The Top 10 Short Films of Celluloid Screams 2015
Just as much as the features, viewing a selection of short films is a vital part of the festival experience. Celluloid Screams screened some mind-blowing shorts that demonstrate how filmmakers can achieve effective storytelling in a limited time frame. This year’s festival saw a versatile mix from laughs and gore to hard-hitting to the bonkers and the bizarre. Please note that these are my views and do not reflect the winning films selected by the short film jury panel. Please comment if you agree or disagree with my picks.
- Director Andy Stewart
- Country: UK
- Run Time: 15 Minutes
Andy Stewart returned to Celluloid Screams with his brand new short Remnant. Best known for his grizzly visual effects in his body horror trilogy, Dysmorphia, Split and Ink (that screened at last year’s festival and July’s UK Horror Con); Stewart shifted direction for his latest short which could be described as a combination of A Nightmare on Elm Street meets Jekyll and Hyde. Remnant is more narrative led than his previous offerings, Claire Miller (Lucy Goldie) suffers with nightmares and finds herself waking up in places with no memory of how she got there. Goldie delivers a masterful performance as the tormented young woman who struggles with daily life and holding down her job. Hellraiser and Nightbreed icon Nicholas Vince makes an appearance as Claire’s somewhat sympathetic boss, Ian. For its short run time, the audience are able to empathize with Claire as the film rockets towards its worth-the-wait climax. Remnant is a dynamic and psychological piece.
- Director: Chloe Okuno
- Country: USA
- Run Time: 21 Minutes
Its the classic tale of the ugly duckling who transforms into a beautiful swan in Chloe Okuno’s Slut. This impressive entry is a graduate AFI thesis film, that is tremendously shot and inventive in what it does. Already, an award-winning short, Slut centers on a naive, young girl named Maddy (Molly McIntyre) who lives with her invalid grandmother in a small Texas town. Tired of being ridiculed, Maddy decides to reinvent herself to impress the boys and prove fierce competition for the established town “slut”. With a 1970’s flair, Slut is a visual throwback that takes an unexpected turn. Incredibly professional and well-made. Fans of exploitation and old school horror will relish in it.
8. There’s Something in the Attic
- Director: Lee Hardcastle
- Country: UK
- Run Time: 2 Minutes
With the shortest run time of all the short films screened at Celluloid, There’s Something in the Attic is from Lee Hardcastle, best known for his inventive and extremely funny stop motion animations (T is for Toilet, ABC’s of Death). Starring Sightseers’s Alice Lowe, There’s Something in the Attic centres on a woman who finds something terrifying living in her attic, however all is not what it seems. Hardcastle delivers an unexpected twist, while Lowe brings in an expressive performance. There’s Something in the Attic marks Hardcastle’s first non animated film but still supplies some fantastic special effects, in a heartwarming tale that teaches don’t judge a book by its cover. Incredibly short but increasingly effective.
7. Crow Hand
- Director: Brian Lonano
- Country: USA
- Run Time: 3 Minutes
Crow Hand is a gore effects visual spectacle. A husband gets more than he bargained for when he dismisses his wife’s warning and picks up an enigmatic crow totem from the ground in a parking lot. Highly played for laughs, Crow Hand is the kind of gory, comedy that is essential to the horror festival experience. An audience crowd-pleaser, events get crazier and crazier. Crow Hand is splatterific!
6. The Chickening
- Director: Davy Force and Nick DenBoer
- Country: Canada
- Run Time: 5 Minutes
Keeping in with the absolutely bonkers theme, The Chickening is unlike anything you’ve seen before! This Canadian collaboration will change the way you view Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining forever! The Chickening needs to be seen to be believed. Its the perfect midnight madness though cleverly put together to re-create imagery from the famous film but with chickens! Quirky, strange but completely hilarious. This is a film that should be seen amongst a group of friends if not with a festival audience.
5. The Mill at Calder’s End
- Director: Kevin McTurk
- Country: USA
- Run Time: 14 Minutes
The Mill at Calder’s End is a beautiful combination of stop motion animation and puppetry, standing out from the rest of the Celluloid shorts offerings. Kevin McTurk tells a traditional ghost story centring on family and a deep seated secret that threatens to spill with grim effects. There’s a dark sense of dread throughout as Nick Grimshaw (Jason Flemyng) returns to his childhood home to unearth the secret of the Mill and attempt to break the curse that’s impacted his family legacy. Dark, ethereal and gothic, The Mill at Calder’s End also features the voicing talents of Barbara Steele, Piotr Michael and John Alexander. An exceptional and well crafted piece, The Mill at Calder’s End delivers genuine, spooky horror. The stop-motion world created is both stunning and impressive.
