For all my new readers: Welcome to DoubleFeaturePreachers.com! For all those returning, welcome back, and thanks for continuing to support us. Every year, like clockwork, November rolls around. And every year, I attempt to watch far too many movies as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival. I’m a humble part-time critic who has a full-time job and a family, so that’s quite an ask. But every year as the festival motors on, I’m so glad that I took the time to watch the films that I did.
One of my favorite nights (it’s the only thing I’ve attended all three years I’ve been covering the festival) is the night the Narrative Horror shorts play. Everyone who has read on the site before knows it’s my favorite genre of film, and the short format really gives good storytellers a chance to flex their muscles. I’m going to follow the format I’ve had in festivals past (check out my past reviews in 2016 and 2017 for some other really excellent shorts). That means that my favorites are marked with big bright stars for easy viewing. As always, if any of the directors, writers, or cast members wants to reach out and talk more, shoot me an e-mail at DoubleFeaturePreachers@gmail.com ! Without further ado, on with the horror!
And the Baby Screamed (2018) 4 minutes
Director: Dan Gitsham
I always admire the people that put the festival together, because they seem to do a great job at getting people into the mood for horror by selecting something that hits all the right beats before moving deeper into the shorts. This year’s leadoff short was “And the Baby Screamed”. A short that the majority of the dialogue is a baby screaming.
As a father of two, I completely identify with this short. There are times you just want to turn off that monitor and drift away into dreamland. However, your reasoning for continuing to get up is reinforced by the end of this short. I liked the effects, and I liked the way it slowly built to the climatic moment. If it has a downside, it’s that the speed of it doesn’t necessarily give you enough time to connect with the father character. I’m giving this one a “B-”.
Check it out on IMDB for more information!
Relax, It's Probably Just a Parasite (2018)
Director: Joel Benjamin
Writer: Joel Benjamin
I highly admire those that can set horror movies to animation. It’s tremendously ambitious because so often the animation medium is associated with children’s films or Japanimation. So I will give kudos to Joel Benjamin for attempting to accomplish what he does.
However, I didn’t necessarily like the film. The film is a series of animations regarding animalistic predatory habits that are narrated by a gentleman who is attempting to explain his symptoms in a hypochondriac manner. It’s an almost experimental piece.
The animation style is fairly fluid, with the lines at times drifting away with the movement. I think the highlight is the use of sound – the crunches and bite sounds actually had several people in the audience groaning.
I don’t necessarily understand the connection between the words and the animation – in the end, I would have rather lived without the words. I’m giving this one a D+ “.
Check out the IMDB page here!
Rainmaker (2018) 19 minutes
Director: Kristen Hester
Writer: Katherine Cronyn
Ok – this film was something I really had to chew over in my mind. Often times, these are the hardest shorts to deal with, because you have so many shorts in a row that you can’t really think about any of them for longer than the credits sequence. The film follows a young woman named only K (played by Katherine Cronyn, who also wrote the film) and her daughter Honor (played by Kira Bennett). The film opens in a resteraunt, and K can just barely take one bite. Her daughter, who is obviously hungry, scarfs some food before realizing that her mother isn’t eating anything, and works to follow her mother’s example.
Without explicitly saying so, the film seemed to be about an eating disorder. There is one scene that takes place in a shower that seems to go forward and imply that K is buliemic, and the way that Hester shoots Cronyn’s body in the few scenes where she is exposed seems to lend credence to that idea. However, there is a lot of distractions from the main point – there is a lot of time dedicated to lupine creatures, like wolves, and a lot of time focusing on paintings, particularly faces.
While I may be missing the point of those other focuses, I have to say that I really loved Cronyn’s performance. She was one of the clear highlights of the short, with her performance ranging all over the emotional map without missing a beat. But it would be a shame to talk about this short and not mention the incredible make-up effect performed on Craig Ng, known here only as Skinny Man. It’s a fantastic little bit of work that really makes him seem terribly scary.
With a few minor tweaks, this one would have gotten a star. I’m not going to pretend to understand everything about it, but I will give it a “B”.
Check out the IMDB page here!
Who Decides (2018)
This was the first short that actually made people gasp, which is always fun when you are viewing the film in person. It follows a young girl who is walking around in to different hospital rooms, and speaking with their occupants, and having metaphysical discussions.
