Dir. Samantha Kolesnik (USA)
“Let’s all be thankful for Rita.”
A woman is invited to her next-door neighbors Friendsgiving, but everything around is pretty damn weird and alarming as the neighbors gather around the table for a feast. Friendsgiving is a simple concept but beautifully executed. However, it still succumbs to a conclusion that is a bit too predictable for my liking. That’s not all bad. In fact, I think that’s what sells this short. You know where it’s going to go, but ultimately you don’t care because you want to see if the friend of honor will be killed or eaten. Although it’s also overacted a bit, it’s still a short that really brings out the best in it’s offerings.
Dir. Ariel Hansen (Canada)
Nepenthes features a woman who matches with another on a dating app. When she meets her date for the first time, she gets into a very sticky situation. If I’m being honest, I wish there was more of this short. The ending is really what sold me on because it makes you go “what in the actual fuck is happening?” The plant luring victims into its trap is absolute genius, especially because the real-life plant is known to kill. The shots and direction were also slow-building and incredible. The woman ascending the stars to think she’s going to find love when the gross and gunk-ey mess burns her skin is insanely cool and makes your skin crawl. Ultimately, you feel bad for the victims. They keep climbing the stairs for love but lure just lands you in a trap.
Dir. Natasha Pascetta (USA)
“Good intentions paved the way to hell.”
Alice buries road kill and tries to give them their final resting place. However, after she buries one road kill that seems way too gnarly to be true, it ultimately comes back to bite her. So, um, Road Trash is SO FUCKING GOOD. Road Trash is shot like an Argento/Cosmatos film with werewolves and heavy metal which is the aesthetic that everyone should live by. As a surprise, this film is narrated by horror legend Heather Langenkamp. Yes, THE Heather Langenkamp. Her voice is perfect for this film as she narrates it like a bedtime story / cautionary tale, that you just melt into.
Another thing about this film is the heavy metal soundtrack score is a goddamn dream. It just mends perfectly with the neon-noir aesthetic perfectly that makes the overall short so worthwhile. (I don’t think you guys understand how much I love this aesthetic.) One thing that this kind of reminds me of is a graphic novel. It has all the quirky shots and weird vibes that you’d find in an off the wall graphic, but this is twenty times better. One last thing, the twist ending is something that only a genius could lay out. It ends on such a realistic and gnarly note that throws you back from it’s perfection. From start to finish, Road Trash is something out of this world with fantastic storytelling and conquers techniques in a short amount of time.
Dir. Jill Gevargizian (USA)
“See you soon.”
Call Girl stars Laurence R. Harvey from Human Centipede 2 and Tristan Rick from American Mary. The short film tells the story of a man who turns on his camera for his many viewers and invites a woman into his home for some “fun.” Call Girl from jump gives the voyeurism aspect in such an unsettling way. The film has some interesting and cool camera lags which, if you’ve ever experienced the internet, is a bit of a hassle when it comes to video. With those lags, you feel like you’re about to watch something intimate and private between two people. As it jumps, you don’t know what you’re about to see, and when you do, you jump along with it as something instantly comes or jumps into the frame. This short also has TWO great twist-endings that are very clever AND justifiable.
Dirs. Lori Alex & Aria Sini (Canada)
“We’re blood relatives now!”
Donor tells the struggle of a woman who likes to help people in need, but she’s tired of helping people who are ungrateful of her services. Donor has a brilliant use of the camera that is very Cloverfield meets if serial killers started to vlog. It uses the go-pro guerrilla-style as which feels so personal. You almost don’t want to watch what she’s doing, but you become entranced by her absolute pettiness in the WHY she’s doing it.
However, something that puts you off for a bit and feels disconnected is the dialogue. Even though it has some spectacular moments, most of the talking moments could do with a little bit more work. The voice starts to become disingenuous and inauthentic, instead of compelling. It starts to sound B-movie horror, which isn’t at all a bad thing, but it doesn’t work here. It needs to grow with the crime, person, and motives and become free-flowing and realistic in its execution.
There is some fun within this short. The fact that we follow her throughout the crime and experience the level of petty that she’s grown monumentally fun. Also, the killings are brutal and creative. The final moments are something to marvel as well.
Dir. Pina Brutal (Germany)
“Thank you, Sunny. Thank you, Abbey.”
Eternity features two dancers who work for the strip club Eternity. As the clients roll in and the night wears on, Abbey gets a client who is the worst kind of disrespectful and decides a private dance will be the way to kill him. Eternity was shot in a soft yet slowly and sensual way. This adds such a layer to the cinematography that works to enhance the story and what it accomplishes. The story also respects the dancers as well as the subject matter and gets revenge for the dancers that operate within it. This is a weird thing to mention, but the neon lights of the club that shine down on the bodies are some of my favorite. Anyone looks good in neon, and I do mean anybody.
Dir. Louisa Weichmann (Australia)
The Stare features Christine who boards the train heading for home. As the passengers around her start to exit the train, Christine finds a man staring at her. This staring triggers memories that haunt her, and she knows she needs to get out of the train alive. This was probably my favorite short films after Road Trash, but my favorite overall of the festival. The look of this short film SCREAMS the 1970’s but set in the modern era. This makes it all the better because it just looks stunning and blends a present-day look with a Don’t Look Now (1973) filter.
The Stare is also very observant with the way the camera keeps repeating certain angles and frames. It’s also slightly triggering in the way of the sounds. The sounds are almost deafening at one point and some of the repeating bits from that are nerve-wracking, especially between the closing door and the repeating stops. One thing I do dig about this short is the editing of it. The story was also very original and clever, sending you even further on edge. You want to know more about Christine’s life and how she came to this point. You want to know more about her childhood that’s only partially known. From start to finish, this was one of the best short films, and I would watch it over and over again in a heartbeat.
The Body Corporate
Dir. Stepanka Cervinkova (Australia)
“In the event of an employees death, corporate retains soil rights to their remains.”
The Body Corporate examines what happens when a company gives just a small clause for employees following their death. The Body Corporate was a funny yet sad short film. Sad in the way of telling the reality of having to keep a worker working and reanimating them after death. It’s a sad realization, but ultimately a weird reality that might happen going forward in life. (Don’t quote me on this.) The short film is brilliantly acted, wickedly funny without really trying and wonderfully shot.
The MIDNIGHT MOVIES 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.