Dry Blood (Review) Isolation can be hazardous to your health…

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DRY BLOOD

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Business Lunch Productions and Director, Kelton Jones for allowing me access to an online screener of his debut feature-length film “Dry Blood”. Dry Blood is a confined psychological Horror/Thriller about Brian (played by Clint Carney, who also wrote the screenplay) an alcoholic and drug addict who’s just relapsed yet again. With plans to get sober once and for all, Brian heads to a lakeside cabin that he shares ownership of with his ex-wife (Rin Ehlers). It’s there that he encounters a strange sheriff (played by Jones himself) and attempts to reconnect with a friend/old flame named Anna (Jaymie Valentine) whilst battling to keep his psyche in check. The film also stars Graham Sheldon, Robert Galluzzo, and Macy Johnson.

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Dry Blood had quite the successful festival campaign in 2018, garnering plenty of selections, nominations, and awards for both acting/writing and directing. I didn’t know a lot about the film prior to viewing it but I’m always keen to support independent work. Carney’s contained approach is certainly a smart one, especially when you’re working with limited funds and resources. Dry Blood is mostly psychological in nature and primarily only consists of two characters. The lakeside cabin locale has long been commonplace for the genre, but this particular wooded haven happens to have some character to it. The slanted roofing, the hidden frills, and the crawlspace make for interesting characteristics. The film’s audio track is nice and clear and the music is by Carney’s “System Syn”. It includes the likes of dramatic keys during the intro, and a drum and synth theme to build suspense as the situation escalates. The general score is often made up of individual distant piano notes, it’s rather striking. Dry Blood has some of the best use of natural light that I’ve seen in a low-budget venture for quite a while. Daylight seeping through the kitchen windows and the door awnings makes for some gorgeous interiors.

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Graham Sheldon’s cinematography is surprisingly eloquent – all the more impressive is that this is his first time shooting a feature. He sets things up nicely with a series of eclectic establishing shots and utilizes some blurred and warping imagery in order to depict Brian’s intoxicated state from the outset. There’s a lot of steady movements and crisp panning and I particularly like some of the tight shots taken from under the cabin.  Carney’s on-screen for almost the entire run time and does a serviceable job of what is clearly a demanding role. I think it’s Jones who delivers the most well-rounded performance though – benefitted by the fact that the sheriff is at the very least interesting, arousing the viewer’s suspicions. Credit must go to Chad Engel and Sioux Sinclair for their superb special fx work. Dry Blood boasts realistic practical blood and gore when it comes to the action. Brian’s head has a habit of playing tricks on him and the images depicted showcase this duo’s prosthetic work. Things eventually come to a head during the third act, doing so in a rather brutal fashion. The likes of which involve guns, knives, and even a beer bottle (that one will make you cringe).

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Dry Blood can accurately be described as a slow burn, even at just 80 minutes there feels like a little too much padding was added in order to get it to feature-length running time. An increase in suspense might have been a way to break up those limitations that usually come about due to a lack of time and funds. As it stands, the repetition makes it a bit of a chore to get through at times. The film is guilty of having a couple of telegraphed jump scares and overall it does lack tension. Carney may have written scenes a certain way but they don’t necessarily translate with the same level of impact e.g being Brian’s fear quickly turning to inferior whimpering after he’s seen a spirit. There are a few forced lines of dialogue and I think Kelton and Co could’ve done a little more with their foley work in order to heighten the atmosphere. The emotional surges are oftentimes where the inexperience of the cast shows. Carney wanes when it comes to the crying and most of Valentine’s delivery lacks conviction, though that may have been the intent if her character was a little on the wishy-washy side. Being of a subconscious nature, I figured I’d be left with a few questions at the end but I really didn’t get a whole lot of clarity on events that transpired (or didn’t). How did Anna even get to the mountain town? It didn’t strike me as a place that public transport called on, Was Alecia related to Brian and is that why he saw her clothing at the cabin when he arrived? Who or what was the sheriff? Just a manifestation of Brian’s? Or was it as I perceived, that everything had already previously happened and he just couldn’t remember any of it? Make of those points what you will.

