One of the things that I’ve really come to enjoy about film festivals that I’m not certain gets all too much appreciation with the general population is short films. There’s just so much you can take in at once and, if they are done right, they will burrow their way into your hearts forever. Fortunately, for anyone attending NFF: Masquerade (aka this year’s Nightmares Film Festival), the short blocks are a plenty. With all of that said, let’s dive into the first shorts block that Nightmarish Conjurings is tackling – the Horror Comedy Shorts – A Block.
Clocking in at under 90 seconds, GORGAR honestly is one of the best campaign messages I’ve ever seen to reinforce to undecided voters or voters opting out of voting in an election to – uh – go out and vote! Poking fun at the more complacent type of non-voter, director/writer Chris McInroy (Scare Package) constructs a tight, to the point film. Throw in the over-the-top acting, heavy use of squirting blood, and stellar VFX from Caleb Sawyer, and I have to say that I’m all in on this film. Also, please go vote. Because, if you don’t, you may actually end up with a demon who hates puppies and sandwiStarches.
THE DANCING KETTLE
The title seemed familiar to me due in part to a collection of Japanese folklore tales I had owned once upon a time. However, THE DANCING KETTLE channels all sorts of chaotic energy that both works for and against it. Starring Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim: Uprising), Yusuke Noda, and Mai Hoshikawa voicing the titular character, this progressively crazy film from writer/director Takeshi Kanabayashi may polarize some as it seems more quirky humor than actual horror. Unless you count a kettle going #2 horrific enough. Kikuchi plays well off of the adorably rendered CGI kettle. With her character’s obsession for becoming rich juxtapositioned against the cutesy voiced kettle, it’s hard not to want that to last before Noda’s character comes in and ruins the fun. A baffling, yet entertaining addition to this shorts block, I’d say give THE DANCING KETTLE a try.
This isn’t my first time watching this short. However, upon a second viewing, it still sparks joy. A song delivered from the stereotypical trope victims we see in horror films, there are some really hilarious moments. And, for fans of the horror genre, there are nods to a great many of our favorites like The Exorcist, The Grudge, The Blair Witch Project, and more. The credits roll as the song wraps up and concludes with a fitting message: “In Loving Memory of Everyone Who Didn’t Make It to the Sequel.” Fitting and, much like those who don’t make it to the sequel, LIVE FOREVER will truly – in fact – live forever in my heart.
Created by Nikki Chapman and produced by the Ringling College of Art and Design, MELTED delivers pure animated existential angst wrapped in a gradually melting popsicle package. Starting off with a little girl acquiring an adorable little popsicle, she gets caught off guard by the popsicle’s melting. Sucked in a terrifying array of images that may haunt my dreams tonight, we are taken through a monologue of what can only be the quintessential existential crisis of our time. It ends on a foreboding note, a reminder that death comes for us all. Needless to say, I’m going to give some major side-eye to gumball popsicles now.
This one had me a bit stumped. It’s not necessarily that I thought CARNIVORE was bad, but it took a while for me to really invest in the performances onscreen and there’s a lot crammed in. Pacing-wise, we already know that something is off based on select acting choices and shots delivered onscreen. You have a man pouring ketchup in his sundae. A waitress burning the bottom of her hand on a scalding coffee pot. And everyone is obsessed with making the ultra wide-eyed protagonist, who just got out of prison, eat a burger while also castigating him for murdering his mom. In a sense, it’s a lot. While I think there’s something to be said about how small towns generally attack the other, yet feed off of the community drama. But it feels a bit lost in the midst of all the story notes that the short aims to address.
MAKE A WISH
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you could take revenge on those who bullied you in the past? MAKE A WISH takes you there and then some. Directed by Dinh Thai and written by Thai and Ivan Tsang, we get to see Freddie (Edward Hong) come home to a not-so-innocent surprise delivered by his girlfriend Lexie (Josephine Chang). The catch? Lexie has captured his childhood bully Brock (Roman Moretti), who still can’t quite let up on being a racist asshole towards Freddie. There’s a strange sense of relief seeing Freddie acquire his own version of reparations for all the bullshit he endured and, while morally wrong because murder is bad, you leave the short not feeling all that bad for Brock. Edward Hong balances those emotional levels masterfully while Josephine Chang goes full-unhinged and then some. If this short teaches anyone anything, it’s maybe not to be an asshole to people.
EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE
A cheeky title for an even cheeky short, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE proves that everything was not actually fine. While it does feel a little bit draggy at times in terms of making sure the audience knows all the backstory, watching this trio of bandmates duke it out after the suicide of their bandmate Brian. The FX makeup was great and entwining the body horror elements was great fun. Kudos to Imogen Wilde for lugging around that set of intestines and maneuvering around all of that.
THE VIRGIN JAMIE
There’s a lot to be said about this short. There’s a lot of discussion that goes on in the horror scene surrounding the importance of the Final Girl. In this short written and directed by Reid Hensen, we get to see it laid out in spades. Emphasizing the importance of virginity in the Final Girl in order to defeat the serial killers that go around picking off teenagers, it was lovely to watch how that all gets subverted. Clara Pierson and Matt Louie feed off each other’s energy, really showcasing that longstanding friendship between the pair. There is one particularly hilarious, well-timed moment with Louie that had me snorting. Throw in a very exquisitely awkward and hilarious chainsaw slicing shot, and I’d say THE VIRGIN JAMIE is a real standout for me.
If I’m being honest, MEAT LOVERS has made me reconsider what I think my pizza preferences should be. We know something is up when we see the woman (Shana Goodman) go outside and we get creepy shots of the hallways followed by a lone pizza just waiting for. Utilizing practical effects that spark joy, it all leads up to what I can only describe as a holy shit moment. Quick, concise, and downright disturbing, I tip my hat to writer/director Daniel Stebbins for making me give future side-eye to meat-covered pizzas.
We are introduced to a woman who is in the midst of enduring some morning sickness in MISCONCEPTION. Upon learning she is pregnant, she hits up her husband and tells her that she has a surprise for him. But something is off. There’s a pentagram. Some red candles. Ominous lighting and more to get the audience hyped up wondering what is in store for the woman’s husband. There’s potential in this short, but the humor in MISCONCEPTION seems mostly wrapped up with the ending line, which leans heavily into why the title is the way that it is. Unfortunately, the punchline lands a bit flat before heading straight into the credits. While my humor varies, perhaps others might enjoy the punchline more.