“Fish Eye” (SQFFT 2016): Clever Chinese Thriller Short Boasts Striking Technique and Admirable Performances

The Chinese short film Fish Eye (2015) is a suspenseful, elegant-looking thriller that provides a good deal of mystery and tension in its 13-minute running time (before ending credits). Director Tong Zhou creates an atmosphere of paranoia and dread that builds to a gripping climax. Shasha (Yuti Sun) is a young woman who has moved from the countryside to Beijing. As she heads to the first day of a new assignment as a maid, she […]

“Tampoon” (SQFFT 2016): Possessed Tampon Takes Control in Uncomfortably Fun Horror Comedy Short

Opening with close-up shots that make routines of regular female grooming seem much more squirm-inducing than usual, director Jeanne Jo’s horror-comedy short film Tampoon (U.S., 2015) goes on to provide more visuals likely to make viewers both groan and laugh uncomfortably, sometimes at the same moment. Jo has made a fun film that features a possessed tampon as one of its three characters. Tampoon opens with Miranda (Alexandra August) getting dressed up and readying for […]

Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo Spotlights Women Fright-Fare Filmmakers

Horror-heavy Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo (SQFFT) is dedicated to showcasing and promoting feature-length and short-film genre works by women filmmakers from around the world. The 2016 edition kicks off on October 22 at Uplink Factory and runs through October 28. SQFFT director Mai Nakanishi has selected an outstanding lineup of offerings for this year’s festival. SQFFT’s opening night film is writer/director Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, my personal front-runner for favorite film of 2016. The story […]

“Grillz” (2015): Nocturnal Predator Seeks Love and Dental Work in the Big City

  You can speculate about what to expect from Australian director Lucy Gouldthorpe’s short film Grillz from its title and its tagline “Online dating sucks, literally.” If you guessed a horror comedy with a main character who is a certain type of creature of the night, you would be correct. The film offers some clever moments in its approximately five-minute running time that are quite unexpected, however. Milla (Melanie Irons) is a vampire (sorry for […]

“Tritch” (2011): Memories and Regret Haunt a Mother in Shanghai-Set Ghost Drama

Writer/director Natalie James’s Tritch is a meditative, slow-burn ghost drama that goes for a more reflective, haunting feeling than for sheer dread and fright. The result is an impressive debut short that offers equal parts pathos and eeriness. This Australian short film, set in Shanghai and presented in the Mandarin language, tells the tale of affluent housewife Mei (Jenevieve Chang), who spends her days dining with friends or talking with her elderly mother (Linda Hsia). […]

“Pink” (2014): Is It Reality, Reverie, or a Wraith That Haunts This Man?

Australian short chiller Pink does a splendid job of providing viewers with a thought-provoking, well-told, and wonderfully acted tale that leaves much open to interpretation, in the best sense of the term. This is certainly no easy feat, but writer/director Lynne Vincent McCarthy handles the task splendidly. A young man named Leon (Brendan Donoghue) wakes up and obviously has something on his mind. He goes outside where some kids are playing cricket on the street […]

“Substance” (2014): Alien Substance and Alcohol Make for a Deadly Mixture

Horror films are often morality tales with timeless or current messages, and Barbara Stepansky’s thrilling science fiction/horror short Substance provides a few life lessons, including (1) always check the labels on medication bottles, (2) always answer the phone when your mother calls, and (3) if you spike someone’s drink, karma can come back to bite you. Scientist Julia (Camillia Sanes Monet) sends up a weather balloon with an attached camera that returns to Earth with […]

“Fish Out of Water” (2015): Postnuclear Winter Wasteland Holds Mysteries and Mutations

  Writer/director Kirsten Carthew’s science fiction/horror hybrid Fish Out of Water is a head-scratcher in the best sense of the term. It presents some mysteries and leaves our imaginations to fill in the gaps as it introduces viewers to a snowy, postapocalyptic wasteland and two of its facially scarred inhabitants. Soon after the film opens with shots of hockey sticks standing upright on a frozen lake, a lone woman is seen traversing the harsh landscape. […]

“Little Lamb” (2014): A Different Kind of Devil Preys on Women Prisoners in Historical Tasmania

Australian short film Little Lamb is a gothic thriller that takes place in a world that is bleak, both in the landscapes in which its protagonist Louisa is trapped and in her chances of improving her life – or even continuing it beyond her young age. Writer/director/editor Heidi Lee Douglas’s film is set in 1829 on Van Diemen’s Land, the name many Europeans used for colonial Tasmania. Louisa (Georgia Lucy) is a convict forcibly transported […]

“The Last Bastard” (2015): Real-Life Horrors Infest Canadian Daycare Home

  Young Abigail Tate’s mother and father drop her off for her first day of daycare at a seemingly nice couple’s home, never suspecting what she will fall victim to there when sordid secrets are revealed in the Canadian horror/drama short The Last Bastard. The film slowly unravels its mysteries and builds to an impactful climax. Writer/director Ashley Fester presents a story set in 1979 on the Canadian Prairies. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds (Tom Edwards and […]

“Serpent’s Lullaby” (2014): Elegantly Macabre Horror Short Probes the Anguish Behind a Monster

  Director’s Patricia Chica’s short horror film Serpent’s Lullaby is – like its main character – elegant, lovely, macabre, and filled with mystique. Like the great monster films of yesteryear, it shows the humanity within its tragic lead character and the anguish that even a soulless creature can harbor. Jenimay Walker stars as a mysterious woman (revealing the character’s name here would mean giving away a major spoiler) living in opulence in a mansion where […]

“Slut” (2014): Terror Stalks a Small-Town Girl in This Pitch-Perfect Horror Short

  One of the most sensational horror cinema experiences I have had in many months was watching the seventies-set shocker Slut at the Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo tour event in Nagoya, Japan, in February. What amazed me even more is that this short film is a debut for its writer/director, Chloe Okuno, because it has the air of a seasoned auteur behind it. Some horror shorts try to pull off the feel of a full-length film […]

“A Favor” (2015): Dirty Deeds Don’t Go Unpunished in Humorous Horror Short

Some folks feel that, when asked to do a favor, we should always make sure what it is first rather than being quick to say “Sure!” Director Izzy Lee’s darkly comic horror short A Favor offers a perfect example of why that philosophy is a wise one. As Jackson (Shaun Callaghan) settles in to watch a football game and eat a questionable plate of nachos, his friend Liz calls. Viewers only hear his end of […]