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I read a couple of mind-boggling reviews for Dry Blood that virtually liken the quality to an inferior student film endeavor, a critique that’s entirely unjustified and rather disrespectful to those involved. I’m not entirely sure your average movie-goer knows what goes into making a film, that and the preconceived notion that the majority of independents have endless amounts of time and money to spend on their projects (which just simply isn’t the case). Dry Blood can be more accurately described as bearing small time comparisons to the likes of David Koepp’s “Secret Window”, perhaps by way of Benson and Moorhead’s “Resolution”. Production value well and truly eclipses your average low-budget venture, the location lends itself to some great cinematography, and the score rests on a number of equally effective tones. Jones is strong despite the character’s one-note reach and Carney does his best to maintain a heightened intensity. The practical blood and gore fx during the final act are where Dry Blood really shines. The downside is that the films slow-burn nature renders it somewhat of a chore in certain sections. It lacks suspense due to some flat reactionary content and the odd predictable jump scare. Jaymie’s performance is guilty of lacking energy and the remaining ambiguity left me feeling a little dissatisfied. With all that said, Kelton and Co showcase ample know-how and the end result is a fine debut feature-length genre film. If you’re a fan of psychological and intimate horror I’d suggest giving Dry Blood a spin. It’s now available on DVD and Blu Ray as well as various online streaming platforms. You can check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Dry Blood” is 6/10

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Imposter (Review) A picture says a thousand words…

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IMPOSTER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to On Edge Productions and Writer/Director, Chris Esper for allowing me access to an online screener of his 9 minute Drama short, “Imposter”. Imposter is an experimental drama that deals with the inner struggles for those who suffer from anxiety. A bus ride sees a number of individuals come together to deal with their crippling debilitation. The film stars Tom Mariano, Brendan Meehan, Sheetal Kelkar, and Jamie Braddy.

At just 29 years of age, Chris Esper has already racked up a number of credits. Having worked on shorts for over a decade now, Imposter marks his twenty-fourth short film (and by his own admission one of the most important). Most of DP, Richard King’s camera work looks interesting and he utilizes gentle movements to highlight certain things in the scene. The pleasant piano themed score completes the mood and the acting is solid all around. Whilst I didn’t love all the framing choices and the inconsistency of the practical fx toward the end, Imposter highlights an extremely important supposition that at the end of the day we’re all the same. Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Circumstance is just circumstance. We all love, we all hurt, we all bleed, we all cry, and we lean on each other to get through the hard times. It’s making that choice to put yourself out there despite the fear of failing. I commend Esper for starting to render the foundations of the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression and doing so in such a muted but powerful way. What’s more impressive is Chris’s willingness to put himself out there in spite of his own personal struggles and to bare all in what is one of the most vulnerable of artistic mediums. Imposter is unfiltered and very well made, you can check out the trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “Imposter” is 8/10

The After Party (Review) A watering hole of a different kind…

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THE AFTER PARTY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start by thanking Ela Road Films and Writer/Director, Colin Costello for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 17-minute Horror/Mystery short, “The After Party”. The After Party introduces us to Skye, a social media mogul (played by Rachel Amanda Bryant) who’s living it up during just another night out on the town. Before heading home she stops for one last drink, it’s there where she encounters four mysterious women each with a story to tell. The film also stars Hilary Barraford (The Ice Cream Truck), Ashley Platz (Big Legend), Denise Milfort (Repentance), and Veronica Sixtos.

