Who likes short shorts? If you’re referring to the cinema format, Vienna come late September is a good answer. At the Filmcasino, a sizable crowd gathered on Monday evening to sample the second round of the Slash Film Festival’s international short film competition. ScreenAnarchy was there to get in on the fun but with Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix, the lineup got off to a uneven start.
Jennifer Proctor’s almost wordless short takes aim at how deeply sexism is ingrained in our culture by chronicling many a filmmaker’s voyeuristic portrayal of women taking a bath. Proctor’s collage crosscuts clips taken from various popular films (including Pretty Woman and The Virgin Suicides but also The Shining, My Week with Marilyn and many more) to question how the female form is put on display as a private space is invaded for the purpose of our entertainment.
Her approach is admirable in terms of research and certainly distinct enough as a masterclass in editing, but doesn’t extend much beyond giving rise to the realization that the sheer quantity of bathing scenes must be a result of profitability, which is in turn telling of our society’s objectifying, all-too-commonly gratuitous treatment of women. That we sort of knew this all along is the real horror.
There is no revelation here but, recut into a long sequence, even the most uncritical viewer becomes suspicious of the purpose these images tend to serve when viewed in isolation. And yet, there is a risk involved in lumping films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Teeth in with the others. Bathtub scenes are taken out of context here and Proctor seems to underestimate the feminist intent of Wes Craven and Mitchell Lichtenstein.
The second short on offer tells the story of a babysitter who ends up with some very weird folk and soon finds herself in trouble. Sound familiar? Conventionally titled The Babysitter, Frédéric Chalté’s slice leans heavy on eighties nostalgia and makes the most of Victor Pitoiset’s synth-led score. There is a twist involving a video clerk but clocking in at 18 minutes The Babysitter is far too slight to entertain.
Next up was Mike’s, a switcheroo short by Austrian director Lukas Leitner. In it, two cops exhibit poor timing, inadvertently interfering with the aftermath of a robbery gone wrong. There is some welcome humor geared toward German-Austrian friction and Leitner possesses a feel for pacing. Not rich on subtext and feeling overfamiliar with a twist you saw coming the execution is nonetheless satisfactory. On the whole, Mike’s is a fun watch you will likely forget; a calling card from a competent filmmaker who is yet to find his own fingerprint.
Midway through the shorts program things kicked into high gear courtesy of Kim Geon’s Special Agent. The South-Korean talent behind the masterfully executed sci-fi actioner Keep Going proves he hasn’t lost his touch. No robots this time around and also no tugging at the heartstrings but production values are through the roof in an elegantly shot action romp that sees a rookie cop and a gruff, MIB-like special op hunt down a monster in a cargo port. The car chase is a highlight in a short that plays as a proof of concept for a TV-series. Disappointingly, you’ve seen it all before.
The Plague (pictured above) does feature a welcome twist although it feels like a shame to give it away. Let’s say all is not as it seems in a short that opens with an old, disoriented man breaking into his daughter’s house before a group of armed men burst through the front door in search of dad. Guillermo Carbonell’s work is very solid from a technical perspective and the final shot fascinates. It leaves you wanting more by hinting at a larger world but also frustrates due to its lack of context.
The second round of the short film competition needed a boost and smartly the programmers of Slash saved the best for last.
Hope, the penultimate short, hailed all the way from Norway and came out swinging. A voiceover paints a picture of a post-outbreak world in which the dead are no longer contained by the grave, but writer-director Adam Losurdo immediately challenges our preconceptions. Shuffling though they may be these ghouls are not out for brains. And yet they can’t catch a break either.
The overall tone is humorous but also critical of mankind’s missteps. Cruelty breeds cruelty and we will always be the agent of our own demise. And so, when callous kids make light of a zombie’s plight and use him as their punching bag what goes around must come around. Just when you thought the zombie subgenre was dead there’s Hope.
Sending the audience off with a huge grin was Holy F_ _k, an exorcism sex comedy that offers sweet release. In Chris Chalklen’s UK short the interactions of a priest and demon are staged like an encounter between a prostitute and a john (the demon being the latter in this analogy). The demon has requested his own exorcism because he finds himself stuck in the body of a morbidly obese man. Holy F_ _k is one-note but brevity is key to its greatness. The demon yearns to feel the love of Christ and the Father has to pull out all the stops, proving he’s still got it in him to deliver the goods.
A creative concept, perfectly executed? That is how Slash climaxed.