The Blood in the Snow festival has some incredible talent on display, such as Andrew Moxham’s debut White Raven. While the features are awesome, the festival also has a deep lineup of shorts to keep audiences entertained in between films in addition to a dedicated short film showcase.
Horror as a genre lends itself so well to short films as a medium. Short films cut out the bullshit that most horror gets mired in–filmmakers only need to provide as much exposition and characterization as necessary to get the film going, which can often be provided in a line of dialogue and a quick pan of the camera. Then, it’s all about the effects, the kills, and the gore, which is what we’re really showing up for most of the time anyways. Additionally, shorts level the playing field and let filmmakers who don’t have the resources to make a full-length feature capture their vision. BITS has a particularly fantastic example of that on display. Onto the roundup!
Grace is a really fun post-apocalyptic romp that follows the titular child as she survives in the wilderness. Her encounter with a stranger doesn’t go as planned at all. If you’re a cynic, you’ll see the twist coming, but otherwise, a fun little ride.
This one’s a doozy. Kurayami no Wa (Japanese for “of the darkness”) follows teens in the wilderness as they try to survive an apocalypse induced by Halloween candy that turns people into zombies. It’s got a classical guitar score that will immediately make you pay attention, and offers a really compelling depiction of children learning to deal with a violent world. There’s also a detail about this short that I simply can’t leave out. The director, Morgana McKenzie, is only 16 years old. Making a film that’s this beautiful and offers such a unique perspective on a tired trope at her age is a remarkable achievement. I can only hope that McKenzie continues to work in film. If Kurayami no Wa is any indication, she has a fantastic body of work ahead of her. I commend BITS for showcasing her talent.
Return is a really strange depiction of a deranged neighbor tearing a couple apart. There’s some great chemistry between the leads, and they sell the relationship well in the time they have, but the short doesn’t go anywhere interesting enough to fully recommend.
Marty is an uninspired but vigorously performed take on the “awkward salesman” routine that somehow ends up in murder (I don’t think that’s spoiling anything in a review of horror shorts). This short is an exploration of how awkward a filmmaker can make a scene, which is, to say, extremely awkward. As an exercise in making you uncomfortable, Marty gets the job done quickly, but ultimately, there’s not enough here to be worth your time.
I have to be up-front about this one. This is a transformation horror piece about turning into a mermaid. Like, that could be awesome, right? Unfortunately for all involved, Seiren doesn’t live up to its promise. The lead’s transformation is handled poorly (she starts to need to drink salt water? Just drink it?) and culminates in a brutally awkward lunch scene that’s pretty much out of the Disney Channel’s playbook as she tries to cover up her newfound fish-womanhood to her friend across the table from her. It feels incredibly out-of-place in a horror short, since nothing else in the piece is played for laughs. The effects scene ends up being really lame (even if that teaser image is super cool) and the short as a whole lacks the level of drama necessary to engage the audience in a transformation like this. Ultimately, Seiren has a cool concept and fails to deliver.
Two guys find themselves in the woods chased by crazed hillbillies. Not much in the way of plot or answers, but holy shit, you’ll be astounded what they make an axe do to a person in this one. Too short to be a waste of your time. You have to check out these effects.
A really fun take on death-row/execution horror, And They Watched has the vibe of some of the best X-Files episodes. It follows a death row inmate seeking to get revenge on the prison’s executioner. The plot doesn’t make much sense, but it’s intense, clips right along, and has some badass effects. Recommended.