Fantasia Film Festival Short Review: UNDRESS ME

From the PR email to the screener's conclusion, Amelia Moses' new short, UNDRESS ME, had me rocking my film-school-academic cap. Set on a Canadian college campus, UNDRESS ME keeps things simple while gesturing toward more complex social issues. 

The short follows Alice, an awkward college freshman with a far better sense of style than others her age, as she goes to a college party and makes a few perfectly reasonable decisions. The consequences of said decisions, however, unfold into some bloody awesomeness. UNDRESS ME feels thematically, aesthetically related to 2016's critic favorite, RAW, with the attention it gives to collegiate hookup culture and the need to fit into social situations. UNDRESS ME gets there much faster (with fewer metaphorical hiccups than RAW) through superb physical effects makeup for a small production. Was that creative gelatin use I saw? Even though the acting felt a bit stilted compared to glossier productions, I was not perturbed. There are larger fish to fry like where is Alice's dorm located in relation to the Campus Health Center?! And, moreover, isn't healthcare supposed to be super-fab in Canada? Go get some government-subsidized topical ointments, Alice. 

So, here's a part of my review dedicated to one prop: Good for you, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! poster. Despite being blurred by some racking focus, I saw you. Girl, you are killing it in the background with the way you are curling away from that frat bro's bedroom wall. Honestly, I would be shocked if any of the undergraduate film students I teach would even know about Russ Meyer's sex-meat sandwiches that pass as films, let alone have the patience to patrol Etsy or eBay to find you. 

In returning to reality, it is important to note that director Amelia Moses and the rest of her production team are recent grads of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia. Allow me to digress a bit to explain this fact's significance...Concordia has been polishing a whole new generation of filmmakers. The program stands alongside other heavy-hitters with larger brand recognition like USC, UCLA, and NYU. *A pro tip: If you are not in the habit already, it is often super helpful to read a filmmaker's bio to see where she was or was not trained. It is a fast short-hand for stylistic strengths and tendencies*. At my very own USC, for example, many of its graduates are strong in visual storytelling - which, honestly, has become a trigger word for me and my fellow colleagues working in the Critical Studies division - and they are discouraged from directing baroque scripts. In the case of the crew who pulled together UNDRESS ME, it is clear they inherited much of Concordia's signature emphasis on shot composition and film theory praxis. Specifically, Mattias Graham's editing is fluid and cohesively intuits character motivations. And, in the same vein, cinematographer René Arseneau's shots are crisply meaningful. With UNDRESS ME, Moses proves she can helm an ambitious project while collaborating with individuals who will doubtlessly characterize the future of Canadian film production.

Are you into body horror? Do you like quality gore? What about critical films grounded in contemporary issues? UNDRESS ME's thirteen minutes has it all and more! Should you miss any of UNDRESS ME's larger concerns, be sure to walk away with one lesson under your belt: communal dorm showers are no one's friends. 

Melinda Stang