Being the horror-driven fans that we are, we’re fully aware of the potential terrors capable of turning a sound mind into a haunted graveyard. Filmmakers across the globe have tackled the content of our daytime anxieties turned nightly insomnias in variety and style.
The 2020 Final Girls Berlin Film Festival features a series of short film blocks dedicated to a list of topical themes, with the Graveyard Shift group being of the more eclectic context. Outward substance meets internal fears when it comes to each of the block’s six quality contemporary tales. I hope you’re pulling the late shift because these shorts are bound to keep you up at night.
Neurotica Episode 1: Eureka!
An idea can be a bright one or it can be a bad one. Director Laura Moss’ expands on one woman’s struggle to follow through on carrying out her great idea as her inner self doubt manifests to move her along. Moss’ Neurotica is “A comedic sci-fi anthology series exploring personal anxieties” when “a chronic procrastinator, Karen Gillan (Oculus), meets an otherworldly being responsible for giving humanity its great ideas.” Stacked with a talented cast including Jon Bass (Molly’s Game), David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), and Jillian Bell (Goosebumps), Neurotica Episode 1: Eureka! is an interesting portrait of anxiety and is sure to be relatable for anyone who fears criticism and has difficulty putting themselves out there. The 20-minute short is both playful and dark, working a quirky, oddball humor with witty dialogue to the advantage of its entertaining actors. Moss fully understands that for some “okay” is enough… for others, it’s the end of the world. It is, dare I say, a brilliant idea of equal execution added to the Graveyard Shift lineup.
The Vampire of Soho
1980’s London. It really doesn’t get much more punk than that. Writer and director Andy Edwards utilizes a perfect hardcore setting to emphasize a 7-minute narrative with sex, drugs, and rock and roll at its core. A young woman meets with a friend to discuss her latest infatuation with a local goth-glam fanged frontman. As a “a short film prequel to the feature film, The Vampires Of Soho.” This short “tells the story of Mel, an idealistic young girl who falls in with a bad crowd – vampires.” Playing with rebellion and conformity, Edwards explores the effects of being consumed by the love one may have for another in The Vampire of Soho. This Graveyard Shift short exudes bloody good vibes and style. Love can chew you up and spit you out. Infatuation will bleed you dry.
“The way of the mind is the detour,” opens writer and director Nicole Scherer’s intense 11-minute short. The plot is simple enough: “On their way up to a mountain cabin Sarah and Thomas run into a dense mist and seem to go astray in the dangerous altitudes. In search of the cabin they encounter increasingly strange events.” As the two travel high up a mountainside wilderness their direction begins to take unexpected turns, distorting their perceptions in a grave way. Altitude is a unique “Graveyard Shift” experience as you can actually feel yourself lost in the atmosphere. The alternating points of view and aerial shots support an isolated dread that builds minute to minute. Emotions of exhaustion and panic set an ominous tone powered by an impressive score. Altitude successfully crosses emotion with setting, delivering a single high note of woodland terror. Sometimes what we want to do and what we actually do, don’t coincide. Sometimes they do and the results go… downhill.
Religion and horror easily mix. Religion and agency, on the other hand, are a more complex combination. Barbara Como uses her 14-minute short, Infernal Requiem, to efficiently compact a narrative that could fit comfortably within the Waniverse. The horror begins when “Alice arrives at an old hostel in Rome to meet her childhood friend Nicole. When she arrives at the hostel, Alice begins to have unexplained illnesses and strange visions, including the ghost of an old nun. Terrifying secrets hidden by time between the ancient walls, will reveal the true nature of the place.” Como does not shy away from controversial subjects or imagery, but instead challenges the stigma of personal choice against those of a more formal faith in her “Graveyard Shift” piece. Purity is stacked against sin to draw out mystery and intention. The scenes are kissed with a slight tint of red and shot with an intriguing contrast of fluorescent and natural lighting. Infernal Requiem is dramatic, daring, and bold, all the qualities a frightening statement piece should possess.
Based on an idea by Mia Puig, Cris Gambín’s Zombiosis is an 8-minute short about a couple’s blissful love story gone horrifically wrong (or right, depending on your angle). While we all hope to never sit back and watch the downward spiral of a loved one, the effects are hard to avoid if we get too close. This short feeds off of the beautifully grim notion, “When you live with death, it’s easier to lose your head than to keep the faith.” Gambín’s co-director, Toni Pinel, uses sepia and blue colored filtering to move through the timeline bringing an eye-catching contrast to Zombiosis’ bloody visuals. Significant alternative angles keep the scenes both focused and disorienting. Sex and gore come together in triumphant synchronicity that could be outrageous over tasteful if it were in less careful hands. I would never think that a Puccini composition would mix so well with a flesh feast, but it does. The tragedy within this “Graveyard Shift” story is gut-punch gruesome and sadly horrifying, a true chef’s kiss.
Girl in the Shed
A floral scrapbook style template has never looked so sinister like it does in Sophie Ansell’s Girl In The Shed. This enchanted 6-minute “Graveyard Shift” short places an off-putting skeleton in the middle of feminine, childlike whimsy. As a young woman plays pretend amongst her trinkets, a few odd belongings, in her lovely hideaway, the skeleton that she hides in her closet wants nothing more than her full attention. This story of a lonely girl is described as “a darkly comedic fairytale exploring modern themes of anxiety and FOMO“, but there is so much more to consume visually and metaphorically. Melodically morbid, Ansell channels a tremendous amount of nuance into such a short amount of time. A simple skeleton has never been so strangely engaging.
“The extremely skilled women that produced these segments have all crafted valuable and enjoyable treatments of the elements that haunt us mentally and physically.”
Whether its writer’s block, social anxieties, or worrying about the well being of others, there is plenty to keep the human mind awake through the night. The extremely skilled women that produced these segments have all crafted valuable and enjoyable treatments of the elements that haunt us mentally and physically. With so much meaning jammed into a limited runtime, the things that go bump-in-the night have never looked so good. The “Graveyard Shift” segment of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival buries expectations and carves genre relevancy into the tombstones of short storytelling.
Have you been following the short film blocks of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival? What do you think of the “Graveyard Shift” shorts block? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!