.” Damn, that’s why she’s the Unburnt.
Why would the writer select such a heavy GOT reference for a title? To show that perhaps, like Khaleesi, we should burn our enemies to the ground? If so, what was originally intended to be heroic, turns out to be pretty gross — Kyle hits the guy in the head with a brick — but it doesn’t end there. The man is the victim, not the woman. It’s turning the tables, after all the tagline is: He was asking for it.
Watching zombies die is easy but watching a human being (even one who deserves it) die is horrifying. Perhaps that was the intention of the writer, to horrify us by showing that sweet women can become villains too, just like men.
(Dir. Kimmy Gatewood, USA, 2018)
This is a terrifying story, directed by Kimmy Gatewood. A woman (Alison Becker) wakes up in the middle of the night and decides that she is going to kill herself. But there’s one problem: She is a control-freak.
This is the most organized suicide attempt I’ve ever seen. She turns a suicide note into office work. It’s not easy for her to let go. This is a woman who enjoys the routine of boring office work, no wonder she is suicidal. She needs help!
The director slowly, ever so slowly, forces us to watch a control-freak prepare her suicide. I felt terrible because she is obviously hard-working but so, so, so miserable. And the saddest part of the short…is the dog.
The dog watches his best human friend suffer as she prepares (to possibly) kill herself. I almost couldn’t stand it. The whole time, I was thinking: DON’T KILL YOURSELF. YOUR DOG LOVES YOU. YOUR DOG NEEDS YOU. YOUR DOG WILL MISS YOU. DON’T DO THIS. THE DOG!
I was freaked out the whole time and I feel sorry for extreme Type-A control freaks. It must be a never-ending nightmare, fighting a need to organize everything constantly. I particularly enjoyed the lean, bleak script from Alison Becker, there’s no dialogue, just the woman desperately preparing for death.
Favorite Thing: A shot of a distraught woman standing in her living room, planning her suicide, and behind her is a huge, yellow, cheesy, framed poster of a marshmallow that says: GET HAPPY.
(Dir. Eileen O’Meara, USA, 2018)
An animated cartoon short about panic attacks — the short recreated what it might be like to have a panic attack in the morning while driving to work. But also, maybe it’s also about plants that are trying to drive people crazy?
I really loved the song at the end, when the plants sing in a cute-creepy voice: ‘Did we just become plant food? Hail Satan.’ Seriously, if you have a moment, take three minutes to watch this delightful short.
Favorite Thing: The plants singing.
(Dir. Mary Neely, USA, 2018)
Lucy and Julie, played by Macey Isaacs and Jenny Leiferman are stuck in the house because they are afraid to leave due to an annoying (and possibly dangerous) guy knocking on the door. The guy won’t leave. He keeps knocking. Maybe he’s socially awkward or a serial killer. We don’t know. But he goes away eventually. Is it safe to leave the house?
One of the girls has to go to Rite-Aid to refill her antidepressant medication because she’s feeling sick from withdrawal. But the annoying guy returns. Imagine my surprise when the annoying guy turned out to be Bill Kottkamp. Kottcamp is a super-funny, talented, weird, young actor, who got his start doing improv and stand-up in LA, in PINK TRAILER, he plays the role of the annoying neighbor — Benny.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to the two girls talk to each other and I wanted to see more of them talking about stuff. You know, stuff. I don’t care what. I just like their lazy banter. Their friendship is positive, they’re not toxic, I think it’s important to show friendships between women that are supportive and not the classic “I secretly hate my BFF because all women are catty,” trope.
The production design is incredible: the interior of the house looked straight up like 1988 in the midwest, with lots of retro wood paneling. Each shot features carefully selected furniture such as couches, curtains, placemats, bedspreads, pillows, lamps, teddy bears, dolls, and metal butterflies. You have to see these bedspreads! And the pillows! And the dolls placed in each room of the house. The interior of the house set the tone extremely well for a quirky, feminine comedy.