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I’ve had Costello’s short sitting in my pile for around a month and finally found the time to give it my undivided attention. The obvious thing of note about The After Party’s presentation has to be Brook Willard’s glorious black and white photography. We simply don’t see enough of it these days, as luck would have it the film’s neo-noir aesthetics just happen to lend themselves perfectly to the form. Everything is nicely framed and the shot choices are simple but effective. The audio track is quite crisp and the mix of eerie sounding strings helps complement the mystery behind the night’s events. The guitar-centric score in the latter half has hints of David Lynch’s cult classic TV show “Twin Peaks” about it, especially with its additional use of ambient reverb. The acting from all involved is of a high standard and the ladies each have their own traits. Costello’s conversation (or more accurately his characters) seems to center around the need for us to be accepted and or adored and the dangers that can be associated with worshipping false idols – something that is certainly an issue in society. Social media can be extremely damaging if you gear your self-worth around your number of likes, followers, shares, and re-tweets. Make what you want of the signs on display in The After Party, broken glass and fading light are just a couple of indicators that should get you invested. My only real criticism is the sudden shift in Skye once she arrives. It’s a little contradictory because she claims not to know who the girls are but then suddenly she’s able to recall where she met them or the details of the interactions she had with them. I suppose one could chalk it up to just her self-obsessed persona and perhaps she truly didn’t realize until she actually stopped to reflect. I’d like to have seen certain pieces of information trigger her a little more, particularly just before she leaves the bar. There’s not a lot of charged emotion regarding her questioning what was really going on.

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The After Party is a thoroughly entertaining and polished short film from a promising filmmaker in Costello. The cinematography is impressive, the score has fitting spectral tones, and the performances are all great. I think the writing is as smart as I’ve seen in quite a while and there’s a positive message about surface value versus the important things in life. I think a couple of Skye’s specifics could’ve been altered and perhaps improved upon, but it’s nothing that really takes away from the overall quality of the product. If you get the chance to check this one out I suggest you do! For now, you can watch the teaser trailer below, enjoy!

My rating for “The After Party” is 8/10

A Way Out (Review) All good things must come to an end…

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A WAY OUT

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start by saying thank you to Director, Jason Tostevin (Born Again) for allowing me access to an online screener of his 13-minute Crime/Drama short “A Way Out”, Written by Randall Greenland. A Way Out picks up with a pair of gangsters on a job. An aging Vick (played by Robert Costanzo) is preparing for retirement, but one last cat and mouse game with his protegé Reggie (Adam Hampton) will reveal that each has been keeping a secret from the other.

A Way Out was actually made back in 2015 and it marks Tostevin’s fifth short film in as many years. I’m a sucker for a good crime drama but they’re difficult to do, especially in the short format. Randall’s script is perfectly paced and includes a couple of key elements, in humor and violence, both of which are anchors that can be found in these sorts of gangster films. Both the audio track and foley are crisp and clear (it’s nice to finally hear punches that sound like punches) and the editing is quite sharp. Mike McNeese’s cinematography is simple but effective, framing a lot of two shots and medium close-ups which work well for the duration of Vick and Reggie’s car ride. The duo’s conversation about mattress flipping is an entertaining one and Greenland brings events with his characters to a somewhat surprising head. Costanzo’s been acting since the mid 70’s so it should come as no surprise that his delivery is extremely well-timed, and everything that comes out of his mouth feels authentic. Hampton is a little rawer but still manages to turn in a fairly consistent performance. Stylistically I found some of the natural light that was glaring through the driver’s side door in the car park scene rather distracting. I think the addition of some practical blood spray would have been beneficiary for genre fans too. Reggie’s only issue was that his proposition didn’t make a lot of sense and was always going to be problematic. His boss would’ve no doubt required proof, so how was he going to obtain that?

A Way Out is undoubtedly one of the best Crime/Drama shorts going around. The cinematography is smart, the audio and foley are even, and the edit comes together seamlessly. Both performances are engaging, Greenland’s script is a clever one, and the ending is a blast. Other than a couple of personal preference traits and the somewhat flawed logic behind Reggie’s proposal, A Way Out is as good as they come. This is Tostevin’s best work yet and I hope to see more from these guys in the world of crime.

My rating for “A Way Out” is 8.5/10

Canine (Review) A man’s best friend is his dog…

canine

CANINE 

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Hypnosis Pictures and Writer/Director, Sean Richard Budde for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest 5-minute short “Canine”. Canine is a micro thriller that centers around a man (played by Ira Amyx) who’s desperately trying to locate his missing chocolate labrador. A random jogger (Sloan Davis) happens upon the dog and looks to return it to its rightful owner, only he’s already watching – and waiting.

