Now on the second half of the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, the focus has shifted completely to short films. Friday night gave us three separate blocks and proved to be the best day in terms of quality and diversity of content with films coming from Mexico, Spain and the UK.
SHORT BLOCK #4 – KID FEARS
We love kids for their active imaginations. But when it comes to fear, we tend to dismiss most of them as immature folly. This block aims to show you that sometimes those fears are for good reason.
Witches In the Window (Nikki Born, USA)
We always hear that everything wrong with us can usually be traced back to childhood. This four-minute piece does an excellent job using that theme by presenting us with Johnny, a young boy who sees monsters at every turn. There’s witches in the guise of owls outside the window. Monsters in the garage. A goat-like devil that prowls outside his door. In the end, we discover just how long Johnny has carried these irrational fears since most of the flick is in past tense. The voice narration was well-executed and the final image really drives home how childhood burdens cast a shadow over adult life.
Unseeing Evil (Jaye Adams, UK)
Tommy is an innocent blind boy who unwittingly begins a relationship with an evil spirit. The fact the demon remains shadowy makes it easier to feel the unseeing Tommy’s perspective. And once the entity’s true intentions become manifest, it’s unfortunately too late for the young lad. An unique visual choice here was Tommy’s eyes, which almost appear translucent inside his dark house.
In Her Shoes (Ray Kermani, Belgium)
Seven-year-old June accompanies her grieving mother to a cemetery. Her curiosity leads to her follow a pair of cute red shoes, leading to an unfortunate encounter in an old crypt. This was one of my favorites in the festival. We know how quickly children will wander off when finding something interesting, so the idea of June being lured away was completely realistic. The sound was the most important part of this film’s immersive feel and completely made up for the lack of special effects.
The Rougarou (Lorraine Caffery, USA)
One of the most difficult things to confront is the evil within our own families. How do you process a father, mother or brother being a murderer or rapist? A young daughter begins piecing together family secrets after her gang member father tells her the story of the rougarou, a legendary werewolf figure in French culture. What I enjoyed was the director showing us the gradual maturity of the daughter’s understanding, from initially setting “traps” to capture the werewolf to eventually confronting and acknowledging who the true monster is.
My Brother Juan (Cristina Martin Barcelona, Maria Jose Martin Barcelona, Spain)
When we watch confessions from serial killers, we’re often chilled by the lack of remorse and “matter of fact” way they explain their crimes. I’d put the crimes of children up there since their detachment stems from not comprehending the severity of their actions. This film brings that to life as a criminal psychologist coaxes Ana into revealing the truth of her family life and what happened to her older brother Juan. This was one the longer shorts at 10 minutes, but contained some nice context clues on the eventual outcome for attentive viewers.
Mirror Gaze (Josh Nadler, USA)
Uncontrolled grief will lead you down a road to ruin. A mother, still reeling from the death of her daughter, decides to try a mirror seance to reach her loved one. Now, she must contend with another spirit who answered her call. This is one that could easily translate to a full-length and Josh Nadler already has a polished, feature-style to his work.
Promise You’ll Be Quiet (Elisee Junior St. Preux, USA)
Everyone has heard variations of the Bloody Mary myth (which morphed into the Candyman myth after the 1990 movie). Also, those with siblings will smile remembering the head games played with younger family members. One of the few retro-style flicks we’ve gotten in the festival.
Sweet Tooth (Blake Studwell, USA)
Yeah, this is the big sister from hell. She’s one of those health fanatics and decides to punish her younger sibling for eating too much junk food. Her punishment? Try forced eating until… well, it’s not hard to figure out what happens.
The Caul (Michelle Lang, USA)
We know how rare caul babies are and in some cultures, it’s a sign of future blessings or heightened abilities. What no one’s ever considered is that maybe caul births can be a curse. A sheltered young girl finds out the caul sign makes her recognizable to the spirit world. Her dad ignores her warnings about being able to see her dead mother until it’s too late. Loved the Sixth Sense feel to this one.