Serial killers, satanic rituals, and "an exasperated amphibious creature recalling the adventure that led him to a sushi restaurant chopping block" are featured in the first three short films announced for Fantastic Fest 2013 -- and there are more than three dozen more in the lineup.
A quick scan reveals Masaaki Yuasa's "candy-colored" animated wrestling film Kick-Heart will be playing, too, which is the one I've heard the most about, but the real fun in the shorts programming is hearing about the ones that emerge as "must-sees," which then often leads to the discovery of delightfully bent visions. Also cool: Kier-La Janisse is now the festival's lead shorts programmer, which raises interest even higher. Her brief bio is below:
Fantastic Fest is wildly excited that longtime festival comrade KIER-LA JANISSE is now our lead shorts programmer. Kier-la created the notorious CineMuerte Film Festival in Canada, and was the first full-time film programmer for the Alamo back in the "wild west" days. She has since gone on to countless careers including film producer, theater owner, documentary subject, film journalist, and author of House of Psychotic Women, which had its own FF film sidebar in 2012. Her shorts programs this year represent her visionary tastes and superhuman viewing abilities.
GUILT (Lithuania, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Reda Bartkute, 6 min
In this promising debut from Lithuanian animator Reda Bartkute, a nervous female fox retreats into the shifting landscape of her subconscious to face a shadowy doppelganger.
HERE BE MONSTERS (New Zealand, 2013)
Director - Paul Glub & Nic Gorman, 15 min
In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, an infected soldier is sent home to spend his last hours with his wife and estranged daughter. Amidst reconciliations and toasts, all are aware that time is running out fast. The assured directorial debut of visual FX producer Paul Glubb (THE HOBBIT; DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK).
A HOUSE, A HOME (USA, 2012)
Director - Daniel Fickle, 7 mins
Bearing the fantastical shades of Joe Massot's WONDERWALL, Daniel Fickle's music video for Alialujah Choir's "A House, A Home" explores the secret lives of two adolescents who live in small, antiquated rooms connected by underground tunnels. Inspired by a heartbreaking true story.
JACK ATTACK (USA, 2013)
Director - Antonio Padovan & Bryan Norton, 9 min
"Do pumpkins feel pain?" Helen Rogers of V/H/S and 24 EXPOSURES stars as a babysitter who learns the answer the hard way in this soon-to-be Halloween classic.
KICK-HEART (Japan, 2013)
Director - Masaaki Yuasa, 13 min
The latest from anime outlaw Masaaki Yuasa (MIND GAME) is a candy-colored story of secret obsession: professional wrestler Maskman M derives masochistic pleasure from being pummelled by his Amazonian opponent Lady S, who clearly reciprocates in savouring their violent public trysts. But do they have a chance in the real world?
THE LAST VIDEO STORE (Canada, 2013)
Director - Cody Kennedy & Tim Rutherford, 10 min
The crew behind Edmonton's DEDFest and cult video store The Lobby bring you this histrionic tidal wave of VHS nostalgia, featuring robots, evil corporations, a killer theme song and guest-FX by Astron-6's Steve Kostanski.
LIVING STILL LIFE (France, 2012)
Director - Bertrand Mandico, 15 min
Actress Elina Löwensohn (best known from Hal Hartley's SIMPLE MEN and AMATEUR) continues her collaboration with French director Bertrand Mandico (BORO IN THE BOX) as an isolated woman who brings dead things back to life in unusual ways.
MANIFOLD (Canada, 2013)
Director - Anthony Scott Burns, 10 min
Canuck character vet Stephen McHattie stars as a country sheriff investigating what appears to be a mass suicide, while miles away a computer tech developing a complex facial recognition program stumbles upon his own connection to the bizarre mystery. The latest from filmmaker and visual FX whiz Anthony Scott Burns, MANIFOLD has already been optioned for development as a feature.
MEMORABLE ME (Canada, 2013)
Director - Jean-François Asselin, 15 min
In this savvy commentary on the narcissistic pull of social media platforms, a self-obsessed man is convinced that he will cease to exist unless someone is thinking about him at all times, causing him to stoop to the lowest levels of unethical and debasing behaviour to satiate his need for constant attention.
MISTERIO (Spain, 2013)
Director - Chema García Ibarra, 12 min
A deadpan black comedy from the director of Fantastic Fest favorite ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS OF NEBULA 5 about an alienated Spanish housewife who gets a secret message from The Virgin that will change her life forever.
MUNCHAUSEN (USA, 2013)
Director - Ari Aster, 15 min
A clingy mother (Bonnie Bedelia of THE STRANGE VENGEANCE OF ROSALIE and DIE HARD) goes to extreme lengths to prevent her son from going off to college. The latest from the prolific director of the disturbing THE STRANGE THING ABOUT THE JOHNSONS.
MY PAIN IS WORSE THAN YOUR PAIN (USA, 2013)
Director - Adam Hall, 17 min
Based on the short story by T.C Boyle, Adam Hall's short film about the ostracization of a desperate man (Clark Middleton, SIN CITY; KILL BILL VOL. 2) following his professed obsession with a female neighbour explores the subjective toll of daily humiliation.
THE NATURALIST (USA, 2013)
Director - Connor Hurley, 15 min
What if you could take a drug to change your orientation? In a future where only the genetically modified thrive, one man is faced with a horrible decision. One of the most poignant and disturbing bits of dystopian sci-fi we've seen this year.