Canine is an interesting choice for the title given that the film actually has very little to do with dogs. That said, the dog in the film is adorable (haha). The most impressive aspect of Canine, without question, is Eric Liberacki’s sharp cinematography. There are some smooth tracking shots and smart Steadicam movements that include a 180-degree turn mid shot. The audio track is crisp and the bass-driven synth score is energetic, to say the least. I’m not sure why there was such an emphasis on the dog. Was he or she supposed to represent something? Or simply just serve as a means of luring people into a false sense of security? If Earl (the dog owner) had a set agenda, why not pursue that with any of the other passers first? (well maybe not the couple but yeah).

Canine is an entertaining enough and well made short film, though I’m not entirely sure it has a purpose. Keep an eye out for it soon and you can be the judge!

My rating for “Canine” is 6/10

Alone We Fight (Review) Hold the line at all costs…

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ALONE WE FIGHT

 

THE SETUP

This is a review of the Region A (US) Blu Ray of the Drama/War film “Alone We Fight”, Written and Directed by Justin Lee (Any Bullet Will Do). Alone We Fight is an independent war film set in 1944 and based on true events. On the border of Germany and Belgium, two US Army Rangers, in Sergeant Gregory Falcone (played by Aidan Bristow) and Private Michael “Boston” O’Reilly (Matthew James McCarthy), manage to escape the clutches of an enemy patrol unit but are soon given orders to take ground held by the Germans who are slowly approaching the allied lines. The film also stars Corbin Bernsen (TV’s Psych), Kate Conway, Lara Thomas Ducey, and Johnny Messner (Tears Of The Sun). This is the fourth feature-length film from Lee, all of which have been released this year! (a truly impressive feat in an of itself). Justin has proven thus far to have a great eye for detail in more than just one type of film. I’ve both thoroughly enjoyed and respected each of his prior films, two of which were westerns – the most impressive being the aforementioned “Any Bullet Will Do” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/any-bullet-will-do-review-you-reap-what-you-sow/.

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I figured a war picture courtesy of Papa Octopus Productions wouldn’t be too far away – I was right. Alone We Fight is an ambitious and surprisingly detailed film given the obvious budget constraints. I’ve always said good drama is the hardest thing to come by when you’re working with little to no money (but even more so in this genre). Lee joins forces once again with the talented duo of DP, Justin Janowitz (A Reckoning) and Composer, Jared Forman (Any Bullet Will Do). Part of what I like about POP is that there’s a uniformity about what they’re doing and the consistency shows in their brief but memorable body of work. Alone We Fight opens with one of Lee’s mainstays, an obligatory slow-motion sequence (via 5K) that sees a small group of allied soldiers being led by a German patrol unit. Those particular frames look great and all of Janowitz’s shot choices are simple yet effective. The highlight is a series of gorgeous low angle shots of Falcone and O’Reilly creeping through the leafy greens of the forest. The audio track is quite sharp (with some ADR included) and Jared’s original score is another noteworthy aspect. He opts for some big orchestral themes during establishing content, followed by the sounds of percussive style drumming to coincide with the battle scenes. In addition, there’s a nice piano ballad in the third act.

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When it comes to Justin and films from Papa Octopus, it’s been all about the pairing of actors, Kevin Makely and Todd Robinson. Much like his characters here, this is the first time I’ve seen Lee venture into unfamiliar territory in order to find his talent – the result is somewhat of a mixed bag. On a positive note, I was excited to see Bristow cast in the lead role, as he was super impressive in this years “Strawberry Flavored Plastic”, Written and Directed by Colin Bemis. Aidan’s performance is by far and away the most consistent of the bunch and he brings likable qualities to squad leader Falcone. Conway and Ducey play medics, they’re a little uneven but they do their best with the material they’re given. The experience comes in the form of Bernsen, playing a colonel, though he’s only present for the one scene, and Messner as a captain in a sort of blink and you’ll miss it kind of deal. The set design is intelligently displayed and you can tell that Lee attempted to go the whole nine yards to make this environment seem credible (at least with as far as the budget would take him). The inclusion of a big 50 Cal machine gun makes for a pretty entertaining shootout that takes place around the midway point of the film. Service vehicles are used in the background of shots and even a couple of replica tanks/armored vehicles make an appearance during the climax. Unfortunately, the paint jobs and overall pristine condition of them makes it’s quite obvious that they weren’t able to actually be used (probably for fear of damage). Still, you have to commend the effort.

