Small Gauge Trauma Shorts 2019 Block [Fantasia Festival 2019]

As with every year, Fantasia Film Festival is also a place to showcase the talents of filmmakers that specialize in making short films of all genres. This year I tackled the “Small Gauge Trauma” block and thankfully didn’t find a single bad apple in the whole bunch. These shorts aren’t just creative, but they’re incredibly original and delivered in the realm of horror big time.

The Burden (2019)
I kind of saw where Nico Van den Brink’s horror short was going, but I still found it pretty damn creepy. When a young girl goes to visit her boyfriend’s family on the country side, she’s spooked by his odd neighbor who spends all of her time looking in to the house. As she unwinds, she learns about an old scary tale involving the house’s attic and soon becomes convinced something is watching her in the darkness. Despite the telegraphed climax, “The Burden” is scary, and has a great jump scare that worked nevertheless. This short has been picked up for the rights to become a feature film. I can’t wait to see how they turn this in to a feature.

Bad Hair (2019)
Oskar Lehemaa’s “Bad Hair” is a classic body horror movie that is very reminiscent of the “Creepshow” segment “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Virrill.” Leo is very insecure about his baldness and buys a mysterious black hair tonic. Unaware that the hair tonic has a literal life of its own, he proceeds to go through a transformation that is horrifying, disgusting, and gory. “Bad Hair” is short but incredibly bizarre and ends on a note that’s darkly comic but also views Leo as a tragic victim of vanity.

Black Cat in a Dark Room (2019)
Leland Montgomery’s horror drama is a very good look at how even predators can tend to have a conflict of conscience when it comes to succumbing to their urges. A trio of female hospice workers spends their days roaming around America answering to terminally ill cancer patients. Their task involves giving them an easy death as they feed on them and cure their vampiric appetites. As their cases become more and more depressing, Beverly begins to question the ethics of their work, and wonders if any of it is worth it. “Black Cat in a Dark Room” is a solid horror drama with strong performances by the small cast.

Low Tide (2019)
Although played as horror with an almost literal turn of events, Ian Hunt Duffy’s film is about toxic masculinity and the unreachable heights and expectations parents can put upon you. Jack is excited to be going out to sea with his dad to catch some fish, but even though he loves fishing he can’t bear to gut the fish. As his father forces Jack to go in to the water to experience the sea, Jack experiences a weird turn of events in depths that change him forever. “Low Tide” works with its quiet subtly amounting to a horrific final scene that implies a lot and reveals very little about what we’ve just seen. Ian Hunt Duffy’s film opens itself up to a ton of interpretation and I loved it for that. It’s remarkable. 

Lucienne Eats a Car (2019)
Geordy Couturiau’s short drama is a bizarre and brutally weird tale of self mutilation manifested through a young girl. Lucienne’s father has loved his car for most of his life and has valued it over his wife and daughter for ages. As he nears his death, Lucienne finds she still can’t get his affections. She figures out the best way to connect to him is to literally devour his beloved car, finding new ways to inject the car in to her body. What results is shockingly complex and fascinating, closing on a note that’s heartbreaking and left open to interpretation. She did become the car, or did she merely just murder herself loking for her father’s love and approval?

Maw (2019)
Jasper Vrancken’s yet another bizarre horror film about a young man named Richard (Matthieu Sys) works as a nurse for an old folks home. In his personal life Richard has a fantasy of being eaten or devoured by a monster or giant animal and begins looking for ways to fulfill his sexual fantasy. By luck he meets a man who shares the fetish and they venture in to the bowels of cemetery where they submit themselves to the gaping maw of a mysterious monster. “Maw” is just outright unusual but so original and I loved how Vrancken leaves so much to our imagination. 

Oscar’s Bell (2019)
I reviewed Chris Cronin’s short horror film a while ago and it’s quite scary to endure again. Duncan is out in the woods with his dog and son camping and hunting one night. When Duncan awakens suddenly, he realizes that there’s something lurking in the woods watching them and waiting to pounce. When Duncan’s dog dashes in to the trees, Duncan has to figure out if he wants to save his son or wait for his dog. “Oscar’s Bell” is absolutely fantastic filled with creepy plays on sound and darkness, along with an ending that will definitely stick with you.

Together (2019)
Ryan Oksenberg’s “Together” is a weird and disgusting horror film that also surprisingly packs with it an original premise. Julia is a biohazard cleaner who has the horrible task of cleaning up crime scenes. Stricken with remorse she answers the application of Clayton at the last minute requiring his help. But what she doesn’t know is that Clayton is the victim of a horrible attack in the woods that’s left him with the insatiable appetite for blood and guts. Oksenberg is not afraid to be as stomach turning as humanly possible delighting in showing us Clayton’s immense appetite for human remains. It’s an original and interesting concept with great delivery by the cast. I wasn’t fond of the weird plot twist in the finale, but I loved the whole of Oksenberg’s genre entry.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 11th to August 1st 2019