Sometimes you look down a dark and empty hall and feel something staring back at you. Usually, there’s nothing down at the end of the hall…usually. This block of short films is menacing presences, a beautifully vague idea that lends a filmmaker tons of creative liberties. Last year the menacing presence block was full of some great short films, how does this year stand up to it? Let’s take a look—if you dare.
Midnight Visitor – Written by Matt Lazzaretti and Directed by Abby Brenker
One night someone, Janissa Rose, hears her door knob rattling. After the person on the other end goes away she hears a rap-tap tapping on her chamber door. On the other end of the door is a neighbor. She tells Janissa that someone has been trying to get into her apartment too. Be careful who you trust.
This is one wild-ass short film to start the block on. The stinger is something I have seen done a handful of times, but never to this effect. I was completely shocked when that happened. Visually Midnight Visitor is decent enough, but substance-wise I think this short will shock audiences. Quick and to the point, this short doesn’t overstay its welcome and ends exactly when it knows it needs to.
The Call – Written/Directed by Camila Novais
I’m still not too sure what this short film is about, so I don’t feel confident trying to write a tongue and cheek synopsis about it. What I can say is it’s pretty damn great. Made from Novais’ personal archives and the archives of the National Film Board of Canada, The Call is experimental horror at its finest. The story is told in almost a poetic cadence and tells an interesting story…even if I don’t know what the story is. I’m fairly certain the entirety of this project went way over my head, but I left this short feeling nothing less than affected by the content. This is one of the most original short films I have seen in a very long time.
Sleep Study – Written/Directed by Natalie Metzger
New mom Sarah (Olivia Applegate) returns to the workforce shortly after having a baby. A good night’s rest becomes harder to come by, and not due to a crying baby. Sometimes the menacing presence isn’t what it seems to be.
Talk about a complete 180. Sleep Study got to a point where I, and I think most, will figure out what the stinger is going to be. And that makes it all the more gasp-inducing. When you pick up what Metzger is putting down, you will most likely have a, “no, they won’t, oh wait…they did,” moment. Even if the images seem a bit plain at times, the idea of what lies beneath creates an unsettling air that will leave you breathless.
Knit One, Stab Two – Written/Directed by Alison Peirse
This short is an essay film that tackles the topic, and representation, of knitting throughout a century of genre films.
Documentaries and essay films are not my thing. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into them, but I just don’t necessarily find them interesting. That being said, out of the few handfuls of essay films I have seen Knit One, Stab Two is very well researched and presented. This is a concept and topic that has never once crossed my mind, and I’m really glad this was picked for this block. Peirse presents the subject matter in an accessible way where it doesn’t feel like the viewer is being talked down upon, but rather presented with clear and concise information.
Night Work – Written/Directed by Savanna Hunter-Reeves
Simone (Keisha Mitchell) is a workaholic who finds herself working through the night. While working from home is great because you don’t have to deal with coworkers, Simone finds herself subject to an unsavory coworker. Simone might have to call HR.
Night Work is a slow-burning terrifying short that actually kind of makes me want to go BACK to my office. Hunter-Reeves does an excellent job at creating this unnerving tension between Mitchell and what lurks in the dark corners of her home office. On top of that, Mitchell’s performance is fantastic. The menacing presence in this short isn’t explained at all, and I think that just adds to the overwhelming terror. Style and substance are abundant in Night Work and it leaves me wanting to see more work from Savanna Hunter-Reeves
Mudmonster – Written/Directed by O.B. De Alessi
After the loss of their father, a family struggles to cope with their new life. When the youngest, Fiamma (Mariandrea Cesari), starts to envision monsters, made of mud, lurking outside her window, she learns her older sister might be trying to summon dark and sinister.
Mudmonster is a very depressing and nihilistic short film. A haunting and depressing story, Alessi weaves a tale of tragedy and loss deep with the idea of adolescence. This short is truly astounding and completely heartbreaking. The cast here is absolutely incredible, especially Cesari. It’s always difficult to have a film, short or feature, hinging on the shoulders of a child actor, but Cesari just completely nails this. Fair warning about this short, it will wreck you.