Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Wesley Remory for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 25 minute Belgian Horror/Thriller short, “Maggot Farmers”. Maggot Farmers is an exploration into the world of mayhem, human sacrifice and witchcraft and centers around a pair of depraved killers who hunt and kill random innocent victims – that is until a sorcerer intervenes. The film stars Johan Antonissen, Flor Expeels, and Katrien De Plancke.
Maggot Farmers serves as my introduction to Wesley as a filmmaker. He’s made four other short films since 2009 and is quite clearly a well-versed horror fan (as is evident in this particular short). The film opens with a mysterious woman in a foggy void carrying out some kind of conjuring or calling – a story point that remains ongoing throughout the course of the film. There’s some great stylish and atmospheric shot choices by Remory (who also worked on just about every other aspect of the film), accompanied by nice dim overhead street lighting and other various backlighting. Another aspect of note is the brooding low-fi synth and keyboard orientated score (also courtesy of Wes) – clearly inspired by the likes of 70’s and 80’s horror films such as Motel Hell and Re-Animator. By far and away the most memorable facet of Maggot Farmers is Wesley’s use of realistic practical fx. There’s an abundance of prosthetic ligaments, detailed vitals, and shreds of flesh. Fans of Ryan Nicholson’s (Gutterballs) and Olaf Ittenbach’s (No Reason) special effects will be very pleased with the end result. One other thing to mention is that there’s a piece of fine stunt work involving fire, which might just be one of the boldest things I’ve ever seen achieved in an indie short film.
The title Maggot Farmers is perhaps a little misleading given that there are no maggots to be found, despite the killer/s growing collection of decomposing bodies. That, and I’m not so sure they’re actually real farmers either (haha). I guess by the letter of the law they do live on a large property… anyways, I digress. Runtime and pacing are everything in filmmaking, and possibly even more important to get right when working in the confines of the short medium. At 25 minutes, Remory’s scant narrative and slow establishment is ultimately the films biggest hindrance. It’s just too long. It’s okay to be paper thin with your characters as long as any promised exploitation or violence is eventually delivered on – particularly in a film like this. Unfortunately that’s not the case here, with no real killing occuring in Maggot Farmers (or at least nothing on screen). The aforementioned practical fx are almost entirely on display in one of two fashions – either in an establishing shot or in the background of a scene. I’d hoped Wesley would get a little more proactive with his approach to what should’ve really been the main drawcard. The latter part of the film sees interiors of the home and the people inside it become muddled, due to the diminished lighting, that and the sound design begins to grate as there’s a general hissing soundscape affixed to everything going on. I felt the ritual at the core of the story left a few too many questions and overall the short felt unfinished.
All in all though, Maggot Farmers was still a serviceable horror short with solid production value and stellar special fx. Credit where credit’s due, Remory wore multiple hats on this project and is certainly a talented individual to watch moving forward. However, I think his writing craft and ability to structure key story beats and pacing need some work in order to get a more balanced result in the future. The technical aspects here are quite good and the fx are even better. Whilst I personally found it ran twice as long as it needed and lacked clarity with a somewhat absent narrative, I still think fans of the genre will get a kick out of this one and find plenty to like here! Keep an eye out for the official release of this one in 2022.
Maggot Farmers – 5.5/10