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
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.
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.
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.