Directed, Written & Edited by Cameron Strittmatter
Lydia is experiencing deja vu, the feeling that she’s been in a particular situation before. Neil, her co-worker, indulged her and wanted to see what this deja vu is about. This lands both of them in a place where seeing is believing.
I dig the idea of this! While the elements of deja vu, like Lydia seeing/dreaming this scenario, again and again, is fascinating, I wish they played more with that aspect. It is interesting because they played with that telling, not showing the aspect until the final moments. Lydia telling the story to Neil was proper creepy and set the tone for the rest of the short. Even though I wish they played with deja vu a little bit more, the performances were more than outstanding. In this short amount of time, they carried this short with great chemistry.
Directed & Written by Emily Bennett
A woman wakes in a room. Her man greets her but is surprised by a kid. The cycle starts to show. When the man takes from her, he replaces it with a gift. She keeps seeing herself as happy and in love, but she doesn’t look like herself anymore. When she finally sees her full transformation and the damage he’s done, the woman leaves the man for good.
I didn’t expect what I got from out of this short, but the message became so loud and clear after sitting down with it for just those few minutes. Emily Bennett creates a surrealist and avant-garde tale of toxic love and abuse. This is told from the perspective of the survivor of the abusive relationship. In this short, it’s really interesting to see the woman seeing her reflection of being okay when things are taken away from her. It’s heartbreaking yet mystical. It feels in the vein of Maya Daren with visuals that are very Stanley Kubrick-esque as well. LVRS is a powerful short–one that should be seen by everyone and be around for a long time.
Directed & Written by A.K. Espada
“I’m just trying not to get murdered in my basement doing laundry.”
A woman goes down to the basement to do her laundry, but everything isn’t what it seems.
Sometimes, you can’t see the production coming together because the story is so seamless. In Laundry Night, you can see everything come together, and it’s incredible. The camera work is outstanding, the acting is fantastic, and the coloring of this feeling had me in AWE. I watched this short and watched it again afterward. It hits every scary beat well to give you a couple of jumps and make you wonder what’s going to happen next when the credits roll.
Directed & Written by Sumire Takamatsu & Jorge Lucas
When a little girl refuses to eat her dinner, her parents warn her about an evil spirit known as the Bakemono. The little girl leaves food as a gift, but that doesn’t go according to plan when the spirit asks for more.
I’d watch a full-length movie of this short. It reminded me of movies like Carved, The Grudge, and Teketeke, movies that surround Japanese urban legends and folklore that becomes so much more than what you expect. This one felt like such a traditional type of home invasion film that creeps you out but also makes you want something more significant for this excellent short. I hope someone expands this and makes it a feature, ’cause it’s the perfect element of Japanese culture and legend intertwined.
Directed by Carleton Ranney
“I know this sounds crazy, but you can’t trust anyone.”
Diane boards a train and has a chance meet-cute with a guy across from her. She tries to find him again, but another chance encounter leads her to question her reality.
I’m going to repeat this, but I’d be up for a feature-length movie of this. It reminds me of those great Big Brother is Watching You-esque movies. There’s so much cool storytelling that could make something fantastic in full-length, especially with the lead character questioning her sanity after the big inciting incident happened. I would love to see her journey in finding out what this mysterious organization is and how she’s going to get in … and out of it.
THE MUFFIN MAN
Directed by Ethan Blum
On Drury Lane, everyone knows and loves the Muffin Man. A cop finds out that the Muffin Man may be doing a little more than serving up baked delights.
Everyone deserves to see this clip, if only once. It will be burned in your brain for a while. The Muffin Man is an excellent cross between grindhouse trailers, mixed with particular elements of Hellraiser, Phantasm, and The Ice Cream Man, all rolled into one. It’s just a short trailer, but goddamn does it do a great job.
LET ME PLAY
Directed & Written by Andrew Bell
A brother and sister go live with their religious grandmother. The sister is having a rough go at things, with a brother that’s just absolutely awful. However, a boy comes out of her closet and wants to “help.”
Let Me Play was probably the MOST straightforward story with a bit of a twist in this list. In a weird way, I wish that it was a little bit less of what it was? This might not make a lot of sense. I feel if Let Me Play was a little bit longer, things in the short would have hit harder. The ending especially would have hit a little bit harder. I also wish they didn’t explain who the kid was, or maybe who he was. It would be so much more sinister that this random kid came out of the closet to mess with this little girl’s head.
Directed by Natalie Johnson
Claire is a taxidermist who lives day-to-day in a void. With her father, she opens the taxidermist shop, but she’s hiding a dark, painful secret that is not only devastating but haunting.
The Taxidermist almost made me cry. It’s shot beautifully; every single frame of this has SO much detail. It also comes with sound and score that hits you where it hurts. Claire’s pain is so hidden in the narrative at first, but then when it hits, you want to wrap your arms around her and tell her it’s okay. It’s hard not to give away the “twist” of this film, but it involves one of the hardest things that a woman who is pregnant has to go through.
Created by Cassady Tromba & Robbie Lemieux
Two co-workers hang out after work, but Ed is still working away. One of the co-workers sees that Ed still has his headphones, and he wants them back.
I made that description sound more sinister than needed, but this short was smart and straightforward. It had the right type of office mundane talk with a co-worker mixed with a surprise that you would never see coming.
Directed & Written by Tin Lee & Ben Someck
A woman wakes up in the woods. She goes into a trailer and gets a drink. She holds a knife, and then she wakes up in the woods again.
Every piece of this, as it goes on, falls into place. When you come across one missing piece, another missing piece comes into focus. Horizontal Fall gives you the information to tell you how she ended up in the situation, but not to lead you into how she can solve this deja vu. It felt like there was a time limit to every move that she needed to make. It always stayed between the two or three months and always ended at 11:11. The tension sold this short. It doesn’t even need to explain WHAT these events are or HOW she got there.
Directed & Written by Meredith Alloway
A woman gets a very interesting massage.
I. WANT. A. FEATURE. OF. THIS. This had to be my favorite out of this shorts block. A woman gets someone to bite her flaws away, but this also bleeds into a narrative of someone biting your flaws away in a toxic way via a relationship. It also has a tremendous borderline narrative of pleasure and pain. When seeing him take the first bite, I immediately leaned in. It’s SUCH an exciting story and slyly tells of someone wanting someone to tell them their flaws are good. It’s a different type of body horror in the realm of a millennial, beautiful kind of Hellraiser.
Directed & Written by Carlen May-Mann
Two teens take a detour to an abandoned house, but little does Renee know: she’ll see something about Jim that she doesn’t want to see.
I think this is probably the most relatable of all the shorts on this list. It’s the one I know hits very close to home for me (Deep Tissue does too but in a different way). When you’re in a relationship, you hope the person you’re with isn’t someone who isn’t a rat. You hope that you can love, and someone can love you back in return. They won’t be awful or hateful to you or towards you. In The Rat, Renee finds that her boyfriend is this type of person. He scares the absolute fuck out of her before they have sex, but then they do, and she sees another side of him. Renee, after this moment, breaks your heart. The psychological horror of this is impressive, but mixed with coming-of-age makes this an excellent short.