The Shorts of Fantastic Fest 2020

Much like Sundance, we have the opportunity to look at some of the shorts that Fantastic Fest have to offer. In this chronological list the programs Drawn and Quartered, Shorts with Legs, and Fantastic Shorts are compiled. Enjoy!

Title: A Night in Camp Heebie Jeebie
Director: Dylan Chase
Starring: Leon Masuda
Runtime: 6m
What it is: To prove themselves as true scary story storytellers, a group of girl scouts weave tales of horror in a creepy cabin.
What We Think: An amazingly adorable lil movie perfect for kids. Heck, I’m an adult and I adore and enjoyed this short to the very end, from the performances to the quirky design to the visual gags.
Our Grade: B, Creative, cute, and well-acted, this smoothly-animated short is worth your time for as a wholesome spooky-season contribution

Title: Dusseldorf
Director: Mike Lars White
Starring: Mary Malloy, Travis Hammer, Lanie Lim, Michael James Wong
Runtime: 10m
What it is: On the verge of breaking up, a couple gets into a fight in a parking lot only to be mediated by strangers.
What We Think: A silly yet cool-minded adult skit that lets its players stretch their performative wings in an awkward, mumble-core-esque scenario.
Our Grade: B-, Good enough. I did enjoy the cast and the writing, pacing, and overall filmmaking conveyed an entertaining, chaotic energy.

Title: Emergency Action Plan
Director: Dylan Redford
Starring: Dylan Redford
Runtime: 9m
What it is: A white-collar worker receives instruction from upper management on how to deal with and train for the possibility of an active shooter situation at his office. In the process of trying to thoroughly prepare, he consequently arises suspicion.
What We Think: Artfully presented amongst a few different types of cameras and film techniques, I found myself intrigued by this short though the message was amiss to me until the very end of the short. In itself, that is not a denomination but rather a note I’d like to lend to the readers that it may take a moment for the thesis of the film to become meaningful and apparent rather than just simply a scene about a neurotically precautious person.
Our Grade: B, A well done and reflective self-aware comedy about our society of paranoia and habit of defensive measures rather than focusing on the source of an issue itself.

Title: Forbidden to See Us Scream in Tehran
Director: Farbod Ardebili
Starring: Babak Kamangir, Ashkan Hoorsun, Sarina Amiri
What it is: An underground female-fronted metal band struggles with the idea of taking serious risks in making it big and finally being able to express themselves and their music in spite of their country’s laws forbidding such outlets.
What We Think: This was a really fantastic concept, the very first scene brought so much power, suspense, and energy to the table right off the bat as the mystery of the circumstances is lifted and we realize to a much greater extent how dangerous it really is for such artists and music to exist in Tehran. From there, the plot continues into a tale of asking what and how much should you sacrifice for your dreams, and how will you make it count? While this message wholly came across, the short also left me with an unnerved sense of misdirected melodrama, leaving me to feel confused due to its story choices rather than empowered by what the short is meaning to say.
Our Grade: C+, It was strong up until its very last moments, when you think you know where its going but unfortunately makes a bit of a misfire that caused the weight of its meaning and call to justice to become a tad more unfocused. Otherwise I think it’s a very interesting short and would perhaps like to see more from the filmmakers. Lastly, the music featured truly is kick-ass.

Title: Ghost Dogs
Director: Joe Cappa
Runtime: 11m
What it is: A new puppy roams about a house haunted by mysterious beings that resembles its image…
What We Think: It started off adorable, it ended adorable… but boy does this short take you to some weird places. Very much a doggy nightmare, The Shining… but dogs. Mysterious, odd, and ultimately disturbingly hilarious.
Our Grade: A+, I loved how deceptive the comfy art style is, because chances are you won’t really be prepared for how delightfully weird it is, and that is irreplaceable.

Title: Hipolita
Director: Everardo Felipe
Runtime: 12m
What it is: A shy older woman shelters a strange-looking boy, when tragedy strikes on the day of Halloween.
What We Think: Shot on film and fantastically saturated, like, looking into a church through a stain glass. Visually, this little movie had me desiring more. As far as its story carries, it reads as a very oddball; quietly nurturing yet morbid as well. The plot was kept simple but the concept has me wanting to see what happens afterward as the atmosphere had me in its grasp, like a poignant shade of and spiritual sequel to Eraserhead.
Our Grade: B, All I can say is, I hope I get to see more from the filmmaker(s) and possibly, this film itself.

