Something strange is coming from Nightstream. Of all the shorts blocks from the North Bend Film Festival, Something Strange most aptly describes the unique scene they have cultivated in Twin Peaks territory. That is, chiefly Lynchian productions that emphasize their peculiar nature. While they fit the scene and vibe of the Northwest backwoods town to a T, it’s important to preserve these traditions, and we’re extra lucky to have them accessible during this combined festival.
From Norway with love, at a birthday pool party, young girls are fiercely engaged in a tribal game of domination. A newcomer to the pack arrives and challenges the control of the alpha. What emerges is a simple story about youthful rebellion and exercising whatever limited control over an environment young people have a capacity for. Fanny Ovesen gets good mileage and natural combative chemistry out of their young actors. There still seems to be more to explore, as the film stays on the shallow end of its public pool exploits.
There’s a Ghost in the House
“Ghosts can’t talk.” Simplicity works in comedy and shorts. In the middle of the night, a ghost awakens a couple. They come out to greet it, hoping for a conversation. They decide the ghost would not partake and begin an argument amongst themselves. Succinct if not threadbare, it ends with a delightful twist. Horror being leveraged for a one-note joke is fair territory for the short film, a reminder that the difference between comedy and horror is simply the punchline.
What if independent film only took the most questionable of notes from Blade Runner 2049 (2017)? You might get Yandere, where projections of pixie women are deployed in glass cases for the satisfaction of lonely young men. When a boy meets a real girl, his pixie girlfriend gets jealous. Her heart grows proportionately with her sorrow, and so too does her body. Breaking out of her glass cage, she vows vengeance against the fickle love struck boy, determined to create her own happiness.
What an odd construction Smiles is. It’s a kind of inversion upon the idea of a meet-the-parents scenario. The guy goes to visit his girlfriend’s family. They seem to be wearing emoji-yellow bright smiling masks. They pretend to be eating food and functioning as human beings to creepy effect. They try to drink, and the wine just cascades down onto them. Then, it’s revealed these are not masks at all, but very alien faces! Is he one of them? They might have to tear off all his skin to find out if he’s also happy under there.
My third viewing continues to improve Blocks, although my basic outcome has not changed since September: “The cult of motherhood is strong in the movies. The observable truth is that it’s the dirtiest, hardest job there is. Parenting is not all rainbows and sunshine, as Bridget Moloney’s short metaphor ably suggests. A mother of two convulses, vomits up plastic toy blocks. First, it is a burden. And then, she makes good use of her new quirk and builds a metaphorical hut out of her pain, a house of LEGO sheltering her from the difficulty of her obligations. A 4:3 aspect ratio lends itself well, as the frame is a kind of block itself. While parenting is hard during a pandemic, it is helpful when filmmakers create such tangible metaphors, and now due to expand to series, it’s a useful building block for further ideas. [Read previous coverage in our SXSW round-up.]”