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A Short Film: The Nest (NSFW)

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thenest_cronenberg2-428x285The idea seemed so simple at first. It’s Canada Day today and what better way to honour the Canadian horror master on a prolific fright site than to celebrate a new short that has come from the genius. Yes, the plan was so simple. To watch new short The Nest and then write a few words on its daring, evocative work and proclaim, loudly, that David Cronenberg is indeed the best director out there…again. And then I watched The Nest. To give you a clue to how I reacted, it’s three a clock in the morning and I cannot sleep.

The Nest is such a simple story though; a woman believes that there is a wasp nest in her left breast  and a man talks her through amputating it away. What Cronenberg offers is not a guttural amount of disgust, raging bile for his visual theatrics that made The Fly and Videodrome so goddamn good. Instead, in a similar tonal shift to Cosmopolis, he strips back the horrific imagery and concentrates on one haunting one that will get under your skin like the titular hive swarming in your own bosom.

It’s a case of less is more, Cronenberg lets our imagination one wild, giving us more questions to our curious nightmares than actual answers. Is the cameramen actually a surgeon, ready to remove the vicious wasps from her? Is he a psychologist talking to one of his patients and trying to coerce the truth from her? The adhoc background in a basement and the eerie hum of eyes on the woman allow it to feel more akin to horror. The dialogue slides you into this tale of imagery or imaginary wasps and it is tantalisingly well done.

It’s a simple story. Yet it subverts sublime sensations in order to perpetuate curiosity from the audiences gaze, toying with turmoil over what is real or not. And what’s more, you’ll come away feeling a little more uneasy as invisible bugs clamber over you.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Valley of Dolls

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Dolls are the damned creepiest things in the world. If you don’t believe me then watch Chucky, Dead Night or any doll based horror film. The dead eyes and the eerie realism to them make it completely terrifying. Imagine my horror then, as I switched on this mini documentary about a woman who makes dolls. Not just any dolls! Dolls of people who have passed on to the other side or left her tiny village. What could in fact become the horror story of the century is a sensitive portrayal of a woman who has dedicated her life to carving out memories of a once alive village.

Yes. It all seems a bit creepy. This labour of love is dedicated to dolls of cloth in different positions. Ayano Tsukimi, the woman behind the film, even makes them move and smile. I mean, just spending ten seconds in the vicinity of a Barbie Doll when you are single and about the age of ten gets you a dozen weird looks. But in fact, Fritz Schumann tells her story with this air of empathy and understanding. Her earnest story is full of passion for her craft and her idealism with making these snippets of how the village used to be are actually endearing. You’ll fall in love with Ayano because she is just a person, in a deserted village, trying to make things feel a bit more like the home she grew up with.

Valley of Dolls is, in fact, a simple tale of the impact of creativity. A wonderful and stirring piece well worth a few minutes of your time.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Unstoppable

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There is an almighty force in the midst of the British Film Industry. Fun, intellectual, talented and heinously good looking, it is one that is threatening to consume it in a blaze of glory. That force has one name, and it’s Idris Elba.

When the impeccable man isn’t acting his socks off in unforgettable roles such as Nelson Mandela, he is cancelling apocalypses with Pacific Rim. When he isn’t making boyfriends jealous on popular chat shows, he is becoming an excitable father. When he isn’t making all the girls and guys coo, he is a humanitarian supporting charities across the globe AND brand new artists. So here, it is no surprise that he does wonders behind the scenes in his directing debut.

Unstoppable is part of a Pepsi series of short films, based around songs and showcasing the world’s most popular game; football. The series is called Beats to the Beautiful Game and while you may not be a massive fan of the sport, this is a delightful and wry short from Elba. Set to the incredible song “Unstoppable” by R3HAB ft Eva Simons, it is a little slice of 1970’s nostalgia with a moral backbone to it. A stereotypical school “nerd” is picked upon and criticised. Only soon his peers discover he is a particular panache for football skills, using them to run circles around those who picked on him.