Title: Homo Erectattoos
Director: Tae-Woo Kim
Runtime: 8m
What it is: About a real event, a man recounts a time in his life when a traumatic accident lead him to settle on a prosperous art form.
What We Think: I’m so happy this was featured here at FF: I’ve been looking forward to seeing this short all year and I was not let down. The art style on top of a unique and personal story made for an impactful viewing; darkly expressive in its melancholy, pain, and helplessness. The namely monochromatic atmosphere and visceral sound design burned a lot the dreamy, surreal imagery into my conscious: you feel so much of this person’s life story, it’s searing.
Our Grade: A+, A gorgeous and surely iconic work of art that not only defends the art form of tattoos, but the artist’s journey as well.

Title: How to Re-Caulk Your Tub
Director: Sean Pierce
Starring: Alex Moorman
Runtime: 7m
What it is: A step-by-step guide whose monologue expresses its user’s existentialism.
What We Think: Very Adult-Swim-esque. It was short and to the point, not too far from other pseudo-docs and/or alternative-reality-games (ARGs).
Our Grade: C, A relatable anxious spiral, though the point of the film is made very quickly and could have been perhaps shaved down.

Title: I Love Your Guts
Director: David Janove
Starring: Danielle Kay, Allie McCarthy
Runtime: 13m
What it is: Jacqui (Kay) and Kristina (McCarthy) are best of friends, goofing around as they suffer their graveyard shift at a fast-food drive through. When Kristina possibly messes up their relationship upon the news that Jacqui might be leaving for another job, a wildly dangerous customer comes along to put their night in perspective.
What We Think: This was a sweet, shameless, brilliant little film, just the one you need for the right amount of action, goofs, humanity, and uncomfortable gore that will either make you wince or laugh even harder. The actresses are as hilarious as they are believable; combined with the spirited writing this makes for a delightful viewing experience that will possibly poke at your heartstrings. It invites you to have a laugh, crack some jokes, and enjoy yourself.
Our Grade: A, It looks great and it sounds great–I highly recommend this offbeat, dreamy, and slightly terrifying tale of romance. As a side note: the mayo joke had me dead.

Title: Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die
Director: Kantu Lentz
Starring: Justin Kirk, Olivia Edward, Moses Storm
What it is: Sometime into a future with the technology to cryogenically preserve and reanimate people to carry them through time, a man dealing with heartbreak comes across an adventurous and intelligent young girl with a terminal disease.
What We Think: Strong in concept made stronger by fantastic performances, this atmospheric flick offers a promising window into what is possible, as well as a bit of a reminder to take a break for self-care when things get rough. I can always stand behind that.
Our Grade: B, Again, I was completely taken by the chemistry of the performances carried forward with smooth technical execution; it’s something you’ll likely find on one of those curator youtube channels like Dust in the future (which is a hoot to binge, it’s like a free Shudder). I certainly recommend this solid, soulful sci-fi.

Title: Jimi
Director: Joren Cull
Starring: Joren Cull
Runtime: 3m
What it is: An empty-headed super fan of Jimi Hendrix decides the only way to show his true appreciation is to make a horrible sacrifice.
What We Think: 2020 has been hard. If you’ve been down on hard times, been forced to make lemonade out of all the lemons life has been giving you, or even none of the above, you owe it to yourself these three-minutes of hilarious smooth-brain entertainment that reminds of David Lynch’s Dumbland series.
Our Grade: A+, As much as it is crude, gross, and vulgar, it is just as funny and endearingly stupid. Please go and watch this. Show it to your parents, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

Title: Lusty Crest
Director: Kai Skelton
Starring: Erica Dasher, Jean Alexander, Evan Bergman
Runtime: 14m
What it is: In a cheesy 80s/90s-esque setting, the sultry sex-savvy and oblivious Kasha (Dasher) begins work at Lusty Crest, the ultimate lovers’ getaway with mysterious and weird secrets of its own. Kasha soon comes to learn what her connection is
What We Think: This is literally the greatest derivative of old romantic television and novella you will ever see. From its self-aware and incredibly stupid humor framed by fantastic transitions, editing, production design to hilarious cast and script–Lusty Crest will not disappoint in serving a weird, sometimes gross, and exponentially joyous viewing experience.
Our Grade: A+, I hope to my bones that this is a pilot to a TV show (as it was produced by Williams Street, the major studio behind most of Adult Swim’s original content) because I’d binge this no biggie.

