Over thirty new shorts across three sold-out, big-screen showcases, and an entire weekend of horror and genre-themed fun – this year’s FrightFest was one of the biggest ever for short form content. From comedies to mood-pieces, stop-motion to flat-out slashers, it was a truly diverse bunch, covering a wide spectrum of filmmakers and countries of origin. Here’s the very best of them:
There’s an awful lot to love in Stefan Georgiou’s cockney-gothic chiller The Dead Ones – a clever spin on the ghost-world formula that I won’t spoil here. Packed out with four terrific performances and a tricky, brilliantly moody plot that more than earns its longer 20-minute run time.
Adele Vuko’s edgy Aussie comedy The Hitchhiker might sound a little genre bare-bones, running off its basic title and set-up – three best friends picking up a scary-looking hitcher while on a midnight drive to a music festival – but it ends up anything but. A punchy script, some killer chemistry, and a wonderfully twisty lead turn from Santa Clarita Diet’s Liv Hewson.
It’s the unspoken mystery of the male nipple under the microscope in Bailey Tom Bailey’s fantastically silly The History of Nipples – an impressive, century-spanning production that ends on a particularly wicked stunt that had the whole audience howling. Bailey’s sense of humour and expert timing sell it brilliantly.
Canadian surrealist Roney won a whole host of new fans with the oddball hit Glitter’s Wild Women, a dark-hearted gem about two sisters drumming up support for their DIY film festival in their rural community, with the help of a few blunt objects and some quietly super-powered glitter. Madly unique and uniquely mad, it’s a first momentous leap from an incredible new voice.
Taking a bow on the festival’s main screens before Channel 83’s equally-gritty Bliss, super tort 16mm short Gutter proved to be one of the most visually beautiful films on offer all weekend. Written and directed by horror editing regular Josh Ethier (Mayhem, Beyond The Gates, We Are Still Here), it’s a sickly spin on LA’s wrong side of the tracks, with an ace lead turn from Erin Braswell as a particularly phantom-like nomad.
Few films, short or feature, can boast a plot as vomit-inducingly nasty as James Cadden’s truly messed-up Five Course Meal, a feast for (and of) eyes and ears alike. The less said the better, because although it becomes dangerously clear rather quickly where it’s all going, Cadden still revels in the madness and rinses the wacky 6 mins for every single crowd-growling moment possible.
The hilarious Tucker and Dale vibes of Evan Powers’ rightfully celebrated Pig deserve plenty of praise too, shifting the famed home-invasion/backwards slasher into a very polished, very funny little self-serving short.
Arguably the funniest of the lot – in a programme packed with on-point gags – Matt Landry’s Canadian haunted house comedy Re: Possessed Homes is an expertly structured takedown of the Amityville/Poltergeist mainstay. Lead Natalie Lisinska pits the classic struggling single-mother drama against a wicked sense of humour, playing out a plot chock-full of terrifically twisted, genre-driven laughs. It’s a surprisingly heartfelt, if ever-so-slightly nasty slant on a horror staple with a totally killer finale.
Shorts are quite often pitted as a taster piece for bigger ideas, and Hannah Levien and Shannon Kohli’s swish-looking Hunting Season very much feels like this year’s biggest nod in that direction. Playing out like the first act of a particularly odd-ball creature feature, it’s a neat, moody little opener that’s begging for 90 extra minutes to follow-up its off-the-wall reveal.
And finally, there’s always room for a bit of absurdist mayhem, and it doesn’t get much wonkier than Izzy Lee’s stock-footage-lead The Obliteration of the Chickens, a Herzogian fever-dream that pokes fun at everything from the farmyard to the endless abyss. Ultra sharp, it’s a super short and sweet brain dump of the cleverest stupidity around.