DIFF 2011 Review: A Look at the Midnight Shorts Selection

Damon Swindall

by: Damon Swindall
April 11th, 2011

Chloë Sevigny in ALL FLOWERS IN TIME

Short films are always something fun to me. They are also like finding treasure at times since they rarely get any kind of play outside the festival circuit. If you’re lucky enough to attend a film festival you owe it to yourself to see any short films that you can. Here you will see, possibly, the next wave of filmmakers tell you a story in only around ten minutes (give or take).

Of course the most fun programs are always the late night Midnight Shorts where you see the darker, crazier side of filmmaking. I was a little apprehensive after last year’s rather lame oddball short program at DIFF, but they really nailed it with each of the six tales of depravity, hilarity and just plain insanity.

First up is from director of the non-traditional documentary TARNATION (2003), Jonathan Caouette, and it follows the same acid-trip/fever dream pattern that made his tale so unique in the first place. In ALL FLOWERS IN TIME we see a Dutch television program that possesses the young viewers leaving them with glowing red eyes. They are no longer themselves and can transform into hideous, or hilarious, monsters. The story is told in fragments of reality mixed with all the things you would find in your worst nightmares. A feeling that you know something is wrong and you are not in the right place but you can’t quite get out. This probably isn’t the type of short film for everyone but it really works for me. It doesn’t hurt that the lovely Chloë Sevigny stars. A very strong start for the program!

Next up is a dark little tale from Australia by the name of COLD SORE. In this a young girl named Jenna (Saskia Burmeister) meets a guy at a party who, after making out for a while, can’t go home with her, but the next morning a piece of him is there in the form of a cold sore on her lip. Matt Bird’s short film has a very dark humorous air about it but there are a couple of tonal shifts making it quite interesting, especially once her results from the doctor’s office come back. Guaranteed, you will never look at a cold sore the same way again.

By short number three it was time to bring the laughs – and SASQUATCH BIRTH JOURNAL 2 does the trick. This short gives you four minutes of exactly what the title says and it’s damn funny. My only problem with it is, that even at a scant four minutes, it feels like the joke goes on a little too long. I wonder how this will translate into their next project – a longer version (around 23 minutes) called SASQUATCH BIRTH JOURNAL 1.

THE PACT gets back to the more serious and creepy side of the Midnight Shorts. This brief film deals with a brother and sister in their recently deceased mother’s house, going through things and finding her spirit might still be hanging around. This is a very creepy short that builds a large amount of atmosphere for being only eleven minutes long. The biggest problem I have with it is I want to see more! The story just kind of ends and while it does make sense I would love to know more. On the plus side, I spoke with director Nicholas McCarthy afterward and he said they are working on funding and a script for a feature version of the story. He showed he knows what he’s doing in the brief glimpse into terror I would love to see what he could do with an expanded story and budget. Fingers crossed.

The only animated short in the late show is a video game fueled bit of madness by the name of 8 BITS. This story is straight from a classic video game – bad guys capture woman so the hero must save her before it’s too late. The graphics switch from 3D animation to a flatter 2D style during battles and mimics the look of an old side scrolling game. It looks great a will leave a smile on any NES fan’s face but at times things move so fast, and darkly, that it’s hard to tell what exactly is happening.

Kids around a campfire in THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM

They definitely saved the best for last. I saw THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM at Fantastic Fest back in September and have been dying to see it again since. This is a tale concerning a group of campers who find out how real some of those campfire ghost stories can be. This is, without a doubt, one of the most fun, imaginative horror shorts I’ve ever seen. I really cannot say enough nice things. Hopefully someday this will get a release on a home format of some kind so I can watch it over and over again. If they put the twelve-minute short on a DVD with no extras whatsoever and charged $30, I’d still gladly fork over my money. Viva Stumpy Sam!

All in all a very strong program this year at DIFF. Head to the links below and see trailers, info, photos and, in some cases, the entire short!

ALL FLOWERS IN TIME - Dir . Jonathan Caouette

COLD SORE - Dir. Matt Bird

SASQUATCH BIRTH JOURNAL 2 - Dir. David Zellner & Nathan Zellner

THE PACT - Dir. Nicholas McCarthy

8 BITS - Dir. Valere Amirault, Jean Delaunay, Sarah Laufer & Benjamin Mattern

THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM - Dir. Jerome Sable

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