NINJA ELIMINATOR III (Canada, 2013)
Directors - François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell, 4 min
The latest gonzo short from Canadian collective Roadkill Superstar, (whose TURBO KID feature is about to head into production) this mock-trailer delivers everything you could want in a long-lost Godfrey Ho flick, including the obligatory "Ninja" headbands and boobs that turn into cats.
PERFECT DRUG (Belguim, 2012)
Director - Toon Aerts, 14 min
After a bungled burglary, a gang of hoods sit in a parked car waiting to hand off their loot - a suitcase full of neon test tubes - to a merciless crime boss. But when one of them dives into the stash, psychedelic ultraviolent mayhem ensues. Pure body-swapping anarchy with ice cream and pickles.
RAW DATA (USA, 2013)
Director - Jake Fried, 1 min
Jake Fried's mythologically charged hand-drawn animations made with white-out, gouache and coffee have won the attention of arthounds from PBS to Juxtapoz with their kinetically layered one-minute mania.
RETROCOGNITION (USA, 2012)
Director - Eric Patrick, 18 min
A brilliant and disturbing pastiche of melodramatic 1940s radio dramas, former Texan Eric Patrick's distorted domestic characters - with their cracked faces and murderous longings - offer an uncanny underside to the idyllic nuclear family.
THE SAD HOUSE (Mexico, 2013)
Director - Sofia Catalina Carrillo Ramírez, 13 min
Fantastic Fest Alumna Sofia Carrillo (BLACK DOLL) returns with her most ambitious stop-motion film yet: the epic history of a family beset upon by war, illness and death, told with antiquated trinkets on a single dilapidated desktop.
S/ASH (USA, 2013)
Director - Clay Liford, 9 min
A 13-year-old boy (Arthur Dale of GROW UP TONY PHILLIPS, whose director Emily Hagins also makes a cameo here) writes erotic Harry Potter fan fiction, leading to an awkwardly hilarious confrontation at the local Comicon.
SLEEP CLINIC (New Zealand, 2013)
North American Premiere
Directors - Frances Haszard, Luke Scott & Louis Olsen, 7 min
This WTF animated short made for New Zealand's 48Hrs Furious Fimmaking Challenge spends six mind-melting minutes entrenched in the desperate delusions of an insomniac. The most essential psychiatric fantasy musical since ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER.
THE SLEEPING PLOT (New Zealand, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Dean Hewison, 5 min
A little girl thinks of mischievous ways to save up money for an object she desperately desires. Winner of New Zealand's 2013 48Hrs Furious Filmmaking competition.
SKOM (France, 2012)
Director - Christophe Deroo, 8 min
In this Lovecraftian throwback to the pulpy pleasures of vintage horror comics, two kids stumble upon their school janitor's ghastly plan to get rid of his domineering mother.
SULFURIC (USA, 2013)
Director - Jeff Brown, 9 min
A woman returns from vacation to find her roommate comatose and a pulsating organic substance in the bathroom wastebasket. A taut exercise in urban gothic dread.
SWEET RABBIT (Netherlands, 2012)
North American Premiere
Director - Camille Schouwenaar, 14 min
Based on the book by Dutch children's writer Imme Dros, a middle-aged housewife is seized by anxiety when she starts to grow rabbit ears and finds the community unsympathetic to her predicament.
THE VEHICLE (Canada, 2012)
Director - O. Corbin Saleken, 11 min
A woman is accosted by a man who claims to be carrying an important message for her from the future. A captivating character piece propelled by two quietly breathtaking performances.
WE, THE MASSES (Ireland, 2011)
Director - Eoghan Kidney, 13 min
In a snowy landscape after an unnamed cataclysmic event, a lost man looks for signs of civilization, falling in with an anarchic smattering of humanoids whose destructive impulses are at odds with his need for transcendence. Based on drawings by artist Robyn O'Neil, this fourth short from former member of Irish animation collective Delicious 9 Eoghan Kidney is a disquieting journey through the machinations of social trauma.
WHISPERS (USA, 2013)
Director - Max Isaacson, 7 min
Convinced that the rats rampant in his home are trying to infest his body, a man slowly goes insane in a dank basement, surrounding himself with bloody trophies.
WITCH (USA, 2013)
Directors - Americo Siller &Tyler Major, 7 min
In their directorial debut, Austin's own Tyler Mager and Americo Siller turn in a surreal and grotesque story of a couple in the middle of a public breakup who realize too late that they have their hearts on the line in more ways than one.
WOMAN WHO HATES PLANTS (USA, 2013)
Director - Morgan Miller, 1 min
This woman really doesn't like plants.
YELLOW (Germany, United Kingdom, 2012)
Directors - Ryan Haysom & Jon Britt, 26 min
Haysom and Britt's ultra-stylized, synth-fueled neo-giallo blends the subjective impulses and misanthropy of Gerald Kargl's ANGST with the trappings of the Italian murder mystery: whispered threats, catholic retribution, cartographic obsession, black gloves, straight razors and the obligatory J&B Whiskey. A mood piece that never strays from its influences while simultaneously offering an unexpected twist on the genre.
YOU ARE HERE (Canada, 2012)
Director - Leslie Supnet, 3 min
Inspired by the work and tragic murder of animator Helen Hill, Leslie Supnet's YOU ARE HERE is a lovely ode to surviving connections beyond the grave.
ZIEGENORT (Poland, 2013)
Director - Tomasz Popakul, 19 min
A fishboy living in a coastal village resorts to shocking behavior when shunned by his peers. Making great use of manufactured chiaroscuro lighting and striking color flourishes, this award-winning short is a dramatic slice of teen angst at its most nightmarish.