With this year’s Panic Fest short films, the first one I saw set the bar pretty high. While there were some other good ones, The Dollmaker remains my favorite.
It maximizes its running time to tell a complete story with a killer twist ending that I didn’t anticipate. Overwrought with despair when their son dies, a young couple (Sean Meehan and Perri Lauren) finds a way to bring him back to life… under specific conditions. They can do it only for an hour a day and they must remain inside the house. Let’s just say if they followed the rules, there wouldn’t be much of a story!
Directed by Alan Lougher
Written by Matias Caruso
Running Time = 9:53
I liked Marian nearly as much. Its multiple twists are not saved for the end, but are instead spread throughout. What you think is happening changes a couple of times. The filmmaking raises this one, with great atmosphere. And the performance of Johanah Basanta is sad and haunting. She plays the titular child is a house that’s haunted both literally and figuratively. The less said about the plot, the better.
Directed by Brian Patrick Lim
Written by Brian Patrick Lim, Levi San Luis
Running Time = 15:06
Studded Nightmare begins with a young couple setting fire to a chair in the woods. Through flashbacks, we learn what would drive them to such an apparently unnecessary action. During its relatively brief running time, writer-director Jean-Claude Leblanc confronts us with some violent and bloody visions. It’s a bit of a case of style over substance, though, when you reflect on the simple story that was told.
Directed by Jean-Claude Leblanc
Written by Jean-Claude Leblanc
Running Time = 9:19
There’s even less substance in Goodnight Gracie, the bulk of which is simply build-up for one terrific jump scare. Young Gracie (Caige Coulter) is awoken late at night as a woman, either her mother or a babysitter… I’m not sure which, is brutally slain downstairs by an axe murderer. When the killer enters Gracie’s room, she relies on a cross to protect her. Will her faith be enough to save her? The short film plays much like a single scene from a full-length movie.
Directed by Stellan Kendrick
Written by Stellan Kendrick
Running Time = 3:54
AN ACTOR PREPARES
I didn’t care much for An Actor Prepares. Without reading its synopsis (“Two acting classmates rehearse a scene, and one of them takes it too far.”), I wouldn’t have understood much about what was happening. The scenario is as generic as the names of its characters, “Woman” (Mallory Corinne) and “Man” (Ben Isaacs). It builds to what should be a gory conclusion, but cuts away before any blood is shed. This was definitely my least favorite of the block.
An Actor Prepares
Directed by Carey Kight
Written by Carey Kight
Running Time = 4:18