Elba has drenched the film with perfect ’70s nostalgia, the cinematography setting an unforgettable tone. There is a cheeky attitude with some fun moments as it breezes through a lazy summer’s park with flair. Though there are shaky moments, Elba has delighted with this sweet short. Showcasing how you can do anything and you should never be judged or placed into a category, this is the perfect Summertime short.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: The Merciful Death of Jonas Blake

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Westerns have been around for decades. Since man eluded himself with the possibilities of bloodshed on the desert, the Western film, despite blockbuster hits, has always been steeped in epic imagery. From the John Wayne classics to the recent Django Unchained, utilizing the vast and boiling landscapes of untamed deserts has given our films a dense catalogue of untimely pictures. Here in The Merciful Death of Jonas Blake, the rawness of the heat and the weird narrative give it an unforgettable edge. It revolves around a cowboy who engages in warfare with a native tribe after failing to buy one of their women.

The work of Lullskull Ltd does indeed transcend normal narrative. Playing with the mysticism and meta, their work stands out against the heap of short films and independent filmmakers. The follow up from their first outing Black (which I reviewed before) and the upcoming dystopian future-centred Northstar are surely from the mind of creative, intellectual filmmakers. Jonas Blake is no different. The surreal tone leans more towards El Topo and while the insanity is a bit tamer the mood is of similar expertise. The utterly striking and haunting visuals are superb here, telling a bloody battle between cowboy and tribe. A man stumbling over the edge of a sunlit mountain side may seem ordinary, but riddled with arrows and still alive is a great opener. As it battles the different times, the memories and silent war, Jonas Blake becomes this very striking short piece that is so chilling.

With strong acting from Ryan Erke and acute direction from brothers Nathan & Seth Anderson, Lullskull’s short indeed hums with this eerie and unforgettable imagery. It makes one excited for the prospect of more material from the passionate filmmakers.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Roxanne

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With the recent Oscar winning performance by Jared Leto in the brilliant Dallas Buyers Club, it’s safe to say that he poured light onto transgender issues (that is either way you look at it. If you didn’t appreciate his transformation because given the plethora of transgendered actors out there, then the issues were still raised.) In a similar vein to Treyvon but with a much darker tone, short film Roxanne is looking for funding.

In England today, there is thought to be 15,000 transgendered people. Of the women, it is assumed that nearly all of them have entered the sex trade in their lives. However, their stories are never mentioned and barely talked about, shunned even by the LGBT community. Last year, three trans women were murdered and no one heard about it. It is a shocking world we are living in when these human beings are treated like a subgroup rather than true souls trying to live their lives.

The hope for Roxanne is to share this story with the masses. The filmmakers want to tell the story of thousands who are struggling in silence. Telling the titular character’s own plight, it revolves around her working in the red light district of Soho. When she stumbles upon Ruby, a 12 year old girl with a feisty personality and abandoned in the city, Roxanna takes her under her wing.

Filmed in 3mm, writer and director Paul Frankl has a message. He wants to shine a light on stories like Roxanne’s and people in this nation suffering by ignorance. It may be a fictional tale but it will resonate loudly with everyone. Though partially funded by a brand, Frank and his crew need your help as they simply cannot do it without backers. Head over to Kickstarter to help give Roxanne and women like her a voice. Check out the trailer, this short movie is going to be incredible.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: My Favourite Picture Of You

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Nostalgia is something that happens to everyone. Memories as bittersweet enthuse to our minds as we recollect down that path. Everyone has been sat around projector screens or books, huddled around as greasy fingers carefully flip through polaroids and now swipe our smartphones, tagging people in the memories we hold dear. With this abundance and need to freeze frame our lives, and people hit at the constant barrage, nostalgia is highly important because when we grow old, they gradually become our home. And when we start to debilitate, our memories are all we have to reconnect with our family.

Oscar winning film makers TJ Martin and Dan Lindsay, who won for Best Documentary with Undefeated, present this truly haunting and beautiful film. Pulled from an audio interview with Martin’s grandparents, this little project, My Favourite Picture Of You is full of heart. Set to an audio clip of his grandfather asking questions as his grandmother struggles to answer them, the screen goes through young and youthful pictures of them together.

It may seem like a simple premise but this small documentary hits all the write emotional notes. Set impeccably to the conversations, the timing and the bittersweet narrative is warming. Noted, though not expressed, the grandmother has cancer and her mentality isn’t sound. As her husband walks them through memories that she can’t get recollect and tells him so through laboured breath. It is so beautiful in its pain, the documentarY’s strength is the real people at the heart of this sad but superb story.

