It’s the second (and final) weekend of the 2018 Horror-on-Sea film festival, so let’s discuss which shorts to catch.
The Gardener (Duncombe, 2017)
There’s no secret what the mysterious ingredient is that helps the titular gardener’s amazing garden grow, but clocking in at a scant 2:40 mins, director Joe Duncombe’s black and white short tells its simple tale with evocative imagery and a beautifully haunting sing-song nursery rhyme voice-over.
- Screens: Friday, Jan 26 at 9pm with Charismata (read my review for Anatomy of a Scream here)
Bride of Frankie (Snively, 2016)
A cute rift on the Bride of Frankenstein in which the insensitive Dr. Stein (Circus-Szalewski) leaves his assistant Frankie (Rachel Sledd) to run the lab in his wake and she goes about hooking up the monster “Monty” (Mark Lancaster) and the new girl “Shelly” (Jessica Ridenour). The problem is that Monty is a bit of a dumb oaf who constantly breaks things and Shelly seems to have a stronger romantic connection with Frankie. It’s a lovely queer romance that doesn’t quite manage to nail its period trappings, but Snively and her crew ensure Bride‘s heart (and other assorted sutured bits) are in all of the right romantic places.
- Screens: Saturday, January 27 at 11am
Cambio (Romero, 2016)
This Spanish entry has some of the best production values of all of the festival shorts and it’s premise is equally tantalizing. A disaffected married couple named Ana and Victor return to their favourite desolate vacation spot on the edge of lake to try and rekindle their marriage. The details aren’t as important as the fact that they used to be happy here, as evidenced by the flashbacks to their first summer when they were young and carefree. It is only when they are separated and seem to come upon their younger selves that the truth about the timelines is revealed. The amount of plot is well-balanced to the run time, both actors are solidly convincing as younger and older versions of themselves and the ending leaves you wanting more.
- Screens: Sunday, Jan 28 at 11am
Taste (Eyles, 2016)
Keith Eyles’ short about a young man whose parents encourage him to sign up for online dating falls somewhere between social media satire and horror. The critique of the helicopter parents with too much vested interest in their mildly awkward son is spot-on, the confessional-style dating introduction videos we see are cringe-worthy (in a realistic way) and repeatedly glimpsed acts of violence against several girls by an unseen assailant confirms that something sinister is going on.
Eyles has a good eye, but the short falls short in two ways: the first is that the sound production on the attack scenes is jarringly loud (to the point of distraction). The other issue is narrative; it’s completely unrealistic that a twenty-something girl would agree to meet an online date at his house in the middle of the woods, never mind have dinner with his parents and then stay overnight in his room. It’s simply too far fetched to suspend your disbelief, which is a shame because the rest of the short is icky creepy in all of the right ways, particularly the final reveal about what’s going on.
- Screens: Sunday, January 28 at 12pm with Empire of the Sharks
Goodnight, Gracie (Kendrick, 2017)
This is another short that has a firm handle on tone and content. A deeply religious girl awakens to the sounds of her crucifix falling off the wall and a scream. After setting aside the bible she has fallen asleep on and turning on her Jesus flashlight (where can I get one of those?!), Gracie creeps to the bannister to discover that her mother has been hacked to death by an axe-wielding maniac. Retreating to the safety of her blankets and bible, Gracie prays for helps.
I won’t spoil what comes next, but suffice it to say that Goodnight, Gracie earns strong points for its excellent execution of a simple, but very creepy storyline – one that many of us have undoubtedly scared ourselves silly over as children.
- Screens: Sunday, Jan 28 at 5pm with Where The Skin Lies
For more information on Horror-on-Sea, click here.