I have a problem with indie films. No no, not the films themselves. I love those, and really should do a better job reviewing them on here far more often. My problem is seeing them. The ones that make it to the big screen do so through the festival circuit. Great for them.
Sucks for me.See, I’m not near any reasonably accessible festivals. The distance and/or costs become prohibitive. Sure, I could reasonably get to New York, but then I need a place to stay. That might not be too much of an issue as my standards on that front can drop spectacularly. On the other hand, well, a guy’s gotta eat too.
All of this is just a roundabout way of saying the combination of time and money don’t work in my favor. I seem to have one or the other, but never both.
Again, sucks for me because there’s something both intense and poetic about short films. Flash or microfiction can pull this off nicely too, as can minimalism (like Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics”). Not that features can’t be intense and poetic. But telling a story in a short amount of time is like a well executed sonnet or haiku, maximum impact in minimal space. That said, here are a few I found recently through The Twitter and enjoyed every precious minute of.
(2016, dir. Colin Krawchuk, running time 10:04)
I love “weird shit that happens during Halloween” stories. Halloween, obviously, but also Trick R Treat, or my all-time favorite episode of Tales From The Crypt, “Only Skin Deep.” In The Jester, a nondescript, unnamed retail employee is stopped on the street by a tall, thin man wearing a top hat, orange suit, and a Joker-looking jester mask (complete with Mr. Sardonicus rictus grin). The Jester is imminently watchable. In fact, I liked it so much, I watched it three times in a row, then a few more in the process of writing it up. It’s nearly impossible to take your eyes of The Jester himself, who starts by showing the young man a card trick. The card trick takes a decidedly dark turn, and things escalate from there. It’s not clear why the jester singles this guy out. There’s a possible implication that it’s because he’s not in a costume and is therefore lacking in appropriate Halloween spirit.
Favorite Moment: Cane trip
(2017, dir. Christopher Goodman and Kate Walshe, running time 6:05)
I came across Christopher Goodman and Kate Walshe’s very cool looking short thanks to the lads over at Lovecraft Ezine. It’s said to be based on Lovecraft’s “Colour Out Of Space” which is technically true though more accurately it’s based, and a little loosely at that, on one particular part of Lovecraft’s story. But taken as a standalone short, it works well. There’s an immediate sense of dread that sustains and increases surprisingly sharply for the film’s supershort run time (4:41 without the credits). This is no doubt aided by a little misdirection. Inappropriately located and/or oddly behaving plant life is great for creating such tension (just watch The Ruins). The special effects are very nicely done as well. Surprising given, again, the film’s length. Not so surprising when you discover Walshe is part owner of Millenium FX.
Favorite Moment: Very end
(2016, dir. Charles Bolprand, running time 6:18)
If you want a traditional story arc, you won’t find it here. The visuals are black and white, simple, and minimal, but the narrative is poetically dark. On one hand, nothing actually happens. On the other hand, there is still an eeriness and a significant sense of dread. There is no “meet the monster scene,” but the interior monologue combined with constantly troubled look of actress Claudia Rivarelli is more than unsettling enough. There’s a hint during the credits that maybe she has been apprehended by “them,” whatever “they” are, but it’s never completely clear if the Rivarelli’s narrator is unstable, possessed, or being haunted. I have to wonder, therefore, how much Bolprand was influenced by “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Favorite Moment: Hallway crawl
(2016, dir. Chris Jopp, running time 13:06)
The longest and hands down my favorite of the shorts I rounded up for this post. Samantha (Eleonore Dendy) has just moved into her new apartment where she is immediately confronted by her immediately icky landlord (Charles Hubbell) for forgetting to sign the No Pets clause on her lease. Dendy is adorable, independent, and immediately likeable. How can you not side with a young woman who grabs a hammer and goes to investigate a strange noise? Meow is endlessly clever. Jopp makes references to so many 80s stand-bys: the Woman Alone, her mildly pushy Worried Mother, the Creepy Landlord, even a (mini-spoiler, sorry) Dead Pizza Guy (for my money, a nod to The Slumber Party Massacre). The title has a Stranger Things look to it which I assume is no accident since the cat (also adorable) looks quite a bit like General in Cat’s Eye. And why not? Meow is available as a donation-based download and comes with a Behind The Scenes bonus that’s well worth checking out. For one thing, you’ll find that Meow (Nala) is one good natured little feline.
Favorite Moment: Samantha eating from the bloodied pizza box (maybe it’s just me, but I had quite an audible giggle at that).