DAY 4 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Phil·a·del·phi·a’ (2014)

DAY 4 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Phil·a·del·phi·a’ (2014)

Scene from Phil·a·del·phi·a (2014 short horror film)
Scene from Phil·a·del·phi·a (2014 short horror film)
Scene from Phil·a·del·phi·a (2014 short horror film)

31 days. 31 films.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU FOR ‘PHIL•A•DEL•PHI•A’: For our fourth day of the festival, time for a change in tone. Today’s selection is a wistful, evocative, elegiac invocation of a time after an apocalyptic invasion. The cinematography is gorgeous, the pace measured, the tone sombre and resigned. You won’t find any jump scares in this one. But you may find something deeper and more meaningful.

Two brothers strive to survive in an invaded world, looking for safety from sound-seeking extra-dimensional beings.

Phil·a·del·phi·a was written and directed by Broadway, and stars Chase Ramsay, J.J Shurbet, and Alvis Broadway. Pay close attention to Shurbet’s voiceover. It’s extraordinary, especially for an actor so young. Enjoy the ride. RUNTIME: 4:50


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DAY 3 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Where Is It’ (2017)

DAY 3 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Where Is It’ (2017)

Image from Where Is It (2017) horror short
Image from Where Is It (2017) horror short

31 days. 31 films.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU FOR ‘WHERE IS IT’: The proliferation of smartphones has made a serious impact on the horror genre. No longer can writers fully isolate characters without writing in some hackneyed “NO SIGNAL” cheat. Also, because the video quality has gotten quickly and drastically better, more and more horror films – in particular, horror shorts – are being shot on smartphones. Augmented Reality (AR) horror games superimpose horrific imagery over the live video your smartphone’s camera is capturing. But where smartphones are really making a mark is in the subject matter of the films themselves. Is it really healthy to be connected at all times? To be tethered to work concerns and home concerns without pause? To check for texts or social media updates dozens or even hundreds of times a day?

Which brings us to video chats, deployed to great effect in the mega-popular horror short Skypemare a few years back. (Yes, we know its Skype conversation was on a laptop rather than a smartphone, but the concept is the same.) And in today’s featured short, Where Is It, two friends converse via FaceTime – and things do not go well. It’s a cool exercise in filmmaking boundaries, since the entire story is told through a single, unbroken FaceTime session.

Where Is It is co-directed by Todd Spence and Zak White, and stars Whitney Gries, Travina Springer, and Patrick Keane. Next you break a mirror, make sure it isn’t coveted by… something. RUNTIME: 3:29


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Image from horror short Where Is It (2017)
DAY 2 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Sweet Tooth’ (2015)

DAY 2 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Sweet Tooth’ (2015)

Image from Sweet Tooth (2015) horror short
Image from Sweet Tooth (2015) horror short

31 days. 31 films.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU FOR ‘SWEET TOOTH’: Black humor suffuses this candy-colored take on a celebration gone horribly awry. Here’s the official synopsis:

When little Norman attends Duncan’s 11th birthday, he participates in a seemingly innocent game of Hit the Piñata.. But when his bat rips clear though the piñata and connects with the face of the spoiled birthday boy, he is surprised to find that candy, not blood, is spilling from the boy’s open wound. Much to the dismay of the unsuspecting party guests, this new discovery fills Norman with delight, for he is very, very hungry.

Michael Muchnij directed, co-wrote, and even created the score for this short, which clocks in just under five minutes. Enjoy the sugar rush.


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DAY 1 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Selfie From Hell’ (2015)

DAY 1 | 2017 GH Oct. Short Horror Film Fest: ‘Selfie From Hell’ (2015)

Image from Selfie from Hell (2015) horror short
Image from Selfie from Hell (2015) horror short

31 days. 31 films.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: A brilliant addition to the growing family of smartphone-centric horror shorts, Selfie From Hell takes a simple premise and spins it into a highly effective horror short. In less than two minutes, it pulls the viewer into a baffling mystery with a violent outcome, paying off with one of the best jump scares in horror short history.

