Shortcake #16 – “Moving In” and “Smile”

How much can you do in 16 seconds? What do you hope to accomplish when you start off your article with a question? Errr…

Anyway, the question stands, as it seems to be a premise of a relatively fresh film competition organized by River Film Production Company that encourages film-makers from all walks of life to put their skills to a test. And the test involves shooting a short that consists of four shots, no more no less, each of which is exactly four seconds in length and the entirety of a short fits the genre criterion of the challenge – it needs to be a horror…

 

Really, what can you possibly do to scare me when you are confined to 16 seconds of footage… You can’t possibly tell me a story, but you can only tease it enough so that I can make up the rest in my head. So, when your hands are tied, you can maybe throw a jump-scare at me. That’s what I thought before I watched all 32 entrants (you can see them here on Youtube, or on the River Film website where you can vote for your personal favorite). I have to say that I just spent some scary 10 minutes of my life. Fair enough, some of the films weren’t up to par with the rest, but it is to be expected and I shan’t really discuss it further. The whole make-up of the shortlisted films spans from slashers, zombies, ghost stories, bits of homage to classics (like “Halloween”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Saw” or “Evil Dead”), horror comedy, stop-motion, all the way to proper animation. From prop effects to CGI, from gore to terror, you’ll see it all. Some shorts will scare you, some won’t, but give them a go anyway. It’s only 10 minutes of your time and if you like horror, you will not be disappointed.

 

What I think is the best of all the little 16-second horrors is “Moving In” by Mat Johns (whose other really disturbing short – “Run” – I had the pleasure to see some time ago). It’s nice, creepy and it scared me a bunch. On top of that, it actually tells a story in those 16 seconds – so that’s a win right there. Interestingly, Mat Johns has also entered a second film into the pot – “Smile”, but I think that while it still tells a very condensed and disturbing story, it lacks some oomph in comparison to the first one. But since watching them back to back would take less than a minute, why the hell not…

I’m now secretly hoping that Mat’s work will get picked up by someone with funds and as a result we’d get so see his take on horror on the big screen someday. Fingers crossed…

Shortcake #8 – “Run” and “A Handful of Pennies”

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… That’s pretty much been the theme of my week and maybe that’s why the theme of tonight’s Shortcake is rather grim. I decided to highlight two short films today, both of which are of the shocking kind. Because of their nature I don’t think I should go into details of their respective stories – I simply think that the shock and surprise factors are most important for films like that.

 

The first short of the day is called “Run”. It’s a compact 7-minute long story of Sam – an American by accent – who travels through Europe like young Americans do, and writes a letter to his mother from the road. I can’t say more than that, but I wanted to say that this short film really messed with my brain. Since, I believe, that was the premise of “Run” – to make you feel uneasy and disturbed – I want to congratulate Mat Johns on a job well done. He single-handedly directed, shot and edited the entirety of this film, which might be what is responsible for the very personal and discomforting feel “Run” imposes on a viewer. In short, this film is a bite-sized piece of Park Chan-Wook-approved painful cinema.

 

The remaining entry in today’s Shortcake is going to be “A handful of pennies” directed by a duo of E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Josh Flowers, and written by Michael Peake. Briefly speaking, this film is just a conversation. A conversation between a hunter and prey, wherein one party is determined to do whatever it takes to break the other party’s spirit. I’d say, in contrast to “Run” – even though they are both shocking and violent – “A handful of pennies” reminds me more of a sequence from a full-feature movie that has never been made. We don’t know where the characters come from… We don’t know who they are. The only thing we know is the reason for them sitting at the same table. As the story unfolds, the viewer is left in yearning for more. I would like to see how the characters resolved their issue and maybe that’s why this film does its job, because the remainder of the story can be written by your own imagination… whatever way you shall please…

That sums up this week’s instalment of Shortcake. You’ve got two films that revel in the shock and violence, but each of them holds their ground on its own. “Run” is more of a fleeting novella about keeping up appearances that quickly spins out into horror, whereas “A handful of pennies” is story of a psychotic guy who doesn’t like being played by anyone and has a weird personal relationship with Dr Pepper. Enjoy!