Fantastic Fest 2016 Review: Short Fuse Block Sparks Awe

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Fantastic Fest 2016 Review: Short Fuse Block Sparks Awe

Short films don't often get a lot of love --- or attention --- from the press. That's why I'm proud to cover the Short Fuse 2016 program from Fantastic Fest and programmer Peter Kuplowsky. Short Fuse held a lot of great surprises from all over the globe; within it I see the future of international indie horror.

The Stylist from Jill Gevargizian took home the Special Mention Award for Acting, and it's easy to see why; lead Najarra Townsend is a multifaceted villain. Even while she's doing very bad things to her clients, we feel her anguish in a poignant scene. Townsend is terrific in Gevargizian's standout shot.

Chris McInroy's hysterical Death Metal had the loudest and most positive response of all the shorts in the screening (first showing) I attended. A metal guitarist who's not real bright inherits a satanic guitar. He immediately goes about breaking every rule for owning said guitar, and gory, hilarious mayhem ensues. No one is safe, not even children --- or him.

Dawn of the Deaf by Rob Savage was a short I originally saw at Fantasia in the Small Gauge Trauma program. Here in Short Fuse, I wasn't looking forward to seeing it a second time, but I'm glad I did. While I'd sort of suspected the deaf actors of being a bit exploited, I feel differently now. The excellent production values, story, and acting won me over, and this film is ripe for a feature version. It seems that there's a "pulse" that effectively kills the population. But since the deaf can't hear it, they aren't effected --- until the dead rise up as zombies. Dawn of the Deaf is a new take on the zombie film that satisfies my hunger for fresh blood.

Curve from Tim Egan won Best Picture and Best Director for the the Short Fuse category. While it's technically very well-made, I'm not sure what the point of it is, unless it's to show how pointless life is... Or maybe that suicidal people really don't want to die after all? A woman awakes on a curved concrete... something. It appears that maybe she and some other person jumped from somewhere, but I'm not quite sure. The actress spends the entire film struggling to move and get into a better position --- until the rain has other plans for her. There's no dialog and the film borders on torture porn due to its close-ups on broken finger nails and limbs. Life is suffering, this nihilist film seems to tell us, and nothing else. 

They Will All Die in Space from Javier Chillon was shot in black and white. While that in itself isn't an issue, it seems off with the spaceship setting. The acting was inconsistent and the cliched score and horror music sound cues didn't help any.

I Want You Inside Me directed by Alice Shindelar is an impressive student film that explores what happens when a college girl experiences the big O --- much to the detriment of her male companions. It's bizarre but the payoff is fun to watch via the great special effects.

Overtime from Craig D. Foster also received a Special Mention Award within the Short Fuse block. It's an awesome new take on the werewolf story. An accountant must leave work by a certain time, but his co-workers thwart him at every turn --- until it's too late. The film is nicely shot and edited; many foreign films blow US films out of the water due to government funding and support. This is one of them.

When Sussurus Stirs by Anthony Cousins is not for those with weak stomachs. It follows a man who's host to a parasite with plans to take over the human race. A real gross-out work in the veins of Street Trash

90 Degrees North by Detsky Graffam was too long for me at 21 minutes, but it's another well-made film. A malevolent traffic island in the middle of nowhere plays a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the unfortunates stuck on it. This horror comedy plays on the German adherence to rules and the perception of the austere efficiency of that culture. 

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