Directors: Celine Held, Logan George (USA)
“It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Caroline (2018) is presumably set in the deep south; it’s summer, and you can see, hear, and feel the sweat. Six-year-old Caroline is left in the car with her younger brother and sister while their mother goes to an interview. The windows are rolled up. Caroline can’t figure out how to turn on the car in order to turn on the A/C. Her tooth is loose and troublesome. As the temperature rises, so does the attention the three kids locked in the car receive from those in the parking lot. This is a beautiful, haunting short in which seemingly nothing happens. However, as Caroline shows us, it’s those tiny, terrible moments from our childhood that propel us forward.
Director: Ashlea Wessel (Canada)
“That just looks like a kid.”
TiCK (2018) is a modern take on the vampire/post-apocalyptic genre that is very much operating on the politics of race. Vampires (or “ticks” as they’re called here as a derogatory slur) are the minorities, and the militant government are white (and male for the most part). TiCK focuses on two sisters who are separated when their house is raided — in a way that very much resembles an ICE raid. What follows is the younger sister doing what she can to survive, on her own, in a makeshift tent in the woods. While I appreciate the social justice overtones to TiCK, the message didn’t become clear to me until the end. And even then, when it hit, it felt forced and left me feeling unsatisfied. The special effects were also lackluster, but I do admire the film’s imaginative take on a familiar monster.
¿QUIERES QUE HOY TE BESE?
Director: Miriam Orteg Domínguez (Spain)
“Do you want me to kiss you this time?”
¿Quieres Que Hoy Te Bese? (2018) is a black-and-white Spanish film that revolves around a young girl’s obsession with blood. The film draws parallels between sex and menstruation and hunger and eating to highlight the confusion and horror that accompanies puberty. After an incident, one that is hinted at early in the film but not fully realized until the end, the girl becomes desperate to reclaim her childhood — at whatever cost. ¿Quieres Que Hoy Te Bese? is a masterful short film, both thoroughly disturbing and incredibly important. The stunning camera work and dark narrative will haunt viewers’ minds long after it’s over.
Director: Sarah Brill (USA)
“It’s not a lie. It’s just a secret.”
Silhouettes (2018) is a film about girlhood that is very much a nod to Stephen King’s Carrie. Jackie just moved to town with her grandma, who is ultra-religious and anti-TV. When Emily comes over for a play date, Jackie’s grandma sits at the kitchen table preparing the Texas right-to-life newsletter, while she tells Emily’s mother of the sanctity of life and how Jackie is an abortion survivor. From here, things escalate as more play dates happen with various girls and teeth and claws are bared — quite literally. For the first three quarters of Silhouettes, I was intrigued, but the rushed conclusion left me confused at what exactly the film is trying to convey. It seems targeted at exposing the hypocrisy of the church, which makes the grandma the center of the film and not the young girls. There are a few memorable moments, but, unfortunately, the film in general feels like a misdirected attempt.
Director: Chelsea Lupkin (USA)
“I’m not normal.”
Lucy’s Tale (2018) introduces viewers to Lucy, a high-school student who is the target of the resident mean girl clique, misunderstood by her mother who insists that “she just NEEDS friends,” and the love interest of a certain pharmacy employee named Brad. The film opens with Lucy bra shopping with her mom. In the dressing room we learn that Lucy is uncomfortable about more than simply the size of her breasts. Lucy has a tail, and along with it she seems to have some sort of mental power to wound or kill others. Lucy’s Tale is an interesting work of body horror that examines adolescent anxieties about being different.
The GROWING PAINS short film program was one of several featured programs shown at the fourth Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, which ran from January 31, 2019, to February 3. The festival exists to showcase horror cinema created by women. Check out the full program for the festival here.