FILM REVIEW: AUSTRALIAN HORROR SHORTS (FINAL GIRLS BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL)
Just as ‘Women In Horror Month’ month begins, the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival is back for another year. Once again the festival has lifted up horror written, directed or produced by women with a killer line up of films and shorts. Also on the program were some awesome talks by academics that make we wish I could have attended the festival in person.
However, I live in Sydney and not Berlin so I have once again chosen to cover the Australian short films from the festival, and what fantastic shorts they were. I feel privileged to share my thoughts on FGBFF 2019:
ASIAN GIRLS is a 2017 short film written and directed by Hyun Lee, who uses her photography skills to bring us a surreal and beautifully strange experience. With its eerie lingering shots the film is dreamlike, although it will make you scared to fall asleep.
Chan (Rainbow Chan) and Yamada (Stella Leung) live opposite each other in an apartment building. Being quite opposite in a lot of ways, the women hardly speak to each other. But at night it is a different story as Yamada haunts Chan through her nightmares.
The film takes a very minimalist approach while still being full of enough elements to be terrifying. We get some very minimally furbished apartments and we watch the women do daily tasks; relax, work, cook and eat -with a special emphasis on eating. Making this act disturbing is a very effective way of unsettling your audience. You will definitely lose whatever appetite you have after watching ASIAN GIRLS.
ASIAN GIRLS makes use of elements and imagery common to Asian horror cinema- long black hair, black dyed Ohaguro style teeth and themes of choking to name a few. The film is just so creepy in both a supernatural and physical way, while bringing in themes of sleep paralysis which is terrifying in and of itself.
Asian girls is special in that it has no dialogue; in fact this makes it so much more frightening as we have no explanations for each woman’s ghastly actions, apart from what we can infer. The short is an excellent example of how an ambiguous ending can keep you thinking about it long after it ends and I can’t get this fantastic short out of my head.
“ASIAN GIRLS is dreamlike, although it will make you scared to fall asleep.”
5 Tombstones out of 5…
THE BODY CORPORATE
Jennifer (Anna Della Rocca) is just trying to do her job and hold a sales meeting. Her leery boss Douglas (John Brumpton) and complacent co-worker Anne (Kiloran Hiscock) won’t take her seriously on the basis of “casual Friday.” After being patronized and groped, Jennifer has had enough of how the company treats its workers.
THE BODY CORPORATE is a film with a twist I never saw coming, so I don’t want to say too much. I will say that it is a biting way to broach the subject of the microaggressions and sexual harassment that goes on when a job encourages male entitlement to the female body. As it turns out, when a company literally does own your body, the results are gruesome and gory.
From the Hawaiian shirts to the obsession with hotdogs and ridiculous dancing, THE BODY CORPORATE is as funny a horror film can possibly get. Its particular brand of gonzo humour reminding me of Aussie cult horror hit BODY MELT.
The 3 piece ensemble that makes up THE BODY CORPORATE cast are a talented bunch of actors. John Brumpton is a major asset for the horror genre (most notably in THE LOVED ONES) and great at playing quirky comedic roles. The standout role goes to Anna Della Roca who garners much sympathy as the frustrated Jennifer while also pulling off some great physical comedy. Kiloran Hiscock delivers some memorable dialogue as well.
I can’t wait to see what Cervinkova comes up with next if she continues to bring this satirical feminism to the table.
“THE BODY CORPORATE is as funny a horror comedy can possibly get.”
4 Tombstones out of 5…
DEVIL WOMAN is a 2018 short written and directed by Heidi Lee Douglas. Its an Australian take on the classic werewolf story, with an environmental message. The film marks another entry in the growing sub-genre of eco-horror.
Eddie (Marigold Pazar) and her two friends are camped out and staging a protest against a local logging company. Whilst trying to prove that the land is inhabited by some Tasmanian Devils, she is bitten by one. Eddie starts to change just as the protesters look like they are about to be removed by force.
