SXSW Review: Midnight Short Films

As SXSW comes to a close, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few of the Midnight shorts that played at the esteemed film festival. These shorts included Hyun Lee’s ASIAN GIRLS, Reiki Tsuno’s CRYING BITCH, and Anaïs Voirol’s PERFECT TOWN. All three of these shorts were incredibly different and unique but they all managed to successfully execute a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort. The following is my review of each of these shorts.

The description for ASIAN GIRLS is quite simple, though the execution is much more abstract. Per the SXSW website, the short centers on Chan, a Chinese factory worker who lives alone. Every night, she suffers from horrific nightmares involving the woman in the apartment next door, a Japanese office lady.

Now, let me start off by saying, I’m very weird when it comes to food, and certain noises, especially those that include eating and chewing food, can set me off. I’m sure there is a disorder for this, but regardless, I was not expecting ASIAN GIRLS to be as unsettling as it was. What makes this short so effective is the use of sound that coincides with the use of eating food. Sure, the short is creepy from the get-go, even without the use of food, but that added element was enough to make my stomach turn.

The short itself is shot beautifully, and I love the color choices that were used when going back and forth between the mundane existence that Chan (Rainbown Chan) lived against the more supernatural elements that take place, primarily with the office lady, Yamada (Stella Leung). The first scene drops you smack in the middle of a chilling scenario and throughout the 6 minute time span of this film there are many conclusions one can come too. For me, I felt like there was a huge power struggle and search for identity that was taking place, primarily with Chan. All in all, ASIAN GIRLS was a fantastic way to kickoff the Midnight block of horror shorts at SXSW.


Hinako Saeki (left) as Satomi and Sho Mineo (right) as Kei

The next film on the roster was CRYING BITCH, a short that was a bit more complicated in its premise, yet bizarre and entertaining. Per the SXSW website, this short centers on a man who is having an affair with a young woman, and arrives home late as usual. However, on that night in particular, he arrives home to find something wrong with his wife Satomi. Since then, he gets strayed into her dark side, the “labyrinth” – A dark tale about a woman’s grudge, mixed with comedy, horror, and a homage to the 80’s – 90’s.

The film opens up with the infamous line, “Based on a True Story”. Having seen how this short film plays out, I can’t say that I believe this is based on a true story, though that would be incredibly interesting if it was. I’m not sure I understand everything that was going on with this short, but I did enjoy seeing revenge exacted onto the cheating husband. It became even more sweeter when you realize how long he has been doing this… along with the numerous women involved…

Though I wasn’t completely sure what the ending was all about, I liked how there was the use of practical effects, especially for one scene in particular that involved a head being turned around several times, along with reanimated corpses, girl fights, and overly exaggerated acting. This is definitely not the scariest short I’ve seen, but it packs a hell of a punch in the world of bizarro. Let this be a lesson, don’t ever cheat on your significant other, you never know what they may be capable of doing…


Anaïs Voirol

The final film that I had the pleasure of watching was PERFECT TOWN. Per the SXSW website, this short centers around a whole city that obeys to selection in search of perfection. This leads to a constant struggle of trying and trying again to obtain the unattainable. Where is the difference between endurance and madness?

If I thought ASIAN GIRLS was abstract, that’s nothing compared to PERFECT TOWN. The 4 min short is all done with animation and really gets the point across without the use of dialogue. I loved how the color tones changed to convey emotions as they went from vibrant to mundane depending on the scenario taking place.

What this short does really well is bring to the forefront the never-ending obsession with perfection. Whether that be with societal demands or the feeling that we need to fuck over people to climb the proverbial ladder. PERFECT TOWN is thought provoking, weird, slightly disturbing, but brilliant in its execution. As with the other two shorts, make sure you check them out at film festival near you.

Shannon McGrew
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