Favorite Thing: The way Benny says “lasagna.”
(Dir. Scarlett Anderson, UK, 2018)
This short, running at almost seven minutes, tells a tight story about Polly (Evelyn Weldon) — a girl with a delusional obsession for an inanimate object…or a possibly sentient plastic bag. Blonde, blue-eyed Polly likes the plastic bag, similar, in some ways, to Wes Bentley in American Beauty, but she like-likes the bag. LIKE A LOT.
The parents, played by Keely Beresford and Adam Schuch-Des Forges, are annoying and intrusive. A lot of teens hate their parents but they outgrow it. But some teens don’t. And some of those teens, might do regrettable things because of an undeveloped prefrontal cortex.
Polly, who is in a relationship with the bag, ‘sort of’ copulates with it, she puts it over her head in ecstasy and it looks like the suffocation scene in Black Christmas.
There’s a whole world out there — better than a bag. I mean, I can see falling in love with a tree maybe, but a bag? Unfortunately, Polly is too young to know that. He’s your first boyfriend girl, he ain’t the one. POLYFILIA is a weird, interesting short that was darker than I expected, but definitely worth the watch.
Favorite Thing: The Bag.
(Dir. Silvia Conesa, Spain, 2017)
A horror-comedy short from Spain, starring Raquel Garod and Javi Soto, as a couple putting together some IKEA furniture. But the instruction manual isn’t quite right — it’s telling them to kill each other with cute, little pictures. NO!
The director, Silvia Conesa, is also an actress, who has starred in a number of projects in Spain, it’s awesome to see her move behind the camera as well.
Favorite thing: A shot from the floor’s perspective of the couple nervously leaning in.
THE ONLY THING I LOVE MORE THAN YOU IS RANCH DRESSING
(Dir. Sydney Clara Brafman USA, 2018)
I’ve seen sketches about ranch dressing. And I’ve seen sketches about cannibalism. But I’ve never seen those two ideas combined in quite such a way.
The director, Sydney Clara Brafman, was the co-writer for the horror short, EL Cuco is Hungry, which I also really liked. I can’t wait to see more from Brafman, she enjoys creating crazy, fun work with interesting roles for women.
Favorite Thing: The quick, sharp editing that set the tone without having a long, boring set up.
(Dir. Celine Held & Logan George, USA, 2017)
This 12 minute short, written and directed by Celine Held & Logan George, was selected for a Staff Pick Premiere on Vimeo. It’s about druggies, man.
A couple living in a dank apartment need money so that they can buy more drugs. The woman (Vanessa Wasche) snorts the last of their coke, recently scored, while her boyfriend eats a can of beans, throws up, and then inspects the can…and discovers…a mouse.
I really loved the camera work, the director of photography, Lowell A. Meyer, captures a frenetic, sleazy feel with hand-held camera work, but not annoyingly flashy, just superb and direct.
I don’t like druggies, or druggie apartments, or being around druggies in any capacity. It reminds me too much of Florida, so I loved this short because it made me cringe.
The actress playing Vanessa did a fantastic job portraying a greedy, nasty, tough druggie. I hate it when they cast a cookie-cutter person in a gritty role and it’s all posturing. The actress doesn’t seem like she’s putting on an act. Playing unlikable characters is risky for women, we’re supposed to be likeable, while men get to play the interesting, dark roles without judgement. So, it was wonderful to see a powerfully gross performance from Vanessa Wasche.
The overall theme of MOUSE: What would you do for money? What’s the nastiest thing? Think about that when you watch this short and before you judge it, ask yourself this: is it any different from going to a job that you hate?
Favorite Thing: The fast moving cinematography.
The Final Girl Berlin Film Festival runs this year from January 31 – February 3, 2019. FGBFF can be reached at email@example.com; on twitter @finalgirlsfest; or an instagram @finalgirlsfilmfest.