At horror festivals, fans and film enthusiasts alike are treated to a selection of short horror films created by talented filmmakers that are currently taking the underground, indie circuit by storm. The feature films normally take centre stage however in his year’s Celluloid Screams line up the short films proved to be just as striking, some even thought provoking and others were downright weird! (but more on that later). So, here goes, these are the top shockingly good short films of Celluloid Screams 2016. As always these are my own views and not a reflection on the overall panel vote.
10. Death Metal (2016)
- Directed by Chris McInroy
- USA, 5 Minutes
Perfectly placed before The Devil’s Candy, Death Metal is a loud and proud, gore-fuelled spectacle. With similar vibes to last year’s Deathgasm about a satanic guitar that unleashes hell on earth, Death Metal is a rocking black comedy that promises “riffs that shred”, literally! It’s a laugh out loud, thrill ride that’s perfect for the horror festival crowd. Watch this one LOUD!
9. Gwilliam (2015)
- Directed by Brian Lonano
- USA, 6 Minutes
Where to even start with this one? Gwilliam is one of those moments in life where you watch something you completely cannot erase. Bordering between the disgusting, the bizarre and the comedic, Gwilliam is certainly a unique piece of genre cinema! Crow Hands director Brian Lonano takes the crazy up to max level as an ex-con (played by William Tokarsky) is released from prison looking for a night of fun with a hooker. The build up of Gwilliam is done exceptionally well as it’s unclear where the narrative is heading and boy, isn’t it a surprise! Expect the unexpected, once watched, you will never forget your Gwilliam…this short film means what it says!
8. Do You See What I See (2016)
- Directed by Justin McConnell and Serena Whitney
- USA, 14 Minutes
Sloan (Caleigh Le Grand) is reluctant about attending her overbearing sister Jessica’s (Jorja Cadence) annual Christmas party. With all the garish Christmas iconography imaginable, Sloan goes through the motions, that’s until an uninvited guest gatecrashes with very little festive cheer causing madness and mayhem for the warring sisters. Do You See What I See has the makings of a classic slasherific Christmas flick. The performances are believable especially the increasing tension between Sloan and Jessica. The short showcases strong, kick-ass women who take matters into their own hands once the stakes are raised. From a filmic perspective Do You See What I See takes influence from iconic slasher films e.g. Peeping Tom, Halloween and The Burning to create a sinister effect, seeing things through the killer’s eyes with several POV shots. Intense and well executed, Do You See What I See guarantees you’ll be dreaming of a Black Christmas!
7. Dawn of the Deaf (2016)
- Directed by Rob Savage
- Canada, 12 Minutes
In this hard hitting short focused on a minority group, Dawn of the Deaf raises the bar with the traditional apocalyptic horror narrative. With similar techniques to Mike Flannagan’s Hush, the audience is placed in the point of view of the hard of hearing characters and the world around them. A sonic pulse infects the hearing, now it’s up to the deaf community to band together in a fight for survival. Dawn of the Deaf is a layered offering and uses the survival concept in more ways than one, it centres on abuse, sexuality and coping with disability prior to any fantastical horror element. The film portrays the vulnerability of the deaf extraordinarily however the tables do turn depicting the strength within the community. As spoke about during my Ghostface Girls Facebook live video, there is a stunning moment where sign language is used and the camera pans around the characters, some of the subtitled dialogue is missed out proving to be incredibly effective. Dawn of the Deaf is a poignant and moving short.
6. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham (2015)
- Directed by Matthew Richards
- Australia, 12 Minutes
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham contained the most controversial and disturbing subject matter out of all the short films on this list. A new kind of torturous, radical punishment has been put in place for the worst kinds of criminals, and Willie Bingham is the first to undergo this method. This film conveys the internal thoughts of the majority of society who feel strongly about the lack of justice projected at murderers, rapists and pedophiles and this is a somewhat cathartic experience. The vulnerable and afraid side of the criminal is portrayed as the family are permitted to exact their brutal revenge as slowly as possible. Kevin Dee in the title role is exceptional as his character is paraded around by authoritative officials and made an example of. It’s a powerful piece of film that raises difficult questions in relation to the justice system and the treatment of despicable criminals. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham deserves to be seen and talked about.
