Mayhem Film Festival 2016

PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

One of the nice things about Mayhem is its annual showcase for short films from around the world, and this year saw a particularly strong selection.

Mat Johns’ Father’s Day kicked off the evening with a poignant tale of father and daughter struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic wilderness – as zombies. Casting a compassionate eye on the living dead, Johns reminds the viewer that “they are us”, and that every zombie was once somebody’s mother/somebody’s son. What’s more he manages to stay on the right side of mawkish, while also throws in some gut munching to keep us die-hards happy.

Director Liam Banks pits a young dreamer against the titular nightmare of the Sandman. Clocking in at less than six minutes, this nifty little short manages some effective suspense and jump scares despite a low budget, thanks to skilful editing and a keen eye for camera position.

Tristan Ofield’s White Lily is the tale of two space travellers, the captain and his mate, who experience technical problems aboard ship. It’s not so much a case of a man and his girl Friday as me and my holographic shadow. Impressive special effects and production design help to evoke a suitably maudlin sci-fi mood where reality is only virtual.

Dawn of the Deaf featured more zombies, but this time we see the beginning of an apocalypse as a strange noise wipes out the population only to see them revive as flesh eating ghouls. Only those without hearing remain unturned. Grittily shot in London streets, Writer-director Rob Savage devotes much of the film’s twelve minute running time depicting the build-up to the event, while focusing on the domestic problems of his group of would-be survivors. It’s a curious little movie that plays like the opening of a much longer film - one that, with any luck, Savage will soon get to make.

Conor McMahon’s Strangers in the Night delivers some Irish whimsy in the form of a banshee who can only be stopped from claiming the life of an old woman with a kiss from the victim’s burly but reluctant son. Excellent visual effects and a clever script make this frequently funny and enjoyable gem a notch above the usual ghostly short.

The rod-puppet animation Manoman, directed by Simon Cartwright, sees a tightly-wound little fella find his inner wild man after attending a primal scream session. There’s more than a little Terry Gilliam in this slyly satirical and occasionally outrageous take on masculinity and the men’s movement; superbly animated and designed, it’s quite different to the kind of stuff usually put out by the National Film and Television School.

Prano Baily-Bond’s fifteen minute opus Nasty is set in 1982 and concerns a young boy drawn into the lurid world of VHS horror as investigates the mysterious disappearance of his father. Beautifully judged cinematography and production design perfectly evoke the look of the 1980s and the video nasties themselves. 80s news stories of children’s minds warped by nasties and unable to distinguish reality from fantasy is cleverly mirrored in the film’s nightmarish storyline.

Set in 19th century Ireland at a home for pregnant women out of wedlock, The Home depicts ancient evil descending on those kept inside, including the priests and nuns. Director L. Gustavo Cooper uses the claustrophobia of his location to build a John Carpenter-esque sense of suspense before the finale of the creatures invading the sanctuary. At seven minutes, The Home is just begging to be a little longer and the premise developed further.

Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist offers some potent commentary on the glass ceiling and pressures on women to be perfect. The eponymous stylist loses her grip on reality and jealousy compels her to shear the locks of client who appears to have it all. But her misguided attempt at identity theft serves only to increase those feelings of inadequacy. Nicely shot by Gevargizian, The Stylist boasts a strong performance by Najarra Townsend as the girl with the scissors and a chip on her shoulder.

If you are one of those festival denizens disappointed by the bumholes reportedly being cut from The Greasy Strangler, then you might take some solace in Calvin Lee Reader’s The Procedure, which features a few gaper shots of its own. A man is kidnapped and forced to endure a particularly odious form of torture. All in all it’s a one gag short film, but clocking in at under four minutes it still manages to make your eyes water.

Pascal Thiebaux and Gil Pinheiro’s Quenottes (Pearlies) provided some high production values in this tale of a man and his son accosted by a malevolent tooth fairy in the form of a blind mouse seeking replacements for titular missing pearlies. Stuart Little it ain’t. Beautifully shot in the style of a Tim Burton or a Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Quenottes provided a thrilling end to an evening of highly original and entertaining Scary Shorts.

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