We review several shorts from Tasmanian film festival Stranger With My Face.
Title: Vintage Blood
Directed By: Abigail Blackmore
Length: 14 Minutes
Starring Indira Varma (Game Of Thrones, Luther) in a charming lead role, Vintage Blood comes off as an English version of a Tales From The Crypt episode, which is immediately appealing in and of itself. Mostly set in a small, retro boutique, the short is surprisingly quite funny throughout, yet something ominous lurks in the ether at all times—a tension you’re aware of until the final credits roll.
Vintage Blood isn’t exactly scary per se, as it’s laid out more as a dark comedy than a straight-up horror, but the creepy elements are there; they’re just overshadowed a bit by the hilariously smart dialogue delivered by the film’s interesting and charismatic characters.
Directed By: Prano Bailey-Bond
Length: 15 minutes
Bailey-Bond’s VHS-effect-heavy effort has one of the more memorable concepts of all the shorts screened at Tasmania’s Stranger With My Face. Utilizing splatter and exploitation films from the ’80s as a placeholder for some kind of taboo addiction, the film follows a boy (Albie Marber) as he explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding his father’s abrupt disappearance, seemingly connected to a stash of said horror flicks. Apart from the plus of great acting from the few players involved, shooting on film was a smart move as Bailey-Bond represents the era visually with gritty, glitchy tracking effects really nailing down the aesthetic.
Nasty is nebulous in terms of interpretation, and maybe what we see on the surface really is all there is to it, which would be fine, but there appears to be something deeply metaphorical here surrounding the dissolution of a family unit, fueled by dependency and influence.
Title: The Things We Take
Directed By: The Dying Arts
Length: 6 minutes
The Things We Take relies on a huge red herring for its twist to pay off, and for the most part it works, even if some viewers can see the outcome from a kilometer away. However, at just six minutes in length, it doesn’t allow enough time for the idea to be fully fleshed out, ultimately dampening the effectiveness a bit as the end sneaks up on you quite abruptly. Quick cuts move the film along more swiftly than it ought to flow, but when dealing with themes of divorce and the effects that can have on a young child, even just six minutes can have a heartbreaking impact for some.
Directed By: Soichi Umezawa
Length: 15 minutes
Thorn boasts a concept I wouldn’t be surprised to find was lifted directly from a brilliant graphic novel—one I desperately want to read. However, being familiar with the terrifically twisted mind of Soichi Umezawa (who also directed the “Y Is For Youth” segment in ABCs Of Death 2), it’s nice to see this supremely talented filmmaker continuing to keep disturbingly surreal body horror alive with original scripts. The bare-bones synopsis of this one? A bullied teen discovers he has lethal telekinetic powers which he then transfers into his cactus before committing suicide. The boy’s mother soon becomes privy to the cactus’ unique power and makes a drastic decision.
This practical effect-filled gem would no doubt make David Cronenberg smile with respect. It’s graphic, to say the least; sure to make even those with a cast-iron stomach squirm with uneasiness.
Directed By: Izzy Lee
Length: 11 minutes
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s 1931 novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Lee’s newest work making the rounds on the festival circuit is a difficult watch, for two reasons. First, its clumsy acting and awkward dialogue come off as (seemingly) unintentional camp that certainly isn’t any fun in a Dead Alive kind of way. Secondly, diverging from its source material, it becomes strangely erotic and extremely NSFW in a disturbing, up-close-and-personal climax that may give you nightmares. If that was Lee’s sole intention, mission accomplished; otherwise, however, it lacks some finesse and fine-tuning that might have saved Innsmouth from being lost in the endless sea of forgettable horror shorts flooding the market.
Directed By: Samantha Ferguson
Length: 11 minutes
If you Google anything along the lines of “Abaddon short film,” you’re going to find a handful of results for different flicks with the same title as Samantha Ferguson’s newest. Unfortunately, this particular Abaddon doesn’t offer much that would lead to it being a top search result among the others down the line. For covering heavy and/or sensitive subjects like domestic abuse, murder and a well-known demon to boot, Ferguson’s SWMF entry is rather uninteresting as it meanders vaguely through its brief runtime, which feels much longer than the 10 or so minutes as a result.
Title: The Goblin Baby
Directed By: Shoshana Rosenbaum
Length: 16 minutes
Tagged by its creators as “a supernatural thriller about the first year of motherhood,” The Goblin Baby was funded through Indiegogo back in 2014, eventually being backed at 138 percent of its $7,500 goal.
Being Shoshana Rosenbaum’s directorial debut, the film suffers from minor snags—mostly technical—that inaugural efforts are wont to fall victim to. The sound editing is sloppy, the inconsistent cuts are jarring and some of the acting feels pretty stiff (not all, though; Oriana Oppice and Kathryn Browning are pretty great). The Goblin Baby does have some genuinely unnerving moments, though that’s likely inherent when dealing with the fate of an infant onscreen.