This short is simple and to the point, and I like that. About halfway through there is a turning point that really makes the film into something worth watching. I especially liked the performances between the two actresses – Jenny O’Hara, the older woman, and Addison Eckert, the younger girl. Even more kudos for assigning a creepy redhead as the little girl – I am one so I can get away with comments like that – because her performance is fantastic. She reminds me of a young punk who just wants to shake the system. While that’s awesome, it’s her line delivery that’s truly spectactular, and shows some great direction from Ms. Fitzsimmons.
With some polishing – cut out a few unnecessary moments near the beginning, and a few in the middle, the film would have been perfection. As it stands, it’s still very good, and I’m giving it a “B”.
Check out the IMDB page here!
The Exam (2017) 9 minutes
Director: Alina Suarez Aguilera
This is the one film I couldn’t find an IMDB page for, so I don’t have much more information than you could get from the page for SLIFF. Apologies there.
This featured a nice change on the exorcism story. I liked the way they presented it too – it preserves the surprise for as long as possible, and the guy who is possessed really sells it. His performance is the best part of the short.
It does have its downsides. The film doesn’t seem to commit very hard to its twist, so I don’t think it lands the same punch that some of the other films do. It also features some language difficulties in the sense that the characters speak so fast that you can’t read the subtitles to pick up all the language. This is especially apparent at the beginning of the short when the exorcism is first taking place.
Technically, it’s a very polished film, but otherwise, I didn’t find anything about this that was overly above average. I’m giving it a “C”.
The Whistler (2018) 11 minutes
Director: Jennifer Nicole Stang
Writers: Jennifer Nicole Stang
Here’s our first of a few stories in a row that feature on youth. Here, we have a young woman babysitting her younger sister while her parents so unthankfully leave her. While she watches a horror film, her sister asks for a bedtime story, which morphs into a tale of the town. This tale is of the Whistler, a gentleman that took a bunch of kids and murdered them in order to make them live forever. It’s like the Pied Piper, with murder!
I thought that this was a nice story that probably would have been better served in a longer format. There was nothing inherently scary about the kids themselves, there was nothing super scary about the Whistler himself besides maybe some make-up, and the story whistled (pardon the terrible pun) along so that you couldn’t really build up any fear. I think if the film was dragged out, we might get a halfway decent horror film out of it. Here though, I would probably only give it a “C”.
Check out the IMDB page!
The Candlelight Witch (2017) 10 minutes
Director: Rebecca Flinn-White
Writers: Todd Spence, Zak White
Ah, the old story of an old lady who is trying to steal some children. Who doesn’t love this horror classic tale? I thought that this would be kind of a waste when it started out, but the way the story unfolds was solid, despite the use of lots of horror clichés – power outage, kids home alone, even the old school flame popped popcorn.
This film, though a bit reliant on jump scares, has one of the best spooks of the night. It’s some great effects and great make-up to make the Candlelight Witch too.
I think of all the films, this is the best suited to be made into a feature. The writers seemed to know it too with the way that they left the film at the end. I’m happy with this one, but a move away from the old standbys would make this one stand apart. I’m going to give it currently a “B”.
Check out the IMDB page!
Something in the Darkness (2017) 14 minutes
Director: Fran Casanova
Writer: Fran Casanova
This film just didn’t do it for me. From the start of the film, I thought I was going to love it. It had a great cold open that felt wasted after a few moments. The film even ends with an H.P. Lovecraft quotation! How could David possibly not like it?
The film just doesn’t seem to have much going for it, and it gives away everything that’s going to happen far too quickly. I understand that the dialogue has to give you a certain clue as to what is going to unfold in the film, but it just seemed far too blatant in order to rely on a twist. When you combine that with the opening, which almost feels disconnected with the rest of the film, I think the film starts to have some tonal issues. If the film focused more on what made it good – our innate fear of the dark and the unknown – and less on things like trying to fool us, it would have made a much better short overall. I’m only giving this one a “C-“.
Check it out on IMDB.
For those of you that have stuck with me through this entire post, I applaud you. It’s quite a lengthy one, but I always want to say thank you to those that stick out the entire post. It’s a lot to write, but it feels like even more to read! In conclusion, it’s great to see that horror shorts are in no short supply when it comes to quality films. We here at DoubleFeaturePreachers.com are obviously huge fans of them, and look forward to any submissions to the site in the future.
I would like to thank Cinema St. Louis for putting on SLIFF 2018. Look forward to more of the shorts competitions!
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"