Fucking Freak (USA, 15 min.)
Dir. Salamo Manetti-Lax
A screaming migraine of a short designed to offend and confound in equal measure, Fucking Freak packs plenty of obnoxious action into its frenetic 15 minutes. It’s critique of mass media culture feels a bit half-baked, and a final surreal musical number falls flat, but the bad-taste guerilla-style energy still manages to drag things successfully to the finish line. Like the titular freak (which looks like Yul Brynner with a mouthful of piranha teeth), it’s not pretty, but it keeps your attention.
Mouse (USA, 11 min.)
Dirs. Celine Held & Logan George
Tremendous, darkly comedic short featuring two inches-from-rock-bottom drug addicts who think they’ve hit the jackpot when they find a slowly decaying mouse in their can of beans. The terrific, manic performances bolt down the twisted junkie logic of the pair, leading to the decision that one of the two will have to take a bite of the poor rodent to prove their claims to the media/police. Featuring some minor, but really effective special effects that might leave squeamish audiences gagging.
Studded Nightmare (Canada, 9 min.)
Dir. Jean Claude Leblanc
This stylish French Canadian horror short lets its fascinating concept do most of the heavy lifting. The “studded nightmare” (or “Cauchemar capitonné”) of the title is actually a cursed chair, offered up in a junk sale to the unsuspecting Jean-François (Sébastien Huberdeau) who soon realizes the antique provides more than just a soft place to park his rear. The seat plagues any occupant who sits in it with nightmarish, suicidal thoughts. While the film confusingly telegraphs its ending, as well as the fate of its characters, the brief forays into the characters minds is full of memorably terrifying imagery.
Mutt (USA, 14 min.)
Dir. Bruce James
A potentially interesting concept turns ponderous in Bruce James’ limp Mutt, which features a religious couple going on a murder spree for undefined – though obviously faith-based – reasons. Despite some impressive lighting, weak performances and a sluggish pace quickly drain the short of potential tension, and the critique of fanaticism falls flat.
For a Good Time Call… (USA, 12 min.)
Dir. Izzy Lee
I’ve been following the career of Izzy Lee since her impressive first short film Legitimate in 2013, and her star has rapidly been on the rise ever since, with a series of bite sized, feminism-tinged horror shorts. For A Good Time Call… puts revenge porn (and its distributors) in its sights, with a suitably sleazy Sean Carmichael (and a brief appearance by Soska Sisters favorite Tristan Risk) anchoring a tale of supernatural bathroom horror. It fits some surprising terror into its short running time, and tackles a tricky subject with intelligence and a wry wit worthy of the best anthologies.
Hell Follows (Japan/USA, 11 min.)
Dir. Brian Harrison
Extremely stylish (and surreal) short plays like a microbudget twist on the films of Sogo Ishi and Shin’ya Tsukamoto, with slick B&W photography giving way delirious bursts of colour, and a memorable, thumping soundtrack punctuated with bursts of brain-bleeding static. Unfortunately, the muddled yakuza possession plot never entirely gels, leaving director Brian Harrison’s visual cacophony to keep the audience engaged. Thankfully, he’s more than capable, with moments capturing the go-for-broke energy of early Takashi Miike films. Apparently part of a larger series of projects, I’m certainly curious to see plenty more from this director.