By Jay Kay (Host of Horror Happens)
2016 was an incredible year for short form filmmaking. Many filmmakers offered unique, complex, homage filled and clever projects that took the viewers at film festivals on journeys into the dark corners of horror. It was truly astonishing to witness so many levels of filmmaking from diverse storytelling to crafted cinematography to heart racing scores to old school practical FX to themes and troupes molded into twisted new visions. Take some time and witness this filmmaking magic and visit film festivals to see the next generation of filmmakers who take the challenge of short form filmmaking and turn them into some of the best moments of your year! Thanks to INDIE MAC USER for posting this list of my ten favorites!
1. THE STYLIST – Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian / USA (Etheria Film Night, Fantastic Fest, AxWound Film Festival & Ithaca Fantastik)A double winner at the California film festival known as the ETHERIA FILM NIGHT along with multiple awards and critical acclaim, Jill Gevargizian crafts a tale surrounding a disturbed hairdresser that has gotten away with insidious acts in a quiet beauty shop. The talented Najarra Townsend (Contracted) plays the off balanced character that surprised many viewers with her unique beauty, insanity, captivating performance and in the end, a very heart wrenching situation. With very resourceful and planned camera work by Robert Patrick Stern as well as a practical FX sequence that has made many squirm, THE STYLIST is that lush, glowing light in the dark smothered in Argento’s blood. The viewer witnesses a beautiful and nostalgic set design that meets the macabre truth of horror with the ones we think we know and trust. Edited with a skilled eye by filmmaker John Pata (Pity, Dead Weight), it will be interesting to see where SIXX Entertainment goes as writer Eric Havens and Gevargizian have really caught fire after this short film. Without a doubt, THE STYLIST is deserving of the praise and top spot as you find tones and levels of tragic in every aspect of THE STYLIST including score, set design, performance, lighting and more. Don’t think for a second that it does not have its beats of twisted humor or old style Hollywood flair as Gevargizian understands how to play with her audience’s emotions and cultivate a classic, sharp tale that rips your heart out.
2. DAWN OF THE DEAF – Rob Savage / UK (Fantastic Fest)Rob Savage and the crew behind the scattered puzzle that is DAWN OF THE DEAF blew me away! This short film revolving around four different snapshot narratives is both consuming and truly fantastic. DAWN OF THE DEAF interweaves a family with a dark secret, a pair of video pranksters, a couple at a crossroads and a man who is receiving an award for his community service and spirit into one terrifying fabric that makes it hard to breath. Each storyline connects to an aspect of the deaf culture whether surrounding the treatment of the deaf, relationships or society perception and acceptance. Giving a different feel and vibe to each storyline, we see horror on many levels and scopes. The brilliance of this short is more than one fold also as the viewer is drawn in with the uneasy feeling of Romero’s zombie influence. The ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL homage tone and the melodrama of modern television storytelling and more. The impact of this short is as frightening and tension filled smothered in dread that you will find. Like any great short filmmaking, Savage does not cookie cut way out to each narrative but instead makes the roads leading to the final moments as twisted, dreadful and unbalanced as possible.
3. BLACK IN RED OUT – Monica Suriyage / USA (AxWound Film Festival)My surprise short film of the year was truly a highlight of the AXWOUND FILM FESTIVAL this past November. Taking a beaten to death concept like the infection sub-genre of horror and completely finding a new way to infuse a terrifying truth and reaction is what filmmaker Monica Suriyage, cast and crew did with BLACK IN RED OUT. Building the story by way of CW/ABC FAMILY teen drama formula, we see horror meet science meet growing up with horrifying results. Smart, developed and fun to the point of thrilling, this short film takes an everyday part of nature and shows the extreme side of all those who are in range of exposure turning the DAWSON CREEK’s style dramatic love narrative into infection horror chaos that makes you laugh, connect and think about what you are breathing. Exceptionally resourceful and definitely indie filmmaking, BLACK IN RED OUT is a great piece of storytelling and old school practical FX. As akward and thrilling as you will find, Suriyage and company definitely have succeed where many have perished with infection storytelling and horror filmmaking.
4. NASTY – Prano Bailey-Bond / UK (Etheria Film Night & AxWound Film Festival)In the trend of my top short films of 2016 fan favorite horror themes, we become voyeurs of the mystery that is NASTY by the talented Prano Bailey-Bond. Offering very little exposition on why a father has disappeared, his wife and son suspect many things but not what they find. Surrounding a variety of town folks that are missing, we learn that there is a strange connection to horror VHS tapes and the local video store. Handling the investigation differently, the wife waits and wonders if her husband will come home while the son heads out and discovers that something is not right with the VHS tapes hidden. With such a respectful homage to the 1980’s movie culture that extends beyond just the prop of VHS tapes, Prano and crew go to such great detail in creating a truly macabre feel overall. This includes special VHS cover boxes. A score that hits hard. Old school gore and practical FX that reaches out and grabs you. An overall dread that infects all on each level of NASTY. A grainy texture in the filmmaking scope created by VHS recordings and the overall presentation that wraps this mystery and strained family narrative up in. A wonderfully bleak and tense feel with filmmaking pillars that have earned NASTY so many selections, awards and critical praise! NASTY is captivating and offers a slight twist on what makes this family whole again.
5. RESTART – Olga Osorio / Spain (Etheria Film Night)A truly masterful piece of screenwriting, RESTART is what makes science fiction and time travel such an incredible storytelling platform. Based around a woman played by Marta Larraide who is abducted, we experience her “Groundhog Day” journey one step at a time moving backwards to the ultimate origins in this temporal loop. Developing the journey as well as the character, filmmaker Olga Osorio cultivates the lead female character from a victim to survivor in the small-time span. Recreating each segment of the abduction and captivity with such detail and precision, RESTART is a bit confusing at the beginning of the short but rewards those who following as she slowly snaps together each piece with infusion of action, thrills and sympathetic connection that impressed many overall and without a doubt at the ETHERIA FILM NIGHT.
This rounds out the Top 10:
6. HELLO – Christina Raia (USA)
7. IMMURE – Conscian Morgan (UK)
8. DEATH METAL – Chris McInroy (US)
9. MINDLESS – Katie Bonham (UK)
10. CURVE – Tim Egan (AUSTRALIA)
Check out Top 10 Horror Short Films of 2015