For the 2019 Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, I got the opportunity to review a select set of films from the Social Horror film block. Now what exactly is social horror? It’s horror that attempts to dissect and shine a spotlight on problems that are entrenched within society at large. Some of the societal issues covered by the films featured in this block are poverty, sexual assault, and racism. As a general disclaimer, all of the short films featured in this block are directed, produced, or written by women.
The story focuses on Sinia, a loving woman who just wants to help out her neighbor Grace and her children. However, when she goes over to investigate after hearing Grace assault one of her kids from the other side of the wall, she discovers something truly horrific. Director Kennekki Jones-Jones approach to addressing guilt as well as identity reminded me a lot of POOKA, Blumhouse and Hulu’s recently release Into the Dark Christmas episode. If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll understand what I mean. It was powerful. Overall, this is arguably one of my favorites from this block.
The film’s title translates to sweet home, but this home is anything but sweet. Director Giovana Gimos dissects the excruciating lengths people in poverty will go through to keep a roof over their head, no matter how degraded that roof has become over the years. We see this through Susana as she attempts to go around to collect the monthly rent and the toll this rent takes on its tenants. When she finds that they are short, Susana must make the ultimate sacrifice. But is it too little too late?
THEY WILL KNOW YOU BY YOUR FRUIT
Written, produced, and directed by Monika Estrella Negra, this short film seeks to examine the transgenerational horrors of infertility/fertility, anti-blackness, and sacrifice. This short is really short and I’ll admit that I might have been ignorant in terms of reading the messages behind the vignettes in this film. However, I cannot deny the imagery featured is powerful, emotional, and made me very uncomfortable, which is what these films should do.
The film focuses on a woman trying to make it to the airport. However, along the way, things progressively become darker and it showcases how no matter where you go, danger is always around the corner. Directed by Hilda Lopes Pontes, the slow build-up to the inevitable climax is done in such a way that it feels incredibly natural, making the horror that is to come more impactful when it arrives.
This is another film in the block that I was left with mixed feelings with. CATCALLS is written and directed by Kate Dolan, who focuses on exploring street harassment and the idea of women being made victims in seemingly safe spaces. At first, I was all about the idea of the film’s male character getting his comeuppance, but what took me out of it was the punishment of the character’s wife who had appeared to have done nothing wrong. In a film that focuses on women being victimized in safe spaces, the wife’s demise sat sour with me.
Overall, I really enjoyed the SOCIAL HORROR section of this short film block. There were a lot of heavy topics explored, with some leaving a very profound impression while others left me scratching my head. Every short had something special and unique to contribute to the social conversation and I can’t wait to see what everyone involved has in store for the future.