Archive for the Short Scares Category

Stark Raving Quackers: A Review of ‘The Quacky Slasher (2017)’.

Posted in Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

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Ever since its marketing debut at Birmingham Horror Con back in February, The Quacky Slasher has been a hotly anticipated short film on the indie genre circuit. Directed by Peter Mckeirnon (Dead Town, Swings and Roundabouts), The Quacky Slasher is an affectionate, all out parody of the golden era of slasher movies in the schlocky sense.

Following a traumatic childhood experience in which he saw his father mauled to death by ducks, Michael Quackers (Andrew Butterworth) is on the rampage, stabbing and slashing several unwitting yet disreputable victims who are unlucky enough to cross his path.

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Made on a shoe-string budget, The Quacky Slasher utilizes the resources it’s equipped with which adds to the overall charm. It’s tongue-in-cheek from the outset with the humour coming across as naturally funny rather than forced. Do not go in expecting a high quality, polished film but rather take it for what it is. The editing is choppy in places with the transitions between scenes abruptly starting and ending rather than transitioning smoothly or in a slick fashion but again that may have been intentional.

The cast and crew have clearly put in a lot of dedication and have created a film which lovingly satires the likes of Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and Pieces (1982). Much like the cult classics that preceded it, The Quacky Slasher plays with the familiar trope of childhood trauma affecting the killer’s future actions and inevitably quenching their bloodthirst! There’s some fan-worthy nods in there especially to legendary screen killers Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. In an early scene, Michael lurks down the aisles of a novelty shop and of course selects the duck mask rather than the masks of his famous counterparts, making the statement that this demented duck is coming into his own.

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The film is also a self-confessed homage to iconic, British cult series, The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002). Mckeirnon has employed the idea of the ordinary, small British town where a dark underbelly lurks underneath the surface and the quirky characters who inhabit it. Three intertwining sub-plots run through the 35-minute-long short, there’s the dodgy dealings of the corrupt criminals, the ‘slow on the uptake’ police officers and of course Michael’s quackers killing spree. Mckerinon places a refreshing spin on the conventional inept police detectives by casting two females in the roles, conveying that gender in horror can be flip-sided to suit all kids of stock characters.

The sinister synth score which plays at pivotal moments aids the 80’s tone that the film possesses. In fact, there isn’t really a ‘modern’ feel to it at all, Michael’s backstory reveal is told the old-fashioned way and technology barely plays a role, staying authentic to the era of genre it’s paying homage to. It depicts its more bloody moments wisely and does contain some great set pieces of gore. The mask itself is pretty striking, allowing Michael Quackers to make his unforgettable mark.

The Quacky Slasher has a niche appeal about it. It’s a film created for fans of low budget exploitation, horror/comedy as well as traditional slashers. It’s wholly exaggerated, campy and completely played for laughs.

This is one slashtastic spoof that is absolutely quackers! Whatever you do ‘Don’t F**k with the Duck’!!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

Shocktastic Shudder Shorts

Posted in Short Scares, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Since it’s launch in October 2016, the horror equivalent to Netflix and streaming service, Shudder UK has provided fans with accessible access to genre movies with a click of a button. Featuring a comprehensive selection of movies, separated into creepy collections, the eclectic mix ensures that the service offers up something for everyone whether it be Giallo’s, American Slashers, Monster Movies or Ghostly Going’s-On.

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While, Shudder is excellent for supplying old favorite movies and popular Arrow Video titles, to name a few, since using the service from last Autumn, Shudder’s standout aspect is it’s assortment of  featured ‘exclusives’. Shudder imparts a platform for lesser known, underground short films and brings the work of underrated indie filmmakers to the forefront. The service gives the opportunity for viewers to experience films that would otherwise fade into obscurity as far as the mass public are concerned.

In this review, I am going to discuss some of the most well-crafted, interesting pieces of short films currently included on the channel.

The Puppet Man (2016)

  • Directed by Jaqueline Castel

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The Puppet Man is a intensely lit, stylish throwback to the 1980’s heyday of horror. John Carpenter’s influence is monumental especially as he features in an ironic cameo and the synth-charged, irresistible score is acquired from his debut studio album, ‘John Carpenter’s Lost Themes’. The plot itself is a little thin on the ground but, The Puppet Man works as a stylish spectacle playing on internal fears and hysteria. The aesthetic construction of the titular character is reminiscent of the iconic Freddy Kruger as he stalks and scares a young woman and her friends in a sleazy, neon-drenched deserted bar. When horror is reflected on as a genre to this day, the noteworthy figures that come to mind are of course the stalking slasher’s of ‘the golden era’ e.g. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who have never gone out of style. The Puppet Man includes seductive visuals and a booming soundtrack. Celebratory of it’s past influences, The Puppet Man expresses this within it’s whole core.

