Hey Dragons! I learned a fun new fact about myself recently. Turns out that I love short films. Our fearless leader asked me to watch “some” of the short films featured at this year’s HollyShorts Film Festival. (If you haven’t yet, go listen to Kenny’s podcast with Daniel Sol about the festival.) I thought I’d check out the films on Bitpix and watch five or so. Nope. I became hooked. I watched about forty. (All for you, readers. I do it all for you.) As you probably could guess, I stuck mostly to the science fiction/fantasy and horror genres. Here are my top 5 favorites from this year’s festival.
(1) Visible (Directed by Clay Delauney)
Decades in the future, the human race becomes invisible. No one knows why. Slowly, a small number of people begin to reappear without any explanation. Our protagonist, Guy (played by Henry Ian Cusick, from Lost), still invisible, runs an art gallery. His life is shaken up with a visible woman walks into his gallery. The concept of this film is fascinating, and the cinematography is beautiful. The world is desaturated, almost in greyscale. Even though the film only clocks in around 15 minutes, we experience an emotional arc with the protagonist as he falls in love with the stranger in his gallery. You can watch the film here.
(2) The Job (Directed by Nick Blatt)
Jeff, a former cyclist, takes a job that requires him to ride a stationary bike alone in a small, windowless room for hours. He works with one other man, Bruce, who tells him that one of the requirements of the job is simple – no questions. But Jeff can’t follow that rule. Why is he riding the bicycle? What’s the noise coming from the other side of the wall? Where are all of the cables hooked up to the bike going through the wall? The reveal at the end is unsettling and works perfectly. This film works because you feel Jeff’s frustration as he begins to question the nature of his employment. The director limits scenes to only the bicycle room and the adjoining locker room, so we share in Jeff’s claustrophobia when he climbs on the bike. Watch the trailer here.
(3) 2BR02B: To Be or Naught To Be (Directed by Marco Checa Garcia)
In this terrifying view of our future, population control is taken to the extreme – for every new child born, someone must turn themselves in to the Federal Bureau of Termination. The film takes place in the lobby of a hospital, where a young father is waiting for the birth of his child. I was excited to find out this is based on a Kurt Vonnegut short story of the same name, which you can read here. The film adheres almost completely to the short story, and I must warn you – there’s no happy ending here. It’s bleak but thought-provoking.
(4) King Ripple (Directed by Luke Jaden)
Another dystopian nightmare (you should be figuring out what I like by now) – this film won the “Best Youth” award at this year’s festival. I read a description that used the phrase “surreal horror,” and it’s very appropriate. A young man with amazing abilities empties a city by altering its landscape and causing its occupants to vanish. Years later, four teenagers decide it would be a good idea to re-enter the city limits to see if the mysterious King Ripple even still exists. How do you think that’s going to go? This is another film that struck me with its cinematography. The filmmaker, Luke Jaden, uses the urban decay of Detroit, his hometown, as a backdrop for the abandoned city. Also, Jaden is 19, and this is his fourth film. What am I doing with my life? Here’s the trailer, and here’s a review that embeds the full film.
(5) Charming (Directed by Tom Albanese)
Since the previous four movies are fairly gloomy, I’m rounding out my top five with something a little more lighthearted. This films tells the familiar fairy tale of Prince Charming with a twist – it’s told from Charming’s perspective as he struggles to find his one true love. In this retelling, Charming has to find his true love before his 25th birthday or he’ll be forced to give up his kingdom and marry a terrible witch. He recounts to a young boy his saga of trying to rescue and woo Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel. This short is just delightful. It’s quite funny, and unlike the rest of these shorts, there is a happy ending! You can watch the trailer/promo video here.
If you’re interested in more of the shorts, I encourage you to go to Bitpix. You can get access to most of this year’s films, as well as many from previous years, for about $25. Craving more short films? Washington, DC’s annual short film festival, DC Shorts, starts September 8th and runs until the 18th. You can also watch a ton of short films from past festivals on their website.