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Sadly, Alone We Fight is proof yet again that you just can’t make a great war film on a budget. It’s nobodies fault, it’s just the way it is. Lee does his best to hide the two big and pertinent absentees from his film (being that of characters and action) by establishing a more intimate setting with the hopes that you’ll invest deeply in the characters. The problem with that is that the gravitas is never fully felt due to the lack of scale that the whole thing is conceived on. Michael Tang’s edit doesn’t contain much slack but the overall pacing still feels a touch sluggish – even at just 90 minutes. The film is supposedly based on true events (how much is true I don’t know) but the bulk of it centers on just Falcone and Boston (the latter of whom I didn’t take to). We’re only introduced to one or two other rangers because the narrative ends up calling for it – ultimately questioning the believability of it all. Consequently, sizeable chunks of the runtime turn conversation heavy, talk that consists mostly of banter and things back home, mothers, sports etc. The first sign of action comes in the form of a slow-motion sequence that sees Falcone and Boston overpower and escape the enemy. Lee does have a tendency to take that same avenue with his actions scenes, probably to avoid too much choreography – The drawback is that it loses its punch. McCarthy’s Mikey wasn’t a character I ever warmed to – that and Matthew’s performance lacked conviction. It’s an issue that can be problematic when your film only really has a couple of characters. There are some indisputable continuity issues and conveniences with Alone We Fight as well. Those of you who’ve seen any of Lee’s prior films will be sure to recognize more of the heavily wooded forest from parts of the US (likely to be the same ones he’s used in Montana or Oregon if I recall). The problem is that Justin establishes the film as taking place in December in Europe, despite there being no snow to speak of. I’m not sure how that happened but it’s an issue easily rectifiable simply by changing the time of the year the film takes place at. Either that or you have to shoot in the states in Winter so the weather patterns correlate.

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It would have been a welcomed addition to have the German soldiers interact with each other a little more (I know it means learning parts of the language but still), and an opportunity was missed for the inclusion of a scene where perhaps one of the rangers suddenly wakes the other up because the enemy is fast approaching – therefore create a little more suspense to proceedings. I could have gone for a little more diversity with some of the shot choices, and everyone’s costumes needed to look a little more worn and rundown than they do. On a number of occasions, things just happen to be right where they need to be. For example, the boys escape their captors and just so happen to stumble into their camp and medic station almost immediately. They would’ve likely been miles away from that location and there’s no depiction of a transition or time-lapse. During the climax, Boston just so happens to come across a Panzerfaust (anti-tank weapon) sitting well outside the parameters of the sandbagged enemy area… what are the odds the Germans would leave that unattended? That’s another prime example of missed suspense and taking the time to flesh out the scene a little better in relation to how Mikey gets the weapon in his possession. These rangers aren’t the brightest either. Anyone who’s been trained would know never to run without cover, yet these guys continue to do it. They’re told by the sergeant to stay low but they never do, hell, even he himself gets popped in the shoulder from failing to heed his own advice. Needless to say, they were a little frustrating.

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Alone We Fight doesn’t quite reach the same heights as some of Justin’s previous work but it’s still a controlled and serviceable attempt at a memorable war film. It’s an ambitious project that sees solid cinematography and some lovely music from Lee’s regulars in Janowitz and Forman respectively. It’s nice to see Bristow in another lead role and he delivers a modest performance. I’d be lying if I said the absence of both Makely and Robinson (at least in some capacity) wasn’t noticeable, though the secondary players are still decent they just don’t offer up anything special. The most impressive facet of the film is certainly the detailed production design, which is usually almost always lacking with these types of low-budget entries. Lee missed the opportunity to write a couple more suspenseful scenes to break up some of the daily grind content and there are a few too many convenient plot points throughout. Characters actions don’t always help to sell their credibility as soldiers and the film just doesn’t carry that emotional punch it wants you to think it does. Alone We Fight is extremely light in the headcount department and the action takes place on a very small-scale (mostly due to the budget), so what you’re left with is a dialogue-heavy film that just isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. All that said, if you’re a die-hard war fan I think you’ll still enjoy this one. I look forward to seeing what Lee and his company do next year. You can check out the official trailer below and the film is now available for purchase on Amazon!