I Want You Inside Me (2016)

  • Directed by Alice Shindelar 

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When viewing this short it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with 2014’s surprise hit, It Follows. The two share an identical subject matter acting as a metaphor for the dark side of becoming sexually awakened. I Want You Inside Me is a slow burner that joins up elements of body horror with a coming of age story, which of course was done extra successfully with 2016’s RAW. CJ (Abigail Wahl) decides to lose her virginity but when her first sexual encounter enigmatically disappears, even though unnerved she cuts her losses and moves onto the next one. In one sense this short breaks the “stigma” of expressive female sexuality being portrayed negatively, i.e. just because a woman is comfortable and provocative with her sexuality does not mean she should be labelled with derogatory connotations. However at the same time this short could be deemed as ‘overly feminist’ when it’s revealed that her male conquests don’t exactly fare well. I Want You Inside Me is an uncomfortable watch and quietly grotesque. It’s conspicuous title is literal and leaves the viewer feeling abruptly cold by the end. This film certainly had a great deal to convey but isn’t strongly executed. There’s no denying that it’s well made and beautifully shot but it comes across as mystifying in terms of what it sets out to achieve. As an audience are we intended to root for CJ and view her behavior as “powerful” and “liberating”? I Want You Inside Me is a perplexing watch, the characters aren’t particularly likable and it tries too hard at combining it’s oddness with a taboo subject matter.

He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)

  • Directed by Ben Aston

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Out of the narrative-driven, fictional shorts, He Took His Skin Off For Me is the one that struck a chord. It would be easy to presume that this film is affecting primarily based on the physicality of the skin removal alone. However, it’s the underlying emotionally-charged subtext that makes this film haunting and long lasting in the mind. Told via voice-over, He Took His Skin Off For Me centers on a couple in a domestic setting. Events take a twisted and bizarre turn when the male takes his skin off at the request of his girlfriend, but it soon transpires that the act of flesh removal wasn’t the best idea! Cue, a lot of iciness involved and strands of normality such as cleaning won’t be the same again. The tone vergers on peculiar, sometimes even funny but its ultimately melancholic. It has been a while since I’ve experienced something so absorbing and unusual. Director Ben Aston, accomplishes the contrast between every day domesticity and pure body horror to an exceptional degree. That alone, makes this film so mesmerizing. He Took His Skin Off For Me is visceral horror at it’s best, while stating that you should never change yourself for anyone underneath the foregrounded horror. Even if a layer is removed the problems and issues will still exist and are worsened which this film takes to the absolute extreme. The make up effects are astonishing with a realistic edge. Aston’s vision and use of metaphor is unforgettable with this piece and is Shudder content that I can’t recommend enough.

Primal Screen (2017)

  • Directed by Rodney Ascher

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Primal Screen has been making an impression on social media as of late. Teased to become a series, and like with all good suspense, Shudder are keeping us in anticipation. Primal Screen is a horror shaped gift and due to the incredible quality of it, viewers are dying for more! Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare) directs this fascinating visual documentary which taps into primal childhood fears and questions how uncanny imagery can make us truly afraid and furthermore how surprising components can lead us to overcome these fears later in life. As someone who grew up feeling unnerved by creepy dolls which partly led me to become besotted by horror films and seek out more and more dark material, this documentary is highly relate-able. Primal Screen is not your average, paint by numbers, talking heads documentary. Ascher is an innovative visual storyteller who contextualizes the imagery used in order to get his vision across. There’s a beginning, middle and end that sees where the fear materialized, how it effectively spiraled before reaching a content resolution, told over five intertwining segments. Primal Screen is powerful filmmaking, the horror genre rinses and repeats itself so many times so it’s therefore refreshing to see a more inventive take on familiar material. Ascher delves into deep psychological concepts such as the rational vs the irrational, and the uncanny valley. The final result is well a structured and thought provoking documentary offering. Primal Screen is one to look out for as Shudder continues to develop it’s brand and introduces more original content to satisfy horror hungry audiences.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Evil Selfie (2016): Short Film Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Eros Bosi directs and stars in his debut short film, Evil Selfie. This Italian supernatural short takes society’s fixation with the worldwide ‘phenomena’ of the ‘selfie’ to extraordinary heights.