Sadly, his grandmother died a month after filming. But luckily for nostalgia and memory, they have this fitting and exquisite tribute to her. Now go and find your family and listen to their stories.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Birdboy

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Before we start talking about the, quite frankly, sublime Birdboy, I want to promise you one thing; you have never watched anything like this. The winner of the famous Goya awards in Spain, the team behind this disjointed fairy tale have created a distinctive and powerful animated film that is seeping with a bustling dark undercurrent. Created by Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivero and adapted from an incredible graphic novel, Birdboy is a visual feast that will take you on a route that has a disturbing peculiar heart.

Birdboy is set in a world populated by anthropomorphic woodland creatures, laughing and joking and poking fun at the outsider; Birdboy. What could have been a moral lesson about learning to accept people despite their differences becomes dark when an explosion wipes out half of the population and the other half must adapt to their desolate world. Dinki, a girl who is affectionate to Birdboy with a tongue in cheek attitude, must come to grips with the loss of her caring father while Birdboy is pushed further into the outsider territory.

There are some movies that are masterpieces no matter what length, and Birdboy is one of them. It is saturated by perfect visuals that contrast the vibrant pastel world with the dystopian one. The narrative graphics shape a distinct discourse and decorate an incredible heartfelt story. The characters are full of life bent out of shape by real life disasters and villains. Nuclear warfare and army oppression, loss and abandonment, whispers in the shadows and the words. Our heroes are not perfect and yes, they may be animals but they have pulses, stammering of a need to find home and love again. It is superb and the animation is inimitable.

Birdboy director Vazquez is going to be at Bilbao’s Film Festival Fant this year and will showcase his artwork.

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A Short Mission: The Ellington Kid

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Urban legends continue to this day. After all, we have all heard about the man with a hook on his hand, the conspiracies around Paul McCartney and dolls that come to life to kill you after being bought in a mysterious pawn shop. Out of all these, the fact that people may turn up in your products still makes for myths, especially since the horse burger scandals.

What exactly would happen if Hannibal Lecter owned a fast food takeaway joint? Name it Soylent Green perhaps? Ok enough references. Coming from Vice, this short featured in a long series named I’m Not Stupid, Just Short. The Ellington Kid is by prominent filmmaker Dan Sully. Darkly comic, it centres on two lads enjoying a meal. One of them, actor Charlie G Hawkins from Eastenders, tells the story to his friend feasting into a burger about a stabbing that came to a brutal end. The victim runs away from the gang and finds himself in the brightly lit burger shop. However, when his attackers pursue him, they find themselves at the sharp end of a knife. And maybe they shouldn’t be eating the burgers.

It is a story that has been done before (see references above,) but Dan Sully twists it enough here to feel fresh. The gritty London based tale, inspired by harrowing events on the Murder Mile, is genuinely a great short. There is a sense of British humour here and the narration drags you into the tale. There are some moments of danger and suspense despite knowing where the end is going. It is only five minutes but those minutes are worthwhile, expressing the incredible talent of Sully. Indeed, if this is the first of many projects from him, there is a long career in store for him.

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A Short Mission: Writer’s Block

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There comes a point for every writer when they must realise something; that there is always someone better than you. You could be bleeding Shakespeare and come across Wordsworth and automatically feel piss poor. You will always admire someone so much that you could read their work and feel utterly useless, locked up in a writer’s block forever. I say this because I have just finished watching Tom Gran and Martin Woolley’s (a.k.a the Spin Kick Bros,) short film Writer’s Block and it is so intelligent and witty that it makes me want to pack up and go home.

Breaking as many fourth walls as possible and so ridiculously clever, Writer’s Block is an animated piece of a different calibre. It centres on a prison where writers are locked away for poor grammar and spelling. When the inmates get their hold of a script of their own lives, they cajole another inmate to re-write it, penning their escape.

This cartoon caper is incredibly well done. The guys behind it have utlised brilliant shapes and patterns to make the short film pop. Combining many different techniques and animation types, they still manage to add their own flare making it breathe this freshness. The aesthetic is, by all accounts, stunning. It bursts with these insanely fun characters that race through the vibrant scenes and bounce nearly off the screen. The intellectual drawings fuse with the electric story and make the most of the five minutes. Heading straight into an exciting story, the plot is chopped and played around with the narrative so well. It bends the storyline but never breaks it, making it so cunning and compelling.