Erdal Ceylan wrote and directed this short, and Meelah Adams stars. Since being posted on YouTube in August 2015, Selfie from Hell has racked up more than 20 millions views and an impressive number of festival awards. In a twist paralleling Swedish director David F. Sandberg‘s viral success with 2013’s brilliant short Lights Out, Ceylan is currently finishing up post-production on a feature-length film based on the original short, with Adams returning as one of its stars. It’s slated for release sometime next year, and the inaugural trailer may be viewed below.


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Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios unleashes nightmare-fueled 22-minute short ‘Zygote’

Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios unleashes nightmare-fueled 22-minute short ‘Zygote’

What’s on the Menu…

Zygote beautifully utilizes one of our all-time favorite dramatic scenarios: An isolated group, faced with no choice but to fend for themselves, battles for survival against a seemingly insurmountable foe. As group members get picked off, one by one, the suspense comes from who dies next, and who, if anyone, survives. John Ford staged it in a desert with World War I soldiers in The Lost Patrol (1934). Ridley Scott placed his band of scrappy victims in deep space, battling an iconic extraterrestrial in 1979’s Alien. With Zygote, director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp borrows heavily from the latter, right down to the ceaseless warning beacons and mechanical PA announcements. It also cuts right to the chase, opening after most of the bloodshed has already occurred:

Stranded in an Arctic mine, two lone survivors are forced to fight for their lives, evading and hiding from a new kind of terror.

Evaluation

Zygote stars Blomkamp veteran Jose Pablo Cantillo (Elysium, Chappie) and Dakota Fanning. Cantillo is fine, although his terse, grunting speech – he’s in intense pain for every second he’s onscreen – can be a little hard to understand. But Fanning is incredible, absolutely inhabiting her character’s frazzled, go-for-broke gutsiness. And the film’s set acts as an indispensable third performer: the Diefenbunker, a sprawling, decommissioned Cold War-era fallout shelter originally built by the Canadian government in the small town of Carp, Ontario. It now serves as Canada’s Cold War Museum, and has been featured in The Sum of All Fears, among other films.

As one would expect from Blomkamp, the digital effects are impeccable. Zygote gifts sci-fi/horror fans with a unique and fearsome creature, unlike anything you’ve seen before. And it does not skimp on the gore or violence. If this were a feature, the MPAA would almost certainly slap an ‘R’ rating on it.

Blunders and Gaffes

The film spends just a little too much time in its first setting, the mining operation’s thoroughly trashed mess hall. It gets a little talky in parts. And a scene where the two protagonists must put on breathing masks becomes unintentionally funny when both of their masks instantly cloud up – a lot. Like, “I can’t see a damn thing” a lot.

Release Notes for Zygote

Oats Studios has released free versions of Zygote on its YouTube and Facebook pages, but a deluxe downloadable edition, complete with 3D assets, scripts and digital concept art booklet can be purchased for $4.99 on the Steam gaming platform.

Best of all, the short is billed as Volume 1, indicating an ongoing series. We’ll be anxiously awaiting the next installments.

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SHORT: Latest ‘Scary Endings’ anthology entry, ‘Am I Beautiful?’ (2017), based on Japanese legend

SHORT: Latest ‘Scary Endings’ anthology entry, ‘Am I Beautiful?’ (2017), based on Japanese legend

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Online horror anthology series Scary Endings offers up another serving of short-form terror, Am I Beautiful?. This time around, writer/director John Fitzpatrick (Skypemare) and the Scary Endings team look to an ancient Japanese ghost story, Kuchisake-onna (‘Slit-Mouthed Woman’), for their inspiration:

May (Sarah Scott) and Zach (Abraham Martinez) are moving into their new home unbeknownst to the evil spirit haunting their bathroom mirror – the Slit-Mouthed Woman (Belinda Gosbee). She’ll ask you a question; answer correctly and she’ll spare your life but at a cost…

Interestingly, this episode is the first to be shot entirely on iPhone. To our eyes, cinematographer Nicholas Kaat‘s work looks professional as always, which speaks volumes about the potential quality of current smartphone videography. This should serve as a huge encouragement to all you budding horror filmmakers out there!


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