Saluting Shorts at New York City Horror Film Festival
The New York City Horror Festival has come to an end and I’m pleased to say it was a great deal of fun to attend for the first time. One of my favorite parts was the showing of shorts before each feature film. All of the shorts were impressive, but I want to focus on the three stand-outs that really made an impression on me.
Under the Apple Tree by writer/director Erik van Schaaik is 18 minutes of macabre delight. Featuring stop-motion animation on par with Henry Selick and Nick Park, this short should be every child’s first horror experience. Never have zombies been approached in such an adorable and fun manner. The film is told from the perspective of a worm in need of shelter, with narration in the style of Poe. The unlikely shelter it finds–the body of a church groundskeeper–leads to an even more unlikely discovery: The worm can control the deceased body. I want to watch this movie repeatedly, make screenings an annual tradition in my household. It’s an instant horror classic for kids and adults. It rightfully won Best Short at the festival.
Monsters by Steve Desmond is a fine O’Henry-style horror movie about a young girl who lives in an underground bunker her with family following an apocalyptic event that has left the surface world overrun by monsters. The girl’s parents and older brother often venture out to get supplies, but she’s told she’s too young and it’s too dangerous. When the opportunity to see for herself arises, the girl learns there’s something far more sinister than the monsters she imagined her whole life. Without giving anything away, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even with a strong hunch of what the inevitable twist would be. I was pleased to be right but also have the filmmaker pull the rug out from under me immediately after. And, on top of that, Ione Skye plays the mother! The full short is available to watch online.
The Fisherman, written and directed by Alejandro Suarez Lozano, is a new take on the age-old conflict of man against nature. We’re in The Old Man and The Sea territory with a beaten-down third-generation fisherman (Andrew Ng) in Hong Kong who tough life shows in every line on his face, as well as his missing hand. He’s out of place in the modern world and is mostly content with the solitude that affords him. A chance encounter with an otherworldly creature begins as a much needed moment of glory for the old man, but soon turns into a fight for his life. Light on dialogue, the film is carried entirely by Ng’s stoic–and ultimately badass–performance. Throw in some truly impressive monster effects, and you have a winning film. Though it could easily be a feature length film, it so perfectly utilizes the strengths of a short that it could be topped.
These were just my favorites, but the programmers at the festival outdid themselves with some truly wonderful short films by unique voices who surely have big careers ahead of them.