If you don’t know what a Tasmanian Devil is; they are small carnivorous mammals who get their name from how they fight over food. Despite their ferocious nature they are actually super adorable. The animals in DEVIL WOMAN are infected, referencing the real life issue of contagious facial tumors which have been decimating the population. Because of this, the Tasmanian Devil is now an endangered species.
Devil woman assaults your ears with a chainsaw in the opening scene. It’s poignant seeing as destroying forests is an assault on the animals who call them home. It uses a mixture of found footage and traditional filming. While this does gets your attention, it makes the film quite choppy. I much preferred the traditional shots especially the ones highlighting the effects of deforestation.
It’s a competently written and acted short, with Marigold Pazar giving it her all as the feral devil woman. Though the lower budget shows, DEVIL WOMAN is still a more than decent film with an important agenda. I’m glad it’s being shown at an international festival such as Final Girls Berlin Film Festival so that the message about animal conservation can spread.
“DEVIL WOMAN is a more than decent film with an important agenda”
3 Tombstones out of 5…
COLONY is a 2018 sci-fi horror short written and directed by Catherine Bonny. Set in the future but very reminiscent of colonial Australia, the film uses the red clay Australian landscape as an alien planet.
Rhian (Emma Burnside) and her sister Seren (Alicia Hellingman) are part of a new colony on a new planet. They are abused by the guards and Seren is getting sicker without the hope of any medicine. Meanwhile, an alien voice calls to Rhian from the sea, promising a way out of her desperate situation.
I loved the world that was built in COLONY. It didn’t try to over complicate things with a wider context, which I think is the best way to do sci-fi. The script really stands out too, clear dialogue and some really poetic opening and closing monologues. The emotional dialogue sets COLONY apart from other sci-fi horror shorts and elicits a lot from the viewer in the short time. The writing was used to its full effect with a cast of great actors giving great performances.
COLONY ended up being a feature with a very unique creature. Showcasing extremely cool effects and prosthetics from female effects artist Stephanie Elkington. The offending water creature however is not the real monster, as there is plenty terrible about the human characters. This film really explores life in a new settlement where society’s rules are thrown to the wind without a government to take responsibility.
The instant connection between this future events and the story of the first fleet arriving in a strange land is not by coincidence. It’s a very effective way of making you think of the past as you get a glimpse of the future. COLONY was a great addition to The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.
“The writing in COLONY was used to its full effect with a cast of great actors giving great performances.”
4 1/2 Tombstones out of 5…
THE STARE is a 2018 short directed by Louisa Weichmann. A psychological thriller in the literal sense; the film takes us into our inner psyches and the horrors that haunt our memories.
Christine (Tehya Nicholas) rides the train home late at night where she tries not to make eye contact with anybody. As the carriage empties she can no longer ignore the bedraggled homeless man staring at her. His unblinking gaze conjures up terrifying events from her childhood as she tries to escape the train and her past.
THE STARE is a surreal film which almost makes its setting in a kind of alternate universe. Perhaps it’s the feeling of nostalgia it creates with its use of muted, almost sepia tones and an old school Melbourne train carriage. Pair that with the demonic sounding station announcer and this short would be well at home as an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Despite the otherworldly atmosphere, THE STARE brings us some harsh truths about reality. It uses horror to show how domestic violence can absolutely break a family and have lifelong psychological effects on children. The film explores how trauma can follow us wherever we go and be triggered at any moment.
I thought THE STARE was an awesome short and that it did so much with its simple premise. It had a fresh and thought provoking way of storytelling. As far as its horror elements, it masterfully builds up tension by focusing on each passenger as they exit the train, making the audience count down the minutes to something terrible happening with a fair amount of dread. The claustrophobia of the carriage is palpable and it really plays on that sense of unease we all feel traveling alone at night.
“THE STARE is a fresh and thought provoking way of storytelling.”
4 Tombstones out of 5…