The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is known by genre fans to have groundbreaking and magnificent films and short films, cementing themselves as a genre force to be reckoned with. This year is no different. From After Blue to Ego, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival has boasted many wonderful films, and the same can easily be said about their short film selections. The block of Home Invasion short films brings us so many wonderful, heart pounding, and flat out excellent shorts. So let’s talk about them.
Atrophy written and directed by Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden
I have a few common fears that I think a lot of people would share, like things happening to my eyes, or my teeth, or fingernails…but now I have a new fear: Atrophy. Almost immediately Atrophy dug straight into my nerves, making me immediately uncomfortable and sad. Uncomfortable thinking about the possibility of this happening, and sad for the fact that it does happen. Mrs. Sugita (Irene Tsu) expertly portrays someone going through what seems like a mild case of atrophy. She is able to walk (not well), eat, and use the bathroom on her own, while other tasks are done by her husband Mr. Sugita (Bert Matius).
Mr. Sugita’s selfishness comes full head when he finds a karaoke machine in the garage, which is hiding behind the pandemic panic amount of paper products in their garage. His life is slowly taken over by the colorful lights, sounds, and comfort it provides him.
Hartanto and Roden handle the direction of this short well, accentuating the hypnotic nature of the karaoke machine as well as the shell of a human Mr. Sugita has become, which is helped from Matius’ stellar acting. Tsu also has a powerhouse performance and completely sells the atrophy that occurs within her, making each movement seem excruciating and heartbreaking. The camera work is subtle and refined, with great care put into each shot.
The Home Invasion subgenre is tackled very interestingly throughout the entirety of these selections, but the have the object of the invasion to be an inanimate object is fairly thought provoking and commentative on technology.
Polybius written and directed by Alex Rouleau
Opening with an epilepsy warning, and ending with enough flashing lights to make even Gaspar Noe impressed, Polybius is an interesting piece on The Cold War and Tetris (Polybius). Initially the correlation of these two subjects made little to no sense. After further research the whole story of Tetris is surrounded by the fact that it was created by a Russian in 1984 named Alexey Pajitnov, and now it’s all making sense. It makes sense that a Russian game gaining rapid appeal in the ’80s could easily frighten people who know little to nothing about video games.
Well, Rouleau proved the frightened people right. My first viewing left me thinking it was silly and all in jest, but my second viewing left me with my mouth agape and awed by how tactfully Rouleau gave us everything we needed to know…whether we new it or not.
Still Together directed by Christopher Piazza written by Christopher Piazza and Sara Ruth Blake
What happens when you take ’87s Mannequin, add a few gallons of blood, and a hefty Tablespoon of surrealism? You get Still Together. Presented by Christopher Piazza’s hyper stylistic PanopticonNYC, Still Together’s stylish discourse looks and feels like it’s both timeless and hard-set in the ’80s. Extreme kudos goes to Piazza and Blake for the entertaining direction and brilliant production design, respectively.
Kate (Clare McNulty) sees Leif (Steve O’Brien) as a hunky Nordic man, but when other people are around, she sees him as everyone else does…a lowly department store mannequin. Is it all in her head? Or does this mannequin manifest magical moves? Still Together is a fun and original take on an interesting idea, and is executed with grace, blood, and class. Christopher Piazza really knows how to create an experience in such a small amount of time, and execute his unique vision. It’s fun to picture what I think he could do with creative control over a feature film.
Lucky Feet written and directed by Mary Dauterman
Who’s ready for their triple relaxation foot and toe solution? In this Lynchian tale, Mary Dauterman slates the nameless pedestrian Jenny Donheiser up against nameless “nail salon” owner Jenny Donheiser. After breaking a toenail on a random brick, she waltzes in to the salon that is strategically placed next to the brick…or is it the opposite? What ensues inside is a weird Monty Python looking acid trip, with enough feet and toes to please even Quentin Tarantino.
The idea of Jenny vs Jenny is interesting and adds an ominous feeling to the whole short, and Dauterman’s to-the-point directing style meshes perfectly with the trippiness of the visuals. While this short doesn’t have much in the scare department, it stays weird from beginning to end and is a real treat. The only thing I could have asked for more of was time! Lucky Feet accomplishes what it set out to do, but it left me craving at least 5 more minutes inside the salon.
#NOFILTER written and directed by Nathan Crooker
I was (im)patiently waiting to watch this one. I had heard good things, and every screenshot I was just looked colorfully wonderful, plus I was a fan of Nathan Crooker’s pandemic film Isolation. Crooker does two things that I personally love seeing: body horror and psychological horror. Beth’s (Kelly Lamor Wilson) boyfriend recently broke up with her, and she is feeling pretty down about it. On a FaceTime with her friend Micah (Misha Osherovich) she learns of a filter that synchs with all camera apps called Newu. Micah promises this app will, basically, make you look hot as hell. Unfortunately for everyone who download the insidious app, that’s not all it plans to do.
#NOFILTER is a commentary on many things: beauty standards, the fixation behind social media, and overall clout. It handles these in a very tongue and cheek manor, with an impressively meta fourth wall break from Beth when she looks directly into the camera and tells the audience to, “stop being so judgey.” There’s also a wonderful line that stuck with me regarding terms and agreements, because who reads those right? I won’t spoil that line because it’s just too good.
The practical and generated effects for #NOFILTER look fantastic and grotesque, with Crooker’s direction and script being A+. The home invasion aspect on this one rivals Atrophy with the idea of the invader has been in our home the entire time. Phones are, and will be for the foreseeable future, a part of our lives…and maybe we will be a part of theirs. *wink*
Scavenger written and directed by Ben Sottak
This short was pretty interesting and looked like it had solid production value, but I’m still a little unsure about it being in the Home Invasion block. Scavenger is about a scavenger in post apocalyptic times, who stumbles across a dead body in the middle of the woods near a farmhouse. There’s some world building with our scavenger wearing a gas mask, but besides that we aren’t given a whole lot of information. Stylistically it looks very professional and has some great SFX. Oh yeah, and it has Milly Shapiro from Hereditary which is pretty cool.
The Lovers written and directed by Avra Fox-Lerner
The Lovers is a unique short that had me going until the very last second; I wasn’t sure where it was leading me but I enjoyed the ride. It’s very minimalist and hedges on a big moment, and luckily the moment delivers. Hazel (Meryl Williams) goes out for coffee and a snack, only to bring back coffee and a guy (Patrick Vaill). He thinks he’s getting one thing but Hazel and Mindy (Annapurna Sriram) may have other plans.
Not only does the short have great looks, performances, and deliver on the spook, but the score is absolutely amazing. One song in particular is See You in Hell written by Nathan Halpern and angelically sung by Emily Forsythe. This song has been stuck in my head since my viewing, and MUST get on Spotify soon so I can play it on repeat until my ears bleed. Nathan Halpern is the brilliant composer of Swallow, and just absolutely nails it 100% of the time.