A ghostly presence stalks a ‘selfie mad’ couple who venture off to a picturesque woodland area in their car, as you do in horror movies! Evil Selfie is a black comedy that blends exaggerated scenarios with elements of spookiness. It’s evident that the project is a labor of love for it’s director, paying homage to familiar genre tropes while making a statement on an influential component of recent pop culture.

Featuring striking visuals and crisp cinematography, Evil Selfie is a slick, fast paced effort. The FX  courtesy of Pasquale Miele and make up effects by Amanda Rosi are well done and of a professional standard, providing the ghostly presence with a disturbing appearance. A commendable aspect about the film is that instead of going down the route of appearing dark and dank to achieve atmosphere, the bulk of the film is set outdoors in broad daylight which aids a more unsuspecting vibe for when something sinister is likely to strike.

 

As a new filmmaker, Bosi has collaborated with more experienced industry figures within the Italian horror circuit. Luca Alessandro who co-wrote and co-directed 2013’s The Pyramid and Alex Visani who produced the aforementioned episodic movie were both on board to lend a hand to Bosi throughout the process of creating his debut short film; with a creditable end result.

Evil Selfie is very much an audience film and would play well at frightening film festivals with the potential to initiate both laughs and scares from it’s prospective viewers. It cleverly conveys it’s concept without taking itself too seriously and has fun with what it does.

Evil Selfie was shot in Bosi’s hometown of Terni, utilizing it’s stunning locations greatly. The film premiered at Narnia Terror Night in November 2016, a festival devoted to supporting independent, Italian cinema.

Check out Bosi’s John Carpenter influenced trailer below. It comes as  no surprise that the subject of the ‘selfie’ will grow more prevalent in contemporary horror with Evil Selfie imaginatively echoing back to Carpenter’s cult classic, They Live (1988) in it’s themes. The link between society’s indulgent obsession of social media and horror is an interesting subject to explore, reinforcing the notion that we are in danger of losing sight of what’s around us while we are glued to our devices.

Bosi has cemented himself as a talented director and has a promising career ahead of him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFh2PzWg2go

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

 

Silently Within Your Shadow (2015) Short Review

Posted in Short Scares with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

When it comes to horror movies, the ‘creepy doll’ is a staple and frequently revisited trope. There’s the menacing madness to the likes of Chucky and his subsidiary counterparts in Dolls (1987), PuppetMaster (1989), Dolly Dearest (1991) and Demonic Toys (1992). The concept made a spooky return in horror movies during the 2000’s as well as this decade in the form of Billy the Puppet from SAW (2004-2010), Annabelle from The Conjuring (2013) and of course Billy the ventriloquist dummy from James Wan’s Dead Silence (2007). In the latter mentioned films the position of the demonic doll is used as more of a scapegoat for a greater plot rather than being a central figure.

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The Ventriloquist Dummy has always played a vital part in unnerving psychological horror from childhood fiction in Goosebumps, Night of the Living Dummy (#1.10) (1996) to Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s season one episode, The Puppet Show (#1.9) (1997).

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Indie short film director Scott Lyus of Crossroad Pictures brings the concept back to the forefront in Silently Within Your Shadow, a fifteen minute piece that centers on a young couple driven apart by an ambiguous entity.

What’s always excellent about the idea of ‘the doll’ is it’s rationally nonthreatening presence is creepy enough to trigger irrational fears and heightened emotions. This is exactly what Lyus captures in this short.

Lucette (Sophie Tergeist)  is extremely obsessed with her ventriloquist dummy, Hugo (voiced by horror icon Bill Moseley) that it begins to put strain on her relationship with her irritated but moderately patient boyfriend Jace (Byron Fernandes). But Lyus leaves his audience curious to discover whether the doll is truly alive or an illogical fixation of Lucette’s mindset.

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From a social perspective, the doll is a symbol of Lucette’s conflict between domesticity with her boyfriend and the pull of her career on stage. It’s all consuming with deadly consequences but is presented as a genuinely creepy short, supplying plenty of chills and darkness.

The production quality is a polished effort and highly professional. The cinematography and editing is of a high standard with the film achieving exactly what it needs to in it’s brief time frame. We are in the age of the rise of low budget genre filmmaking and with crowdfunding platforms and accessible technology it proves that a great deal can be reached with limited and less expensive resources.

Lyus has great potential as a horror storyteller, therefore it would be interesting to see what he could bring to a feature film.

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Silently Within Your Shadow is the kind of film that keeps you looking over your shoulder and has an atmospheric tone from the get go. It features a cult icon and believable performances from it’s two leads while engulfing a familiar but fun genre concept. What’s not to love…?

Silently Within You Shadow is available to view on Amazon Prime as of the 26th May 2017 for some late night spooktacular scares.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.