Title: Pilar
Director: Yngwie Boley, JJ Epping, Diana Van Houten
Runtime: 10m
What it is: In a mysteriously apocalyptic and emptied town lives two survivors. They gather supplies and defend themselves from large and strange entities that threaten the construct of their consciousness and biology. When one of the survivors get too close to one of these beats, the repercussions are unforeseen and their partner must decide what to do in a possibly life-or-death situation.
What We Think: Indubitably one of the most gorgeous shorts of the festival, perhaps of the year in short releases period, as well as one of the very few traditionally animated ones. You can tell just how painstaking this was to conceive, not to mitigate the effort by any other short, but this was literally painted frame by frame. It is a visual masterpiece, I was literally taken by not only how delicious the color palettes and familiar textures were, but how emotionally in-depth it was rendered on behalf of its characters; I loved how fleshed out and nuanced their facial expressions were. This fascinating tale is supplemented by gorgeous, if not magical imagery.
Our Grade: A+, An incredible vision and a must-see for all art lovers everywhere. A short like this could might very well transform you after viewing it.

Title: Please Hold
Director: KD Davila
Starring: Erick Lopez, Doreen Calderon, Daniel Edward Mora
What it is: In the near future, a young man (Lopez) is stopped on his way to work by police drones and is arrested for no given reason. Over his time served in jail, he struggles with a faceless and inhumane system in attempt to retain his freedom.
What We Think: Welcome to the latest Black Mirror episode. No, no, I’m just kidding, though  this could have very easily been one. BM comparisons aside, this was a relatively interesting short. Though the message is clear and perhaps a bit too on the those for being so serious, I did like the details it was keen on including in a condensed allegory to represent the justice system we have now in America (particularly the part where the protagonist is forced into free labour in order to earn cents for a phone call).
Our Grade: B-, An interesting watching to remind you to keep putting pressure on bringing more humanity back to the justice system.

Title: Routine: The Prohibition
Director: Sam Orti
Starring: Tuixen Benet, Marc Martinez Jordan
Runtime: 8m
What it is: In an industrial world where the only real commodity its citizens have left is O2, the leaders decide they want to take even more for themselves.
What We Think: Fantastic stop-motion animation to behold, the sense of grime and dirt, creature design, sound design… everything was so well done. You get the creepy undertstanding that the whole thing takes place in a dystopian, fascist wasteland. As brief as it is, you even feel for some of the characters, one scene in particular in which we’re forced to watch lower-class characters to suffer.
Our Grade: B, A straightforward message built atop some perfectly-bleak world building. True capitalists will either forget it or deny it upon viewing, I’m sure.

Title: Solution for Sadness
Director: Tuixen Benet, Marc Martinez Jordan
Starring: Tuixen Benet, Marc Martinez Jordan
Runtime: 15m
What it is: A severely depressed woman can’t go a day or an hour without crying and thinking sad, cynical thoughts. In order to solve the issue of her expressing her melancholy, the people around her hatch a plan to try and mitigate her output of feelings.
What We Think: This was a cute short–well short, nicely performed, and well-edited. It’s a creative expression on someone’s depression and society’s need to close off that part of ourselves on front of others, and how that can possibly lead to the censorship of that expression.
Our Grade: B-, A solid concept with lovely execution.

Title: Star Crossed
Director: Jon Frier
Runtime: 2m
What it is: A mysterious entity leaves a message for an isolated person.
What We Think: Very short but leaves a lot to the imagination. I would love to see an extended version for this moody, sweet, beautifully designed, and meditative little showcase.
Our Grade: B, Sends dreamy vibes to frame a short story about an otherworldly connection.

Title: The Shawl
Director: Sara Kiener
Starring: Dusty Childers, Shane O’Neill
Runtime: 7m
What it is: A man tries a strange new-age hair treatment in order to have a mane worth taking selfies for. It doesn’t go well.
What We Think: Well, well
Our Grade: B+, If you’re squeamish, maybe skip out or close your eyes for some thirty seconds. That’ll get some chuckles, laughs,

Title: They Salivate
Director: Ariane Boukerche
Starring: Olga Riazanova, Def, Juilie Sokolowski
Runtime: 19m
What it is: An experimental expression in which a silent and tense exchange between a couple leads to a party in which the individuals take pleasure in each other’s fluids.
What We Think: There is no doubt this was a shock to everyone who’s seen it. As someone who personally hates watching people’s mouths up close (that’s just my thing), this was basically the equivalent to body horror. It was very, very, very…. wet. And everyone will have their own extreme opinions on it as it is an extreme film, anyone can ‘pooh-pooh’ it and call it out as an arthouse outcast… looking at it as an expression of something alone, I figure this might be for someone.
Our Grade: C, I have no idea where to place this. Personally I do not like this short, though technically and otherwise there’s really nothing wrong with it. It’s actually quite successful–it’s melancholic and deeply felt, tense and extremely discomforting. It’s mesmerizing as you’re glued to the screen despite the overwhelming imagery and interactions; it’s shot very much like a dance film would be. Honestly, I respect the film after giving it some thought, it’s something that lies within someone’s consciousness rather than takes place as literally. I just can’t recommend it to those of whom would rather not partake in around ten minutes of gagging, snow blowing, up-close French-kissing, and mammary fluids. I can’t recommend it… but I will still dare you all to watch it. Otherwise if you do see it, make sure to look up what snow blowing exactly means in the Urban Dictionary, it actually adds a lot of context.

