[Panic Fest Review] Short Film Blocks

Panic Fest 2020 wasn’t just a hub for full-length feature films and screenings, but for short films as well. There were two large blocks of short films being shown throughout the festival, many of which are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Let’s take a quick glance at every short film that was shown at Panic Fest 2020.

A Noise that Carries
Writer: Eric Orofino
Director: Guillermo de la Rosa
A man who lives alone after a breakup begins hearing noises as if someone is in the house. When a lady shows up explaining his neighbors having similar experiences, he invites her in to share experiences. It turns out that it may have been a mistake. Amazing sound and beautiful lighting create an eerie 14-minute long experience that will haunt you until the slightly confusing ending. 

Allergic Overreaction
Writer/Director: Zachary Eglinton
During a Freddy vs Jason fest, cookies cause Dave to have an allergic reaction which sends the weekend spinning into the true horror movie. What ensues is the ultimate overreaction. It’s a ridiculous homage to 80’s slashers. Just remember to always check for nuts. 

Director: Andrew Wynkoop
A girl is kidnapped and an Amber Alert goes live. As the case is being investigated, it would seem there is something more sinister than just a kidnapping. This one is short and pretty confusing. Had it lasted a little longer, it could have expanded on what it was trying to portray but it loses scariness as you try and figure out what is going on. 

Still from AMBER | Photo courtesy of IMDB

Best Friends Forever
Directors: Emily Gagne and Josh Korngut
When a teen girl tells a scary urban legend to scare her little sister and her friend, they find out during that sleepover that it may not be just a legend after all. While the story didn’t make a ton of sense, this was a really silly and fun “Bloody Marty” like story for a sleepover; plus, the lighting was pretty incredible. 

Buffalo and Trout
Writer/Director: Presley Paras
Two drug addicts decide to rob a white supremacist’s house but when the heist begins, they have to make a choice between taking the goods and running or saving a life. This may be one of my favorite short films I’ve ever seen. The drug sequence is incredible and for only a 10-minute film, it packs a hell of a lot into it. 

Conspiracy Cruise
Writer/Director: Brad Abrahams
This follows a cruise vacation for conspiracy theorists that gets a bit real when the conspiracies turn out to be true. I love Henry Zebrowski on The Last Podcast on the Left so it was a lot of fun to see him in a short film. This was silly and a lot of fun but beware of the reptilians.

Daughter of Dismay
Writer/Director: James Quinn
A witch makes her way into the woods for a ritual to get the thing which she desires most and she will do whatever it takes to get it. This film is a sweeping, quiet and haunting look at the lengths that someone will go for a person they love. 

Still from DAUGHTER OF DISMAY | Photo courtesy of IMDB

Go Back
Director: The Barber Brothers
It’s 1978 and a man drives down a road that is supposed to be haunted but whatever is there may not want him to leave. I like the idea of a haunted road but the story goes so fast that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Is it ghosts, mannequins or hillbillies? We may never know. 

Writer: Aleks Lyons
Director: Arianna Lyons
I’ll be honest…I have no idea what this is. This is like a fever dream you have at a hotel. The best that I can glean from this short film is that a man takes some sleeping pills while at a hotel and has a dream that turns out not to be a dream after all. It’s a bit too far on the strange side. 

Imagine a World
Director: Joanna Tsanis
A brother and a sister encounter a door to door salesman who is adamant about making his sale. This was a pretty silly short film and it was mostly dialogue about modems, download speed, and service bars. 

Killer Confidence
Writer: Andrew Amill/Peter Howie
Director: Peter Howie
A kid walks in on a man in the middle of his “work” and by work I mean dancing with a severed arm. Instead of killing, he sits the kid down for some solid life advice. This short film is dark, morbid but oddly empowering. I liked this one a lot. 

Still from LANE 9 | Image courtesy of IMDB

Lane 9
Writer/Director: Jessica and Richard Valentine
Bowling gets a lot less fun when lane 9 of the bowling alley becomes haunted by an evil spirit. I loved the retro feel of this film. The story is simple but fun and the shots used are super cinematic for a short film. This is definitely worth a watch.

Let Me Play
Writer/Director: Andrew Bell
A pair of siblings are staying with their religious grandmother for a while but they don’t get along well. When the little sister begins seeing a little boy, it would seem he has sinister plans. This story is so good and ties it all up in a neat bow. For only 8-minutes, it really doesn’t need anything more. 

Director: Ferdinand Perezgil
Mateo has been turned into a zombie but he still has his inner thoughts and memories. As his undead body roams, he shares his thoughts on man, the apocalypse and his place in it all. This film is so short but so powerful. I have never seen a zombie film like it and I don’t think that I ever will. It was a beautiful short moment of reflection.

Director: Matt Genesis
Kevin is a scientist at a pharmaceutical company with the goal to save lives. When his lab is set to be shut down, he will do anything to save the company and his research. All he has to do is stop the merger. This film has gorgeous lighting and sound mixing and touches on some current issues. 

MOMMA, DONT GO | Image courtesy of IMDB

Momma Don’t Go
Director: Rafael de Leon Jr.
During a home invasion of a woman and her two daughters, one is killed and the mother is fatally wounded. When her daughter begs for her medicine, the intruder with a conscience gives it to her, but it will be their undoing. This is a great twist on the home invader story taking it into a new genre of horror. 

Writer/Director: Kate Felix
This is a feminine horror short. An old man forces a young woman to let out his dog but there’s something not right about Pepper. This is short and sweet but I just wish the story could have been expanded on a bit more. It all moves so fast with no explanation and it leaves you with more questions than answers. 

Safe States
Writer/Director: Anthony Ladesich
In a terrifying dystopian future, women have lost all reproductive rights and only a few states remain that are safe to take expectant women for free will. A couple of revolutionists work to try and transport a girl to a safe state. This film is eerie and with the state of reproductive rights as they are, it’s a scary future. 

See You on the Other Side
Writer/Director: The Summer Brothers
A woman begins to have a vision and starts to suspect that the very fabric of existence has been changed. This idea is a lot of fun but it can get complicated very quickly. This short film is filled with cheese and reminds me of the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when Charlie went on a tirade in the postal room. It all comes down to Pepe Sylvia. 

Still from SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE | Image courtesy of IMDB

Writer/Director: Niels Bourganje
This is horror for a new technological age. Be careful about who you swipe on dating apps. This film is so simple and so terrifying. The ending will make your stomach turn and drop. It is the simple things in this short film that make it so damn scary. 

The Burden
Director: Nico van den Brink
A woman goes with her boyfriend to visit his family and learns of his history with his extremely creepy neighbor and the secrets that lie in the house. This short film had some twists and turns and definitely went in a different direction than I thought it would. This is a really fun and spooky bite-sized supernatural horror film.

The Unseen
Writer/Director: Conrad Faraj
When their mother disappears, her children try to figure out what happened to their mother. It would seem that the danger is closer to home than they think. This short film was pretty slow until the last minute and a half. While the idea isn’t anything new, it is still a well-made film.

That was all of the short films that were featured. Out of all of the films, I would have to say that Buffalo and Trout, Killer Confidence, Conspiracy Cruise and Swipe were my favorites and no two of those are the same save for their amazing lighting and cinematography. Here’s to the amazing short film creators and their ability to scare us and make us laugh in 15 minutes or less.

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