Gran and Woolley’s work is imaginative and pulled off in such a way that you hate and love them all at once. Hopefully, more work will come out of the team that thrives on this bustling wit, comedic timing and fantastic animation. Hopefully, they haven’t suffered from Writer’s Block.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Fist of Jesus

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9d91a7901c2bb3f42adfbf3e356671d0_largeHappy Easter Everyone! And as we celebrate Good Friday today we all remember Jesus and all the good things that he did for us.

Especially that time he accidentally brought people back from the dead only to reincarnate them as zombies and had to defeat them using whatever fish he had. Oh, wait, that wasn’t what Good Friday was about? Well, let us tell you about a lesser known bibilical story named Fist of Jesus. And before we do, we apologise profusely to anyone who may take offence.

Fist of Jesus is perhaps the funniest thing you’ll see all day. This Spanish campy short is just the ticket you’ll need to brighten your day and remember that things are better with tongues firmly placed in cheeks. Coming from short filmmakers Adrian Cardona and David Muñoz, Fist of Jesus is a brilliantly bizarre and wonderfully funny movie. It plays fast and loose with the Bible cannon, specifically there are zombie cowboys, but that is not important. What is important is that Jesus and Judas team up like a comic book tag team in order to defeat shuffling zombies with as many different kinds of fish as possible. Want to see Jesus destroy flesh eating zombies with flesh eating piranhas, then look no further than Fist of Jesus.

This is genuinely one of the most hilarious things you’ll encounter. It is thick and fast with the gore, greatly timed with the jokes and it comes from a solid comedic place. If you think things like Shaun of the Dead is funny or The Life of Brian, then Cardona and Muñoz have slickly combined them together for this teaser short. Teaser you may ask? Well, the hopes is to develop it into a longer action flick named Once Upon A Time In Jerusalem. And I’ll be damned if that isn’t going to be the best horror movie ever.

And you can donate to that movie now! Seriously, watch this then pour your money into the project. You will not be sorry.

 

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Short Film

A Short Mission: Requiem for Romance

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Sometimes animation needs no words. It tells the story itself. Sometimes silence is the best answer.

Requiem for Romance could take this on board as the animation here is truly magnificent. The short tells the story of a couple who are damned as the girls’ parents disapprove of her boyfriend’s art career. A phone call develops, as does a battle on screen between two characters on the rooftops of traditional China, representing the turmoil of both characters.

There is a niggling problem with this short animation. The thing with Requiem for Romance is that the phone call narration doesn’t work a lot of the time. While the set up between conflicting traditions, the unresolved relationship and the sweeping paint brush battle can slip together like poetry; other times you just want to lose yourself in the animation. That’s because it is so harrowing in itself and tells the story effectively well that the combination with the taped conversation feels forced. Sometimes it entwines so superbly that it is remarkable. Other times, it is utterly distracting. Especially because it is effectively unnecessary.

That’s not to say that director Jonathon Ng’s short film is bad. In fact, it is a superb piece of art that will take you along the tryst of a relationship and use pin pointed tradition paint strokes to develop characters. And the excavation of the phone call is still full of weight. It’s just together they don’t quite work.

What would have worked, perhaps, was space for the art form to breathe instead of getting swallowed up by the narrative, because the frames present here and the glorious visuals are too gorgeous not too let them pull you in.

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Short Film

A Short Mission: The Voorman Problem

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What if God were one of us? Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home?

That’s the classic song from all of us but what happens if a prisoner claims to be God? And he claims to be God so much so that he even has a strong following in prison chanting his name.

That’s the problem facing psychiatrist Dr. Williams in this BAFTA nominated short The Voorman Problem. Tom Hollander is Voorman, an inmate at a top facility prison and when Martin Freeman’s Williams tries to deduce his sanity, Voorman sets off a strange turn of events.

While this short movie does have some comedic elements to it (the disappearance of Belgium being particularly fun), it leans more to the darker side. Director Mark Gill adds an element of the twisted and, above all, the whole thing is insanely creepy. What if someone in a penitentiary claimed to be God and it turned out they could do weird things that proved it so? A lot of this unnerving presence is placed heavily on Tom Hollander’s shoulders. He is, dare I say, insanely good at the intense playfulness of Voorman that makes him not only enjoyable to watch but almost terrifying too. Playing opposite the incredibly talented Martin Freeman makes this a charismatic film that is entertaining but also has you questioning the existence of an omnipresent God.

And yes, the underlying truth of the film is extremely disturbing
After all, what if God isn’t benevolent and is just, above all things, a trickster?

“The Voorman Problem” is available to download on iTunes

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