We spend a lot of time discussing feature-length films here and as much as we enjoy the two-and-a-half-hour theatrical experience, there’s a lot to be said about being able to deliver a compelling narrative and visual style within a limited space and time. That being said, we thought it time to shift our focus a little by introducing a new feature “Short Film Roundup” where we take a look at the some of the best short films that have recently turned up on our radar. This month we’ve got a collection short horror films that showcase the versatility of the genre and the willingness to experiment within it.
While Kevin Kopacka’s HADES and TLMEA are two distinct films, they form a larger narrative and serve as parallel artistic meditations on mythology within our modern context of relationships and status. Both films display a visual palate and lighting technique reminiscent of giallo films, the result of which would make Dario Argento proud. HADES, which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, follows a young woman across the five rivers of Hades, represented by rooms in the films. Each room contains a scene from her relationship from its exciting beginning to its heartbreaking collapse, until she finds herself in a Hell comprised of her romantic journey. The film is experimental and surreal (to say the least) but the thematic through line never becomes lost in the film’s array of symbolism and motifs. Even without the use of dialogue the film provides the viewer with an emotional connection to the woman, with the film’s music becoming the character’s means to communicate with the viewer. TLMEA serves as sequel to HADES, and centers on two undercover cops whose nightmarish drug raid leads them through Dante’s nine levels of Hell. TLMEA provides a larger context to HADES (the woman’s boyfriend and source of her journey to Hell is one of the undercover cops in this film, explaining some of his emotional distance within that previous film). TLMEA employs a similar visual style and use of symbolism as HADES, only its use of color (yellows and red instead of purples and greens) and implementation of violence is makes for a more sinister film and a completely unique vision of Hell both in terms of its companion HADES and within the larger framework of cinema’s depiction of the underworld. There’s nothing narratively easy about either film and viewers will find re-watching both films to be a rewarding experience that unlocks more secrets with each subsequent viewing. But even if the narrative pieces aren’t ready made for standard narrative arrangement and understanding, these puzzle box films are prime examples of horror succeeding as emotional and visceral visual experiences that don’t differ so much from the blending of fantasy and reality that make up our worst nightmares.
The Price of Bones
The Price of Bones is a unique examination of two women’s battle with an eating disorder, featuring careful character examination that is equal parts heartbreaking and chilling. Written by Samantha Kolesnik and directed by Brandon Taylor, The Price of Bones is filled with a constant sense of dread and the feeling that there is something crucial missing within the characters Caprice and Heather. Both women suffer from their psychological need to starve themselves, but unlike other films featuring the subject matter the camera spends little time lingering on the thinness of their bodies, instead choosing to highlight the hollowness in their eyes and the desperation that can be gleaned from the smallest of actions. Within this film, a breathy run through the snow, plates of picked at food stacked high in the fridge, and an empty hug absent of friendship become horrific measures of impending and unavoidable doom. The best horror often comes from that which is most human, the aspects of life we tend to overlook or at least accept if not outright embrace. Kolesnik and Taylor’s film manages to find provide a fresh look at the horror of eating disorders without going to obvious route of body horror and instead choosing to examine the subtle psychological ramifications and the devastating results. It is the level of realism within this snapshot of horror that makes The Price of Bones such a carefully controlled examination of what it means to be seen while disappearing from sight. The Price of Bones just finished production and we will update with a link once it becomes available.
This one comes to us from Larry Wright ([twitter-follow username=”refocusedmedia” scheme=”dark”]). David Bruckner, who co-directed the mind-bending social examination film The Signal (2007) and my favorite V/H/S segment “Amateur Night”, delivers a dystopic talk show that berates, bullies, and harasses its “guests” into telling to the “truth” about their allegiances and personal lives. Of course this “truth” is squeezed out of guests, in this instance a family of three, by a sinister talk show host who puts on niceties that thinly veil the “make America great again” rhetoric that’s situated at his core. The host’s entire ploy is to demoralize, dehumanize, and denationalize this family all for the sake of audience reactions and entertainment. It’s public crucifixion by way of the media, and it comes stunningly close to how our modern day news telecasts and message boards can pick apart and turn anything against the person(s) under the spotlight. While Bruckner has shown his ability for visual flair in his previous films, Talk Show is stripped down, relying on the impact of the film’s words and message. Like an episode of Black Mirror, the horror of Talk Show isn’t it’s look into the future and foward-minded use of technology, but how close the events of this allegory line up to our own reality. Without physical violence, Talk Show manages to be an intimate portrayal of human cruelty at its worst.
Featured Image: Kevin Kopacka