[NFF: Masquerade Review] THRILLER SHORTS – A BLOCK

[NFF: Masquerade Review] THRILLER SHORTS - A BLOCK
Courtesy of NFF: Masquerade aka Nightmares Film Festival
We’re about midway through NFF: Masquerade (aka this year’s Nightmares Film Festival) and there’s just so much to take into our eyeballs. Especially when you focus solely on the festival’s shorts section. Seriously, it’s a whole heck of a lot to choose from. We here at Nightmarish Conjurings are switching gears to the thriller realm with today’s shorts viewing selection. Thus, I introduce you to my thoughts on the Thriller Shorts – A Block.


Starting off this shorts block is Chew Chia Shao Min’s FIGMENTS and I have to say that it’s a disorienting way to start. Haunted by her husband’s (Ronald Emilie) infidelity, Andy (Rachel Brun) has to come to grips with the truth and harms herself in the process. There are fragmented vignettes, reflecting the fragmentation of Andy’s mind as she cycles through her stages of grief. At times, it works to create that disorientation for the audience as we can visualize ourselves in her shoes. Other times, there is a disjointedness that I’m not certain works entirely in the short’s favor. All in all, an interesting way to start off the block.


Sometimes our trauma manifests itself in different ways. The longer we don’t address it, the more it transforms. We get to see a version of this in Hector Bell’s COMING TO LIGHT. We meet Aaron (Jack Roper), who we discover learns his old teacher has been arrested for sexually assaulting children. He’s kept his own abuse secret for years, but this secret has since manifested itself in a monster only he can see. A powerful short that acknowledges the literal monster that longstanding trauma can become if left unaddressed, it was cathartic to watch. And, to top it off, beautifully shot.


Remscient of a coming-of-age story with a thriller twist, SNUB NOSE is one of those films where, regardless of the protagonist’s circumstances, you want the best for them. We’re introduced to a girl on her eighteenth birthday, who just wants to get out of her situation no matter what. However, her brother has other plans. When the girl decides to get out in her own way, things escalate and then some. Tyra Huckaby does a great job at making us feel for her character while Jalen Thurman is cool, calm, and collected as the brother that is the master at the double-cross. All in all, a great short from writer/director Jacqui Ris.


First off, I will start this off with a warning to anyone who has not seen this short. There are serious strobe effects that get utilized for about a minute or so in the short. If you have problems with strobes, I suggest skipping this film. Secondly, if The Shining had a baby with a “Twilight Zone” episode, I’d say Mónica Mateo’s YOU WILL NEVER BE BACK would be the baby. A sci-fi thriller at its core, we get to witness Ana (Ximena Vera) and David (Chumo Mata) exchange pleasant goodbyes, with neither one of them truly understanding what venture Ana is going to go on. In what is arguably the second creepiest hallway ever (which gets creepier with some lovely camera work), we witness Ana get transported into another time/dimension and, through Ximena Vera’s performance, we are taken through a journey of painful discovery that culminates in a devastating realization for Ana.


I have a natural aversion to High School reunions, so the whole idea puts me on edge already. However, what unfolds through Maxime Sévellec’s INTRUSION is truly chilling. This film flips the script on what we’ve come to expect from the intruder subgenre and, in all honesty, provides necessary commentary on how living up to public expectations of success can drive people to do truly horrible things. We get little hints along the way on what’s truly up within the house but, when that final bombshell hits, you’re left to deal with your own emotions while the credits start to roll. A strong entry!


In terms of tone and style, Alexandre Singh’s THE APPOINTMENT plays out like an eccentric, fantastical psychological mystery due in part to the styling and set design featured in the short. Especially once we get to the scenes within the French restaurant. Just the food designs alone are art! We get to embark on a journey watching Henry Salt (Sam Crane) slowly unravel as he tries to figure out what this mysterious entry in his diary is. While the subject matter is dark (think Get Out levels of dark), of the shorts in this block this is perhaps the lightest in textures and tone, which provides a refreshing palette cleanser. Also, definitely watch through the credits. They are beautifully macabre.


To round out this shorts block, we have BURY ME NOT, a suspenseful, tension-filled Western that really helps to set one’s hair on edge. Director Charlene Baccal steadily paces out the tension, giving that necessary slow build that the script crafted by Ellie Araiza and Jul Kohler requires before the proverbial snot hits the fan. The music created by Frank Nimsgern really assists with that building as well.  Araiza and Kohler play Sophie and Ingrid respectively, playing off of each other’s energies once confronted by immensely intimidating Eric Feliciano’s Sheriff. If anything, this short just made me realize how much we still need high-stakes Westerns. More Westerns, please!

Passes for NFF: Masquerade are on sale now at NightmaresFest.com, where a complete list of this year’s program is also available. NFF: Masquerade runs from October 21st through the 25th.

Sarah Musnicky
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