We do not have to search very far to find an explosion of creativity at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. Many of its brightest and wildest creations are contained in the short film collections. Each has a range of topical horror, a trick or treat bag filled with all variety of seasonal candies. Nightmare Fuel presents brutal art on the precipice of dread. These entries blend creative passion with existential dread – shocking, scary, begging you to turn around and see what fate awaits you. Remember, it’s only a movie.
Skin of Man
I could not sum up my enthusiasm any better than the film’s pitch: “The film was shot on 16mm and bucket processed in a dank pitch-black hole. [Jimmy Joe] Roche then used insecticide, Drano, and gasoline to disfigure the emulsion.” Skin of Man experiments boldly with the physical properties of film development. What we receive out of that is a wondrous art piece that twists and contorts as the material elements break. By taking strong evocative images and mutilating them, Roche has created a perfectly deconstructive short. Skin of Man is a top-notch destructive experiment, very inspiring.
In Sound, We Live Forever
A buzzing swarm of static dread ascends in a crescendo. Windmill wings chop hard through the air. An old Ford F-Series truck idles with the motor purring. The sensuous dreamlike sounds of Bach’s “Air” on the G-string radiate from an ancient transistor radio on the car seat while the voices of a disembodied couple philosophize their sense of place and surroundings. Detail is everything in a story. Suddenly, the serenity of the prairie is broken and the audio track swells with violence as a new figure enters the story, attacking the couple. The camera fixates on darker details of the environment: her lost retainer, smatterings of blood caking the grass, a body. We begin to realize our visual sequence follows the aftermath of the audio story we are hearing. The story moves fourth-dimensionally as our time syncs up with the couple’s, just a girl left in a field of encroaching sounds as night falls around us. In Sound, We Live Forever is an audiovisual treat that demands close perceptive listening.
Inferno feels as though it’s a small cut of a larger film. It works, as a breezy cut of a cat and mouse creature-feature where a woman with a gun is chased by a grotesque monster. Bishal Dutta directs with an eye for evoking a certain era of horror film. Reflected back in their work is the foundation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and the lifeblood that swelled from its creation in that period. Properly paced and tense enough, Inferno makes for a fun, fast-moving watch.
It’s a tale as old as horror movie tropes: a family on vacation stops by a creepy old farm. Suspicious beginnings make way for even more suspect events. The creepy farm holds a creepy family. They want to serve our road trip family a weird dinner! Everything falls apart. Tinged with that classic formatting (let’s invoke the great The Texas Chain Saw Massacre twice in a row), The Vicious also follows the now-common sound cues of Hereditary‘s (2018) initial trailer. The idea is not bad, it’s what we’ve all thought at least once, what if that movie were its trailer?
Online dating is a living horrorscape. No embellishment needed. Show the real thing. Brea Grant’s Megan, 26 shows a slice of a woman’s bad experiences with her apps. We use them for everything now and can never be too careful. After a particularly bad date, Megan tries to break it off and is in real-life paired with a demonic man who will not leave her alone. Worse than sliding into her DMs or sending unwanted pics, his embodiment slides right into her actual environment. This short picture is worth a Super Like; swipe right.
Ritualism & the implacable figure behind you are core components of this year’s Nightmare Fuel selection. Midnight Talk finds a troubling mother-daughter relationship circulating around ideas of satanic worship. It’s neatly composed — Raffael Oliveri builds tension carefully and instrumentally through his actress — and successfully utilizes the usual hued filters of modern short horror. Midnight Talk may be quaint, but is largely successful in its themes.
Fatale Collective: Bleed
Brilliantly, Fatale Collective gathers an ensemble of sharp women-centering actors and directors and has created a short film out of the extended bumpers that often compliment a festival’s programming. It is a pleasant piece of multi-directional creativity, where many ideas are better than one, and having them packaged together is encouraging as a sum of its parts. It is hard enough to make an anthology. But to make an anthology made of fun-sized Halloween treat pieces, is an undertaking. Just to make it all come together is sufficiently interesting. Worthwhile.
Perhaps the most genuinely terror-inducing of the bunch, Caw is a really nice short horror, the kind that raises the hair on the back of your neck, gives the faintest idea something is right behind you. Its paranoia plays out at a grandmother’s house. It is too hot out and the kids are ordered to stay in. The girl slips out anyway to take some selfies. The cawing birds mix with the constant twittering of her mobile phone. She gets a good selfie, but there’s a problem! A brooding woman is positioned behind her in the pictures, stalking the treeline. Perfectly framed and neatly escalating, Laura Sanchez Acosta’s short is a crunchy treat that lives up to the name: Nightmare Fuel.