For this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I reviewed three horror shorts ranging from Star Wars inspired (The Lightsaber Maker) to domestic bliss gone wrong (Barbara Anne) and the horrors of a salesman who refuses to leave the home of a brother and sister (Imagine a World).
THE LIGHTSABER MAKER
Jeremy Brown‘s short film gives us Star Wars fans a comical look at the woes of the working class in the galaxy far, far away. Featuring a sardonic performance by Scott Patey as the son of Jedi Master Corran Horan and a specialized Lightsaber builder. Whereas Jedi build their elegant weapon for a more civilized age, Sith, however, seek out artisans in the outer rim to provide their sabers.
Cleverly written and well-acted, the film is a fun companion to other comical documentary-style films such as Troops, George Lucas In Love, and Star Wars a New Employee Orientation. This joke starts to run out, but an appearance by a familiar Star Wars villain delivers a worthy conclusion.
I wish Brown would have decided to make Patey dress in a more canon outfit, as opposed to his flannel and beanie, but overall the gag is effective. Also of note is Patey’s sidekick ArBee, a custodial droid that is reminiscent of Dum-E in Iron Man. Overall, if you love Star Wars and want a little lighter in your light side, check it out.
Dinner’s almost ready… are you?
A housewife character straight from the set of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel becomes a cold-blooded killer in Kat Webber’s wonderfully wicked BARBARA ANNE. Featuring an excellent performance by Katelyn McCulloch, the short film takes a whimsical and sinisterly comic trip from domestic bliss into the dark.
We meet Barbara Anne as she glides around the ideally kept kitchen, preparing a meal straight out of Betty Crocker while “I Think Our Love is Through” underscores the scene. Enter her husband. Playing a perfectly absentee and self-absorbed male trope – Philip Riccio has no idea the terror lurking in his kitchen. Unfortunately, he has disregarded his wife one time too many.
The pace keeps you guessing, and what starts as a perfect pin-up of post-World War II feminity slowly twists and turns into a most pleasing finale. Emily Coutts (Star Trek Discovery) is engaging in her role as an unsuspecting accomplice, but this is McCulloch’s tour de force. Her manner and style harken to the days of Donna Reed, but beneath the beautiful surface, we can see the steely darkness and resolve. Funny and frightening BARBARA ANNE would be a perfect slice of Hitchcock served with a side of John Waters.
IMAGINE A WORLD
Annoyed by lagging networks and slow download speeds? Enter the mysterious company Sphere Ex. They promise speeds faster than lightning!
Written and directed by Joanna Tsanis, IMAGINE A WORLD is an effectively creepy short film that keeps you guessing. A salesman, superbly played by Robert Notman arrives and at first seems a little odd, and a bit too pushy, but harmless enough. But his concern for the lack of service escalates him from merely wanting to seel an upgrade into a frenzied force of terror that becomes the worst nightmare for siblings David and Jennifer.
The sense of dread that follows from Notman’s entrance until the final frame is relentless and the performances by Tevin Wolfe and Gina O. James as the victims of low-signal service are superb. Notman, as the Salesman, follows in the footsteps of dangerous performances that have you laughing and cringing with the best movie madmen.
The music, cinematography, editing, and make-up all deserve high praise, and the 15-minute running time keeps the fright taut. See this short before you upgrade your service.