SXSW Shorts Round-Up Part One – Horror.
The first of our round-ups of some of the short films screened as part of SXSW 2021.
Joanne Is Dead (
directed by Brian Sacca
starring Jenny O'Hara, Barry Rothbart, Jade Catta-Preta
Kicking off with the high energy riff from the Small Faces “Come On Children” this short is set in a care-home where two of the worst care workers ever bitch and moan about the supposedly demented resident who claims to have been a former CIA agent. It’s slick with a neat script by first time director Sacca (better known as an actor) which cleverly sets up a great gory gag as its pay-off.
Significant Other (
directed by Quinn George
starring Autumn Hanna, Matt Micucci
) A sense of dread is skilfully built from minimal resources in director George’s promising debut short. The cinematography by Joe Martin and music by Jake Staley combine to elevate what is, in essence, simply a couple’s late night discussion about a light fitting into something elemental and uncanny. That the film rather overstates its case with the physical appearance of something “other” seems a pity. In horror cinema, and especially in short form, less is often enough and the thrill in Significant Other is in being taken on a journey not in arriving at an actual destination.
The Thing That Ate The Birds (
directed by Sophie Mair/ Dan Gitsham
starring Rebecca Palmer, Eoin Slattery
) Coming over here, eating our birds. Released as part of production company Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand Alter, this heavy handed allegorical tale concerning a monster visiting a seething gamekeeper benefits from the picturesque Yorkshire landscape and some solid performances. Rebecca Palmer is particularly good as the long suffering wife. The subjects it circles (Brexit/ Trump/ the rise of intolerance) deserve more subtle scrutiny than is offered here but it’s well shot and staged and suggests better things to come from the directing duo.
A Tale Best Forgotten (
directed by Thomas Stark
starring Julia Sporre, Ola Wallinder
) Stark and cinematographer Ashley Briggs construct a mind-bending slow loop to illustrate a folk-horror tale of a dog-headed man from an archive recording by poet Helen Adam. With a crackling score by Sebastian Bergström this Swedish short works like a charm.
The Expected (
written and directed by Carolina Sandvik.
) A masterful stop-motion body horror from Swedish artist Sandvik. After a miscarriage a couple’s interdependency takes a nightmarish turn. Told without words the film runs on a kind of dream logic that compels and repels often simultaneously. The husk of a body. Dead fish. Cans of Carlsberg. The model making is wonderful and the sense of claustrophobia these (presumed) small sets create works especially well when viewed online rather than in a movie house or gallery.
Festival Website sxsw.com
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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