My rating for “Alone We Fight” is 5/10

Top 10 Shorts (2018)

 

10. MYSTERY BOX (Co-Written and Directed by Sonny Laguna)

Sonny Laguna’s “Mystery Box” is a 10-minute Lovecraftian inspired Horror film that centers around just that – a mystery box. After a day of fishing, all Moa (Lisa Henni) has to show for it is a mysterious metal box – which she places inside the shed and thinks nothing more of. She quickly discovers that getting rid of the box won’t be so easy, though opening it could prove to be much worse. Laguna shows improvement here in just about every facet. Utilizing cool aerial shots, nice panning, and a series of quick cuts. The music is atmospheric and the contents of the box serve as a great way for Sonny to show off the quality fx work produced by his production company Stockholm Syndrome Films.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8611502/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

9. POST MORTEM MARY (Written and Directed by Joshua Long)

“Post Mortem Mary” is a homegrown 10-minute Horror/Drama short by Joshua Long. It’s an 1840’s period piece that follows a mother and daughter (played by Melanie Zanetti and Stella Charrington) in their post-mortem photography business. The latest job sees them called to a rural farmhouse where the torch changes hands (so to speak) and a heedful Mary is left with the task of making the dead look alive. This is such a unique concept based around real businesses that did this kind of work all through the 19th century. The film boasts stunning cinematography from Ben Notts (Predestination and Daybreakers), sharp foley, and a score reminiscent of “The Witch”, compliments of Jesse Thomas. It’s great to see Zanetti back after her work on last years “Creeper”. Special mention goes to Kathryn Marquet for her emotional display in the opening of the short.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7633674/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

8. GOTAS (Written by Santiago Taboada and Directed by Sergio Morcillo)

“Gotas” is a 15 minute Spanish made Horror/Thriller, Directed by Sergio Morcillo. It’s “Suspiria” meets “Black Swan” when teenage ballet student Marta (Marina Romero),  reeling from the loss of her parents, begins experiencing bouts of internal pain. By the end of the night, the cause behind it is ultimately revealed. Daniel Borbujo’s stylish cinematography is heavy on the reds, Jesus Calderon’s score builds to frenetic bass and strings, and the makeup fx are impressive. It’s ultimately a deconstruction of the human psyche and it’s very well done.

(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7583810/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

 

7. HANG UP! (Written and Directed by Richard Powell)

“Hang Up!” is the latest from the boys at Fatal Pictures – A production company consisting of Powell and longtime partner, Zach Green. These guys have become synonymous with thought-provoking genre filmmaking – namely of the horror persuasion. Hang Up is Powell’s 14-minute venture into more Drama/Thriller terrain, combining with underrated character actor Robert Nolan (in a more reactive based performance) for a really dark and unfiltered conversation. This one is all about the script and Powell’s writing, as an accidental butt dial leads to a husband finding out all the deep and dark secrets his wife has been keeping from him. Astrida Auza is left to carry the bulk of this one, doing so impressively with all of her delivery taking place off-screen. It’s simple but effectively shot, subtly scored, and a real eye-opener around the notion of truly knowing someone.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8630348/?ref_=nm_flmg_prd_1

 

6. THE SERMON (Written and Directed by Dean Puckett)

“The Sermon” is a 12 minute English-made Drama/Thriller shot on 35mm, Written/Directed by Dean Puckett. It’s set in an isolated church community where a young woman named Ella (Molly Casey) is dealing with an identity crisis and a tragic set of circumstances. The problem is that her tyrannical priest father (Grant Gillespie), and her brother John (played by Oliver Monaghan) have their own set agenda which puts the tight-knit family on a collision course. The presentation is what I loved most about The Sermon. It looks and sounds fantastic, with a very 70’s aesthetic despite seemingly taking place at some point in the 1800s. The orchestral musicianship is superb, the acting is top-notch, and the externalized representation of having the “devil inside you” makes for a great climax.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7906240/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

