Frightfest Short Film Showcase 2’ Reviews: Fake Exorcists, Unstoppable Greed and the End of the World

The Frightfest continues as their shorts programme offers insight into worlds and conflicts that frequently struggle to find their way onto the big screen. Offering pure creativity and playful subversiveness, we enter the dark world of supermarkets after dark, sexist job interviews and the retirement prospects of the future.

Service dir. Theo Watkins

A man tries to purchase some groceries from a late night supermarket but finds he must contend with the obtuse and possibly sinister self service machine. Service explores the us-and-them mentality of shoppers and retail staff. It’s a strange dynamic. In the film we see customers threaten to use their power to discredit shop employees and imagines the inconvenience of the shop as a form of revenge. It’s a fun concept realised in a wonderful late-night aesthetic that’s recognisably creepy.

Four Stars

One in Two People dir. Ali Mashayekhi

A young woman invites some friends to her apartment to identify the mysterious presence in her bedroom. The skeptical friends soon discover there’s more to her fear than delusion. The dialogue scenes feel a little unnatural and cliche, but the film looks great and delivers on creepy atmosphere and a fun final twist. It’s an old-fashioned, built-to-the-big-scare horror short and a fairly effective one at that. There is also the important subtext of fear and anxiety not being taken seriously and the disastrous consequences that can have, here made literal.  

Three Stars

Old Beginnings dir. Suni Khan

A couple try to find a new start in their relationship by undertaking a strange ritual involving uncanny wax replicas of themselves. The film is an excellent commentary on the extremes couples undertake to erase the mistakes and hurt feelings of their past. It builds menace throughout and although it may not have the shocking twist or big finale one may expect from a horror short as atmospheric as this, it’s a darkly comedic and fairly sorrowful vision of a couple who can do anything but actually forgive each other.

Four Stars

Tomorrow Might Be The Day dir. Josefa Celestin

A father has become convinced that climate change has brought about the end of the world and that he and his young daughter are experiencing the last few days before a cataclysmic flood. As he tries to prepare his daughter for the end, he must also try to protect her from the chasm of existential dread he himself has submitted to. This is a very frightening tale of succumbing to despair and the awful measures a person will take to protect a loved one. It’s also beautifully shot, superbly well-acted and just generally perfectly realised.

Five Stars

Five Course Meal dir. James Cadden

A couple participate in an experiment where they are locked away and given as much food as they want…for a while. Though it starts almost unbearably twee, this comedy horror short builds to a very dark place. The exaggerated and slightly corny opening is clearly a stylistic choice to contrast the immensely unsettling action that unfolds as the couple find their appetite insatiable. The effects utilised to realise this upsetting vision have a Cronenberg quality to them which makes the experience truly upsetting, in a fun way.

Four Stars

Under the Parasol dir. Stanislava Buevich

A couple meet on a beach late at night and discuss love, the sun and eternity. This vampiric love story may seem familiar, and it even ends on a remarkably similar note to Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, but the dialogue is natural, the performances good and the visuals haunting. The young woman reclined on the grim little pebbled beach is a striking image. It might not be offering anything new, but it’s a very effectively made short.

Three Stars

Makr dir. Hana Kazim

A fraudulent exorcist visits a man who claims his wife is possessed. As he tends to the woman, he finds his faith, his decency and his identity questioned. This is a fabulous short horror that raises questions of faith and gender issues in the United Arab Emirates. It plays with and questions audience expectations and cultural assumptions. It’s also a frightening and suspenseful horror short that is superbly performed and beautifully filmed.

Five Stars

Patron dir. Emily Haigh and Alon Young

A woman attends a job interview where she finds herself seemingly at the mercy of her chauvinist interviewers. As the interview wears on, it becomes unclear where the power really lies. The film builds tension well, aided by the strong performances throughout the cast. The typically hidden damage caused by misogyny is rendered literal here as the women become engulfed in flames as their pain grows. Yet from this pain comes a power that can be used against the perpetrators. It’s a grim, fantastic film that hits upon something all too real.

Four Stars

The Obliteration of Chickens dir. Izzy Lee

A short parody of the style, themes, and philosophies of Werner Herzog and existentialism in general. It’s amusing and fairly well observed but doesn’t present much of an argument or commentary on the ideas it parodies beyond surface level.

Three Stars

Torching the Dusties dir. Marlene Goldman and Philip Mckee

An elderly couple are places under siege in their retirement home as a violent new political movement pits young against old. Based on a short story by Margaret Attwood, this is a very insightful and timely film about the tensions between young and old. As young people increasingly blame the disastrous state of the world on the older generation, we are shown the cost of hatred.

Five Stars

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