The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival premiered their 7th deadly edition with a collection of shorts looking at social horror. Titled SOCIAL ILLS, these six shorts cover real-life problems such as depression, motherhood, and sexual harassment. Through these films, the viewer will see three of these films relying on the theme of losing a child and the other three look at a woman being hunted by either a human or supernatural predator. Some women face their traumas while others struggle with overcoming their fears. Regardless of the outcome, these six shorts depict strong women who battle against a world determined to take them down.
With one of the longer shorts of the collection, director Ashley Paige Brim looks at a couple in the process of trying to get pregnant. The husband remains blissfully obtuse, but the wife becomes haunted by the image of a goldfish eating its babies. Surrounded by infants and expecting mothers, the protagonist feels anxiety and obsesses over the idea of a fish consuming its young. THE GOLDFISH pulls from a lot of emotions because the short not only harnesses the fears many women experience when it comes to motherhood but also explores the psychological stress of adoption and disconnection from family.
Starring Sera-Lys MacArthur (Don’t Say Its Name), Thirza Cuthand’s short depicts the horrific violence which continues to plague the lives of Native women. Flustered and tired of the nightlife, a woman steps out from the noisy club and calls a friend to meet up. Unfortunately, she calls for a cab and the driver wants to be creepy and feels the need to unload a lot of racism on the poor woman, and the short ride to a friend’s becomes a terrifying journey. Soon, the desire to go to a quiet place becomes a situation all women fear, but sadly occurs most frequently with Native women. Thankfully, our lead remembers, “If you whistle at the Northern Lights, the ancestors will come and take you away.”
Joanna Tsanis provides the shortest film of the collection, but how quickly she effectively creates a visual depiction of depression. A wordless woman listens to the pleading voice of her mother, begging her daughter to please call. To please be happy. To smile again. However, the woman ignores her mother and continues to live alone in a creaking house. The woman continues to not speak nor smile because any movement from the corner of her mouth causes a creaky and shadowy monster to appear. Any attempt at happiness brings her pain, so she stays depressed and hides from the outside world.
Martha begins working as a maid at a nice hostel. Here she finds the guests unsettling, especially a rude author. She perseveres and throughout her days of cleaning rooms, we see flashbacks that depict a life of violence in which the young woman lost her unborn baby. However, if she performs a magical ritual involving certain bodily fluids, the baby who never was could live again. Directed by Selina Sondermann, but taken from Stephen King’s Nightmare and Dreamscapes, this short looks at the determination of single mothers and the horror of domestic violence.
Using stop-motion animation, Carolina Sandvik creates a Cronenberg-inspired body horror that shows the mundane life of a couple abruptly interrupted by tragedy. In a horrifically visual, the woman miscarries in the bathtub, which leaves her figuratively and literally empty. The man must now find a way to carry on without his baby and live with the shell of who his wife used to be.
Marianne Chase sets her short in a movie theatre after hours and creates a scenario all women have experienced. After a night of work, Audrey tries to sit down to enjoy a well-deserved piece of cake, but her manager makes her keep cleaning. When alone in a dark room, a creepy guy corners Audrey and eyes her up, invades her space, and just overall makes her uncomfortable. The male protagonist in this short will have audience members absolutely fuming. With his inability to take “no” for an answer, this alpha male bosses Audrey around and remains oblivious to Audrey’s disinterest and even fear directed at the stranger. But at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, the girls get to be the last ones standing.
If you cannot make it to the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, most of the shorts will be available to watch virtually internationally and tickets can be purchased here.