Short genre films live in a brutal state of suspension: while being a fantastic introduction to new filmmakers and a solid weathervane as to where the horror genre is headed, the films themselves remain mostly inaccessible outside of the festival circuit. It’s a medium that allows for an incredible range of storytelling both subtle and provocative, simmering and explosive, as long as it’s under twenty minutes (and even then that rule can be broken, but you better have a damn good reason for that runtime). Those that bemoan news of the franchise reboot or the Blumhouse sequel can find comfort in the wide berth given unto artistic experimentation and originality in shorts. Horror in particular has made entire features from popular short films (like Lights Out). It’s my hope that one day Blumhouse follows after Pixar, with a creepy short screening before every theatrical feature. Hope springs eternal.
The time has come, friends. As we mentioned last week, Glass Eye Pix has launched their digital advent calendar, Creepy Christmas Film Fest. Each day from December 1st through the 25th, a new horror short will be unveiled on the festival’s website. The project features films from Jenn Wexler (The Ranger) and Graham Reznick (Deadwax), among a slew of other filmmakers familiar and new. Here’s a quick recap of this week’s shorts, all available to view for free on the website.
1. Ghoul Log – Dir. Christine Pfister
Working within the textures of both live-action and stop-motion, Christine Pfister weaves a dark Brothers Grimm’ level yarn with cannibals, children in cages, and live entombment. Ghoul Log falls in line with what Pfister calls “truly hand-made films”. According to her website, the self-taught artist utilizes her work to “explore the fragility of being a human in this world.”
2. Secret Santa – Dir. Ilya Chaiken
Chaiken has been a busy bee, what with two films playing at Sundance and a couple of web series under her belt. Her short Secret Santa quietly observes a figure in a workshop, nothing more, and rewards the viewer’s patience with a glimpse of who’s really tinkering away for all of the good Gentile girls and boys’ gifts every year. Chaiken is currently in production on a documentary about 90s Grrl rockers The Lunachicks.
3. Cavity – Dir. Glenn McQuaid
Glenn McQuaid’s stop-motion short is an ode to the self-destructive impulse that calls to us all. In just under two minutes, the Irish film director, known previously for I Sell The Dead and the Tuesday the 17th segment of V/H/S, presents a slew of candy canes in various configurations to the sweet tune of children’s voices. The mood quickly takes a dark turn as the images come faster and more furious, depicting more unsavory vices intercut with the candy with every warped uttering of the words, “Candy cane”.
On the CCF website, McQuaid elaborates:
“Having a sweet-tooth and being currently in the middle of several oral-surgery procedures (extraction, bone-graft, sinus lift, and implants) I settled on the concept of submission to temptation regardless of consequence. Candy Cane here is the gateway to booze, drugs, sex and death.”
4. Frozen Up – Dir. Melissa Shepherd
CCF serves up another stop-motion morsel with Frozen Up, an atmospheric flurry of Christmas kitsch set to a moody bit of music. The former Robot Chicken animator took a careful crafted approach to get the old-school analog feel of the film:
“I put ink on clear film and scratched black film, and played it through a projector, and then digitized and overlapped the footage. I used tinsel pipe cleaners, felt, metallic confetti, string, a reclaimed wood table, and only used white Christmas lights to light my set.”
It may be the rain tapping on my window as I watch this, but Shepherd effectively made the holiday unsettling in just under two minutes.
5. Falalalala – Dir. Bryan Parcival
After seeing this bizarre short, it’s clear to me that Bryan Parcival has a robust distrust of wreaths. And why not? They’re so circular and light-ridden, always geometrically placed on display, that they naturally lend themselves to some Ancient Aliens-esque theories. Perhaps the holiday carol isn’t a jolly song, but a command.
6. Mail – Dir. Anthony Galante
The shortest (and funniest) film this week, Mail clocks in at 41 seconds. It doesn’t need anything more than that; a woman attempts to mail a letter to Santa, that’s it. The goofy payoff isn’t muted in any way by the brief, frank storytelling. Mail is the top short of the week, in my book.
Which short was your favorite this week? Are you a fan of stop-motion animation in horror? Sound off in the comments below!