For the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, a block of shorts was presented on February 8th all within the same True Crime genre. These ranged from a story about a woman who has just witnessed a murder, to a true-crime podcaster who has lost her touch and must come up with a clever way to revamp her podcast before facing cancellation.
Directed by Drew Van Steenberg and written by Annie Powers & Drew Van Steenberg, LAST SEEN opens as we see a woman going for a nighttime jog, listening to her favorite music. The night is serene and dark but this quietness is quickly interrupted when she is brutally murdered. We soon come to find out that the perpetrator is none other than Emily Alderson (Anna Seregina), creator of the hit true-crime podcast, Last Seen. The short chronicles the lead up to her committing the murder, as well as the aftermath which sends her podcast spiraling to the top as she struggles to piece together what “might have” happened while covering her tracks to avoid anyone finding out what really did. Being a fan of true crime podcasts myself, I really enjoyed this short. It felt very real and uncomfortably plausible.
Written and directed by Catherine Fordham, and starring Shakira Barrera who you might recognize from the hit series GLOW, KAYA follows a woman in search of her teenage sister Luna. The film opens with Kaya arriving at a truck stop, returning to her hotel room. Next door she hears a commotion, a John having his go at a girl no doubt. Once he leaves, Kaya runs next door hoping to find her sister. She instead finds another young girl, similarly kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking. She convinces the girl to switch spots with her for her next “appointment”. When he arrives, he is all but beaten to death as Kaya demands answers. Unable to find anything concrete, she takes the young girl and two set out to the next truck stop, hoping to find Luna.
Written and directed by Xavier Hamel, and starring Sylvie Leonard, SOUTH SHORE, or RIVE SUD is a French film depicting a woman’s struggle after having witnessed a murder. A small town is shaken to hear that one of their own has been murdered while out for a run. This is the second short in this block where a woman is murdered during a night jog. I guess nobody should run at night anymore. The woman at the center of the film seems more affected than everyone else and we soon find out that she witnessed the murder that night and didn’t do anything to offer help. This eats at her throughout the story, and we see her struggle to cope. She makes an unlikely friend in a neighbor and through their conversation she ultimately realizes she needs to move on and stop blaming herself. This short is an excellent study on grief and self-blame and although its a bit slow to start, the lush greenery and setting really make for an interesting story.
CHILDREN OF SATAN
Directed by Thea Hvistendahl, CHILDREN OF SATAN or SATANS BARN is a Swedish film set in a Christian summer camp. Already terrifying, I know. Mary and Louise are two girls put in charge of showing the new girl, Erna around. They soon discover that she’s a little different and these differences include not speaking and only emitting a low growl. After apparently making Louise suffer a nosebleed in the middle of morning prayers, the girls conclude that Erna is possessed.
The other girls in the camp seem to think that Maria is the strange one, and they tell Louise stories about how she had tried to jump off of the roof one summer in order to “see God”. After this, Louis and Erna are paired up for dishwashing duty with Erna suffering what seems like an epileptic fit in the middle of it. Horrified, Louise runs to search for Maria. Convinced that Erna is trying to drag her two hell, Louise and Maria watch videos describing demonic possession and from there, things begin to escalate. Maria convinces Louise to jump off of a small hill in order to see whether she is a demon or a child of God. Has Maria been the possessed one this entire time? Pinning the work of the devil on poor Erna? After this, the film takes an even darker turn as the two girls decide to take matters into their own hands, literally. CHILDREN OF SATAN was one of the longer shorts in this block, and the way the film is shot almost makes it feel like you’re watching a foreign film from the 70s. It definitely adds to the feeling of foreboding littered throughout the movie. The end is left ambiguous and asks you to self reflect on what you think really happened, which makes it all the more terrifying.