Fantasia 2020 Review: SMALL GAUGE TRAUMA Shorts Program
Fantasia 2020 Review: SMALL GAUGE TRAUMA
[Still from Who Goes There.]
Ever since I began attending Fantasia in 2005, I've looked forward to the Small Gauge Trauma shorts program. which is always filled with devious, cutting, creative, weird, quease-inducing, and shocking moments.
Smash cut to 15 years later, and we're in 2020. This year's crop of short films from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Serbia, and France is a particularly strong batch, which swing from funny to fantasy, from weird to wild, from fearsome to fatal. You can read a bit more on each film in the program at Fantasia's site here.
Oh Deer (USA, 5 min., Dir. Richard Jones)
Short and sweet; or as sweet as a film about death can be. This short has a poetic, almost whimsical tone and may make you smile in spite of the onscreen carnage. Really well done; I’d love to see more from Jones.
Mr Thisforthat (USA, 13 min., Dir, Thomas Mendolia)
A USC student film with a classic undercurrent of “The Monkey’s Paw,” this short stars a little girl who just wants her broken family back together again. Of course, nothing ends the way she intended. Great direction, deep focus, acting, and basically, mise-en-scène.
Milk Teeth (USA, 13 min., Dir. Felipe Vargas)
The second USC student film in this program, Milk Teeth blew me away with its del Toro-esque… everything. Not only is it a period piece at a boy’s orphanage, there’s a gruesome tooth fairy monster that both gives and takes away. Incredible production and art design, direction, creature effects, and cinematography. Vargas is exceptionally talented and I expect to hear a whole lot more from and about him in the future.
The Little One (Serbia, 14 min., Dir. Danilo Beckovic)
A zombie outbreak happens, but a teen is sexting, listening to music, and is oblivious to it all. It’s exactly that, with three minutes of credits and a drone shot at the end. Kinda fun, definitely kinda ambitious, but I'd have preferred some character development and a more in-depth story.
The Fourth Wall (France, 11 min., Dir. Kelsey Bollig)
Actors can terrible to each other, but during one night’s performance in Paris, things get especially heated. Verbal tongue lashings, interrupted sex, and bleeding coke noses devolve into carnage — and the audience eats it up. Directed with confidence and style, Bollig delivers a vicious, yet fun short that makes an impact.
Nightingale (Netherlands, 15 min., Dir. Jasper De Bruin)
Simply put, a nurse with a bad case of Jekyll & Hyde preys on the weak in a hospital. Well made and atmospheric.
Changeling (UK, 9 min., Dir. Faye Jackson)
The second of Jackson’s films (the other being Snowflakes in the Born of Woman program) in Fantasia this year, Changeling does not offer any answers, only folklore fever dream imaginings. However, that’s not to say that this short is in any way not worthy. Like a good mystery, you may want to return to this one again and again to try to solve it. Intriguing and weird as hell.
Who Goes There (UK, 24 min, Dir. Astrid Thorvaldsen)
This horror-Western short is particularly accomplished with great acting, production design, lighting and coloring, and builds a great sense of suspense. A woman comes across a dying man on her land, but is hesitant to help him, as she has two sisters to protect, one of which is quite sick from consumption. Because he's a doctor (or at least he says he is), she gives him some water. In return, he treats her dying sister --- but nothing goes as planned. I'd love to see this short turned into feature with the same team (both cast and crew); there's some magic here, and the world should see more from Astrid Thorvaldsen.
The Green Sea (USA, 29 min, Dir. Steven Alexander Robbins)
The third USC film in this block (wow), I wasn't sure what to think of at The Green Sea first. The pace is quite slow and the voiceover weighed things down for me, but then it picks up a bit when the father of a poor family in Iowa starts acting terribly to his wife and children. The wife in particular chooses not to fight back... but the children do. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that you may be shocked by what you see. A dedication to Iowa farmers seems out of place and this short could be tightened, but it's still an effective piece of filmmaking.