4. Evil Mexican Child
- Director: Michael Noonan
- Country: Mexico
- Run Time: 8 Minutes
Appropriately screening before Emelie, Evil Mexican Child menacingly fits in with this year’s creepy kids trend. Never underestimate the power of a seemingly innocent child as the parents of a young boy are about to find out. Playing on conventional horror tropes, Evil Mexican child (Maximo de la Rosa) draws horrific pictures that foreshadows the grizzly fates of those closest to him. Played with a blend of black comedy, the mother (Xochitl Hernandez) soon realises she can use this to her advantage! Tongue in cheek, twisted and entertaining, Evil Mexican Child keeps up the surprise element until the very end.
- Director: Geoff Harmer
- Country: UK
- Run Time: 7 Minutes
Geoff Harmer, director of indie psychological thriller Addict returns with a freaky short film that asks what if there was something else in the picture with you when taking a harmless selfie? Stacy Hart’s character is about to find out! Relaxing at home one evening, the young woman partakes in some text flirting. The person in question encourages her to take some selfies to send to him. An innocent bit of fun turns into something far more sinister when the woman’s admirer insists that she’s not alone in the image. Selfie is ghoulish fun acting as a commentary for young people’s obsession with self-image and the vain, inescapable phenomenon of the Selfie. This nightmarish short could come straight out of a creepypasta. You will never Instagram in the same way again!
- Director: George Clemens and Samuel Clemens
- Country: UK
- Run Time: 11 Minutes
Surgery is a bittersweet entry in terms of its background. Originally stemmed from an idea by Brian Clemens; writer of the popular 1960s series The Avengers. Clemens sadly passed away earlier this year. His sons George and Samuel Clemens continued their father’s legacy bringing his grizzly tale of vengeance to life in the squirm-worthy Surgery. Shot from the point of view of a man on the operating table, Surgery is a terrifying ordeal which sees him tortured by a mysterious figure known as “The Crude Surgeon”, but there’s more than meets the eyeball than first imagined. Surgery layers on the suspense and is tremendously acted, allowing us to feel empathy for the man as he undergoes the unimaginable. Nicholas Ball steals the show playing both caring and menacing equally well. The Clemens brothers have done their father proud, creating genuine horror. Surgery has everything a horror film should, intrigue, suspense and squeamish imagery. Unforgettable.
1. The Herd
- Director: Melanie Light
- Country: UK
- Run Time: 20 Minutes
The Herd deservingly won the best short film of Celluloid Screams but prior to the announcement it was without a doubt my personal winning short film too. Devastating, effective and thought-provoking, Melanie Light’s personal, political and feminist film gets under the skin and is hard to shake off especially once the end credits roll. A bleak and honest look at the dairy industry, The Herd is played as a metaphor placing women in the position of defenceless animals in a grim, run down medical facility. They are kept permanently pregnant and used for milk. If a female gives birth to a boy they are instantly taken away from her but if she has a girl, the cruel process is repeated from generation to generation. The Herd is a difficult watch, especially for animal lovers. Light however informs the audience of the harsh realities leaving us all with something to think about. The Herd features a stellar cast including Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman), Seamus O’Neill (Inbred) and Andrew Shim (This is England). With all the fantastical horror films out there, The Herd is what should be described as true horror, it holds nothing back making it an exceptionally powerful and upsetting film.
Invaders, Good Hands and Portal to Hell.
Scared Safe: Real Horror From the Public Information Films Archive.
Each year Celluloid Screams delivers a showcase focusing on the work of a particular director, previous years have seen Astron-6, Lee Hardcastle and Dennison Ramalho to name a few. This year the festival gave us a special treat by delving into the archives and seeking out the most strange public information films from the 1970’s and 80s. From the famous “Charlie Says…” to Protect and Survive, these films were in place to inform and protect the public however to a modern audience come across as rather amusing with their uptight British voice-overs, hammy acting and low production qualities.
Never go with Strangers from 1971 proved a highlight reminding young children to never go off with someone they don’t know. It comes across as rather simplistic but also bizarre in its techniques. Remember kids, if there’s no donkey in that field it was all lies!
Toning down the laughs but upping the horror was the notorious The Finishing Line, teaching kids not to play on the railway tracks. This oddly constructed film showed children in the context of a sports day event yet instead of having fun they are playing with danger. The most shocking moments come towards the end which sees a mass death of children in the tunnel, only for the adults to lay their bodies on the train tracks. It comes across as shocking today let alone how it was received back in the 1970s. Re-watching the public information films was a trip down memory lane with a fascinating insight into how these films attempted to scare and shock young people into keeping safe. They certainly were effective in their own way.
Hayley Alice Roberts