When creatives are looking for a way to observe life and make a commentary on humanity, a surefire way to achieve this goal is by telling a sci-fi story. The “Something Strange” bloc of short films at this year’s North Bend Film Festival is full of such stories. From a make-believe cop to disturbing male insecurity, these stories use a limited amount of time to comment on the human condition in a poignant, disturbing, and beautiful way.
Technology Lake: Meditations on Death and Sex
Director and Writer: Brandon Daley
Starring: Katelyn Douglass, Mars the dog, Luke Taylor
A man starts cooking and then decides that’s the perfect time to whip out the ol’ VR headset attached to a fleshlight (yes, you read that right) to …uh… “give the dog a bone.” Meanwhile, his dog is 3D printing a bone. The neglected cooking makes for some hard choices.
The narrative trajectory of this film was perfect. It ranges from silly, to sleazy, to sweet in a brief span of time and does a great job using the “show, don’t tell” form of storytelling. The acting is perfect all around. Luke Taylor pulls off the awkward JO faces quite convincingly, but really, all the credit goes to Mars who is a VERY GOOD DOG. How did they train a dog so well that you can see and empathize with his emotional state?!? Bravo.
License & Registration
Director and Writer: Jackson Ezinga
Starring: Jackson Ezinga, Aidan Callahan, Cameron Judd
A cop impersonator pulls over some kids on a joyride. As bad as impersonating a cop can be, this guy has a really bad time with it. The disastrous situation continues to escalate before abruptly ending.
This film takes a lot of bold steps that leaves you thinking, “I can’t believe they just did that.” It deals with the consequences of a misplaced identity and concludes with a haunting ending.
The Obliteration of Chickens
Director and Writer: Izzy Lee
Voiceover Narration: Bracken MacLeod
Three minutes of stock b-roll film with some heavy existentialist commentary about the meaningless of life that is equal parts hilarious and makes you want to shrivel up into a ball and die. Why wasn’t this uploaded to, like, YouTube or Instagram? I don’t know, but it’s worth three minutes of the brief and meaningless time you have as a speck of dust in this vast and unforgiving universe. That’s about all there is to say about this one.
Diddie Wa Diddie
Director and Writer: Joshua Erkman
Starring: S.A. Griffin, Rachel Keller, Keir O’Donnell
While on an ATV excursion in his adventure pants, a man finds a strange blob that speaks French and says it’s a reflection of his desire. He calls his estranged girlfriend to help him figure out what’s going on.
This is an odd little diddie. It starts out in the way that a major Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster might start — which all culminates to a hilarious if not pitiful punchline. The acting is flawless and the special effects are amazing. It’s almost like sitting through an elaborate dad joke where you end up groaning but are secretly glad you experienced it.
Director and Writer: Annabelle Attanasio
Starring: Owen Campbell, Ariel Eliaz, Gus Halper, Alex Hurt, Ben Rosenfield, David Rysdahl. Luke Slattery, Peter Vack, Brock Yurich
A support group of young, white men meet to discuss their wounds from the past. Those wounds, of course, are women whom they feel emasculated them. One new member isn’t sure about opening up, but as the therapy continues, he falls deeper into the incel hole until he witnesses the ultimate sacrifice members must make.
This short film has Fight Club (1999) vibes and is arguably more relevant — sadly. It takes a look at a hypothetical incel support group and basically leaves you with a feeling that you should go check on your friends and loved ones who might be hurting in order to keep them from sliding into this brand of toxic masculinity. The actors are fantastic (too convincing?) and complete this thought-provoking and disturbing snapshot.
King Wah (I Think I Love You)
Director and Writer: Horatio Baltz
Starring: Lucy Cottrell, Napoleon Emill, Vincent Leong
A Chinese restaurant owner makes deliveries to his customers and takes his feelings for them out on his fortune cookies’ fortunes. He is particularly fond of one customer, and it appears the feelings are mutual.
This is a nice little look at the side of America that people tend to purposefully ignore: the hole-in-the-wall restaurant and the seedy apartment complex. It’s a short love story that leaves you confused about whether your reaction is “aww” or “eww.” Plus, it’s likely to start a turf war between Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune fans.
Director: Marion Renard
Starring: Adrien de Biasi, Igor Dejaiffe, Manon Delauvaux, Pénélope Guimas, Florence Hebbelynck
During a sexual encounter with a friend, a high-school girl discovers an uncommon ability she shares with snails –and no, it has nothing to do with being slow. She struggles with it at first before learning to use it to her advantage.
Director Marion Renard apparently took the idea of “what if humans were like this?” and ran with it. There’s plenty of full-frontal and X-rated content to go around, but the strongest feeling evoked from this film is the body horror that comes with being a horny and hormonal teenager.
The Third Hand
Director: Yonatan Weisberg
Starring: Tom Bonington
A man with a missing finger wanders around a creepily empty office building. He tries to get a snack from a vending machine and then finds a copier that can copy actual objects. He tries another vending machine that has hands in it with zero luck. I think you know where this is going.
This was another bizarre and nightmarish tale that blends body horror and office-space horror (is that a thing? because it should be, because desk jobs can be entirely soul-sucking). The ending would make Rod Serling smile.
So there you have it! These are the brief synopses/reviews of the “Something Strange” bloc of short films at the North Bend Film Festival. We hope you check some of these out, but be prepared for something strange.