Title: Thin Blue Variety Show
Director: Gretta Wilson
Starring: Adam Giannone
Runtime: 3m
What it is: A brief history of costume design in cop shows may reveal a much larger and troubling reality having to do with authority.
What We Think: At first it is relatively simple; you see the runtime, it’s a fun and silly little short that has the empty suits of cop characters past bounding about as the film digresses what their clothing insinuates… and then the ending hits. It’s a very brief yet striking statement on how police dramas can shape or even help us navigate into the thought process and mindset of being an officer when western media implies the amount of aggression and heroism that is applied, no matter if the application is fictional or not. For those of you informed of the current state of the police force in the U.S., this of course hits home in particular as it seems many in this field of work are unqualified and can be found comparing their work to fictional entities (for example, stating “Blue Lives Matter” despite there being no such thing as Blue Lives, or using The Punisher, a character used specifically to point out inevitable futility and misfortune as a result of the ultra-violence when rectification goes too far, as a figurehead).
Our Grade: B, A keen and surprisingly pointed short that, while harbors humor and media-appreciation in its stead, makes for a relevant statement on our current affairs as a country. Years from now, I can see it as still being an important point of reference and a reminder of the type of mindset that shouldn’t be considered by someone who has the power to take lives in the eyes the justice system.

Title: Tomorrow I Will Be Dirt: Scenes From the Afterlife of Lothar Schramm
Director: Robert Morgan
Starring: August Ivanoff
Runtime: 8m
What it is: A surreal and nightmarish showcase into one man’s perverted hellscape. A love-letter as well as a spiritual sequel to the 1993 German psychological horror-slasher Schramm.
What We Think: Let me preface if I haven’t already before: I am a huge nerd when it comes to Robert Morgan’s work. In fact I’ve been showcasing him for years, probably since high school, and I cannot recommend his work enough. I see him as literally one of the most important filmmakers in modern arthouse, surrealism, and animation. He’s maintained an acute sense of enabling mass discomfort and intrigue, often implying upon darkly human subject matter while remaining interpretable and somewhat ambiguous nature. If you want to see what it is exactly what it is I’m talking about, a great lot of his shorts are on his personal Youtube. Fangirl plug out of the way, of course I indulged the shit out of this. After I found out that this short was actually based on an hour-long obscure psychological slasher, I made sure to do my due diligence and watch the original source material, which I also recommend as it feels like lower-budget Angst (1983) and an artsier Manic (1980). That being said, this is one of the most authentic and shocking love-letters to film within film you will probably ever see. Watching the screening among the Festival chat room was consequently hilarious, as at the certain, more parts of the film (though they are in direct reference to Schramm itself) sent everyone into a confused, excited, and fearful frenzy. This is as NC-17 as you can get within eight minutes–there’s a reason why you can only see a teaser clip of it on Youtube–and boy is it a deliciously demonic and off-putting one.
Our Grade: A+, I can’t ooze admiration enough, so I’m just going to go ahead and shut up for once so you lovely readers can go ahead and watch this sooner. Robert Morgan maintains his place in my book as secretly one of the most important active horror filmmakers we have today.

Title: Unfinished Business
Director: Mary Dauterman
Starring: Jenny Donheiser, Meagan Kensil, Arielle Siegel
Runtime: 6m
What it is: A friendly stripper is brought over to a strangely stiff party featuring a group of decomposing businesswomen.
What We Think: Nicely shot. This short makes little sense, or rather, random sense in a little-but-aesthetically-presented plot.
Our Grade: C, A fun and mindless couple of minutes.

Title: You’ll Make It in Florida
Director: Philip Chernyak
Starring: Emily Cass McDonnell, Tricia Paoluccio, Danny Burstein
Runtime: 20m
What it is: When a teacher is beginning to grow dreary of her life, a Florida salesman attempts to sweep her off her feet in a Disney-esque simulation advertising all of Florida’s… perks.
What We Think: I really super enjoyed this short. I’ve mentioned Adult Swim’s title a couple times by now but this is some succulent satirical comedy. Parodying the cheesiness of amusement rides and simulations, to classic movies like Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka, YMIIF makes for an endearingly awkward viewing experience.
Our Grade: A, Cute, tongue-in-cheek, goofy, and hauntingly nostalgic silliness that you deserve to unwind and treat yourself with watching.

 

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