5. Ink, Cocks & Rock ‘N’ Roll (2017)
- Directed by Matt Harlock
- UK, 15 Minutes
Ink, Cocks & Rock ‘N’ Roll is an innovative, cleverly executed, documentary style short that presents the work of controversial comic book artist Steve Martin (no, not the bloke from Father of the Bride!) and his perverted alter ego Krent Able. It’s psychologically chilling as the film challenges the concept of spilt personality and questions whether there’s a thin line between Steve and the monstrous side to him. Is Krent just a fictional character stemmed from his imagination or something much worse? Fourth wall breaking and filled with edgy art work in it’s believable set up, Ink, Cocks & Rock and Roll is one to look out for in 2017.
4. Mindless (2016)
- Directed by Katie Bonham
- UK, 8 Minutes
Mindless is a thought-provoking psychological horror directed by the talented Katie Bonham. Taking away the horror subtext, the subject of Mindless is very real as it focuses on the care of the vulnerable within British society. Peter (Nicholas Vince- Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II) is a senile man, living alone; each day his house is torn apart much to the horror of his patient care worker Judy (Kate Danbury). Peter has no recollection of how his home got into the state it has and becomes frustrated with Judy, blaming her. Determined to get Peter into a care home for his own safety and well-being, Judy is about to get more than she bargained for, is Peter’s declining memory the real issue or is there a more sinister presence at play? Mindless brings an important subject matter to light, it’s a topic that can be very difficult to talk about however Bonham does a tremendous job portraying it on screen. It’s bleak from the outset in it’s tone and cinematography creating a psychologically unnerving atmosphere. Nicholas Vince gives an exceptional performance as Peter, playing him with a sense of vulnerability and confusion that allows the audience to garner empathy for him. Kate Danbury also brings in a strong performance as the frustrated care worker doing her best to help him. Mindless is a film that will resonate with audiences as it draws on issues that many can identify with. Katie Bonham has created a powerful film on a low budget that demonstrates a film can leave a long lasting impression without traditional scare tactics or elaborate special effects. It’s no surprise that Mindless continues to win awards all around the world.
3. Imitations (2016)
- Directed by Milos Mitrovic and Fabian Velasco
- Canada, 10 Mintues
Who doesn’t love a bit of Canadian Film Collective Astron-6? They are certainly one of a kind with their off the wall brand of humour. Imitations is another of their unforgettable and bizarre offerings, centring on a lonely YouTuber named Arnold (Milos Mitrovic) who gets plastic surgery to look like his idol “21 Year Old Baby” singing sensation Austin Kelsey (Conor Sweeney). Arnold begins to experience strange side effects following his operation, forcing him to take drastic measures when he attends his eagerly awaited karaoke night. Everything about this short is laugh out loud hilarious and strange. The entire cast look like they’re having a blast, Milos Mitrovic and Conor Sweeney are both fantastic as well as Divorced Dad, Matthew Kennedy. Imitations is an entertaining short that must be seen to be believed. If you loved Father’s Day and loved The Editor, then you’ll love Imitations.
2. Kookie (2016)
- Directed by Justin Harding
- Canada, 13 Minutes
Bree, a disobedient nine year old is taught a valuable lesson from a sinister visitor after breaking the rules set by her mother involving a creepy cookie jar. Kookie is a slow burning, genuinely comedic short that will certainly be appreciated by fans of creepy clowns. The child actress is superb as young Bree, playing the troublemaker role with menace. Harding ensures that the audience are kept on edge as he builds on the tension with the unnerving clown iconography. A thrilling and funny short, that will ensure that children should behave!
- Overtime (2016)
- Directed By Craig D. Foster
- Australia, 9 Minutes
For a huge fan of An American Werewolf in London, it’s no surprise that Overtime, a werewolf themed, dark comedy takes the top spot. Comedic tension is at play as poor Ralph (Aaron Glenane) urgently attempts to get home from work but a series of obstacles get in his way. Overtime is a real delight to watch as poor Ralph attempts to make his exit before it’s too late. The joke is on those around him from his boss to romantic interest who risk unleashing the beast by stalling him. The special effects are incredible and are a spectacle to watch as Ralph’s body morphs into something inhuman. Aaron Gleane gives a brilliant performance as the tormented werewolf. Overtime is a lot of fun and a brilliant homage to one of horror’s most iconic monsters.
Hayley Alice Roberts