5. SOCKMONSTER (Written and Directed by Wesley Alley)

Wesley Alley’s ridiculously entertaining Horror short “SockMonster” is by far and away the most micro of the films on this year’s Top 10 list – clocking in at just 4 minutes. Technically the film came in at the very back-end of 2017 but I didn’t watch and review it until the beginning of this year, so it’s making the list. Anne (played by Step Up alumni Briana Evigan) is dealing with her grief by sitting on the floor of her laundry sipping away on a bottle and contemplating her own life. The cycle of washing concludes but she has no idea what awaits her on the other side of the door. The camera work is interesting, Briana plays it perfectly, Rob Reider’s mostly somber piano score is fitting, and the closing moments are truly shocking and fantastic. You’ll never look at your washing quite the same again!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6963860/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

4. WE SUMMONED A DEMON (Written and Directed by Chris McInroy)

“We Summoned A Demon” is a 6-minute Horror/Comedy short that comes courtesy of Chris McInroy. In similar over the top fashion to that of McInroy’s previous outings in “Death Metal” and “Bad Guy #2”, WSAD ensures that chaos ensues when two friends (played by Kirk C. Johnson and Carlos Larotta) summon a demon with the hopes of bartering for “cool points”. It’s well shot, the score is quirky, and the performances are a lot of fun. It all rests on the physical comedy which resonates firmly, and the special fx work is impressive for both the demon design and the copious amounts of blood splatter.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7285002/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

3. CATCALLS (Written and Directed by Kate Donlan) 

“Catcalls” is an 8-minute Horror/Thriller short from Ireland, Written and Directed by Kate Donlan. A man (played by Martin O’Sullivan) trolls the streets late one night looking to get a cheap thrill and decides to flash a couple of young women. It turns out to be a huge mistake, as he finds himself being hunted by someone or something. Piers McGrail’s gorgeous cinematography had me on board from the outset, with plenty of diverse techniques on display in the short run time. There’s nerve-jangling tension generated through Steve Lynch’s rising score, and the combination of practical and digital fx work makes for a wonderful conclusion.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7921128/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

2. ROUND TRIP (Written and Directed by Ren Thackham)

“Round Trip” is yet another homegrown short that truly impressed this year. It’s a 6-minute Action/Crime/Comedy set in the rural outback. The story revolves around a young Constable (played by Danny Bolt) and his unpredictable prisoner, Ned (Lee Priest). The pair gets lost on a lonely stretch of dirt road and they begin to experience something quite mysterious. Thackham’s narrative is superb and it’s begging to be further explored. Each of the performances is impressive, the cinematography is fantastic, and the edit is tight. One highlight is a wonderfully conceived car stunt, add to that the unpredictable direction Round Trip takes and you’ve got a truly memorable journey that you’ll want to take again and again.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7862806/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

 

1. HERE THERE BE MONSTERS (Written and Directed by Drew Macdonald)

Drew Macdonald backs up winning last years best short film (for Creeper) this time with the 14-minute Horror/Thriller short, “Here There Be Monsters”. Here There Be Monsters is another extraordinary Australian film about a tormented school girl named, Elki (played by Savannah Foran McDaniel), who falls asleep on a bus ride home and awakens to find herself fighting for survival against something that lurks in the shadows. Every aspect of Macdonald’s films is exceptionally polished. The shot choices help build the tension, the score and sound design are intense, and Steve Boyle’s creature design is as good as anything you’ll see in Hollywood. Topping it all off is young Savannah McDaniel’s performance. Here There Be Monsters is a thrill ride from start to finish and although any number of these shorts could challenge for number one, Drew’s remains the best film I saw in 2018.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8192236/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

AWARDS

Best Actor- Kirk C. Johnson (We Summoned A Demon)

Best Actress- Savannah McDaniel (Here There Be Monsters)

Best Supporting Actor- Lee Priest (Round Trip)

Best Supporting Actress- Kathryn Marquet (Post Mortem Mary)

Cinematography- Susan Lumsdon (Round Trip)

Sound Design- Erin McKimm (Here There Be Monsters)

Original Score- Benjamin Hudson (The Sermon)

Special FX-  Steve Boyle (Here There Be Monsters)