A daunting 150 short films are currently being screened at the Megaplex 17 at Jordon Commons in Sandy, Utah, for the Second Annual Filmquest Film Festival, which celebrates the horror, fantasy and science-fiction genres.
These films represent a wide variety of themes inherent to the genres they represent, and they stand as calling cards for the next generation of filmmakers. The work of countless veteran, amateur and student filmmakers are on display for an audience eager to witness their unique vision.
This year’s shorts program is presented in numerous, nearly two-hour blocks, and a few shorts are being paired with feature films. The films themselves tackle various themes – from comedy to straight-up horror, from the supernatural to the human condition, from animation to re-animation – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With shorts, filmmakers don’t have the luxury of building up a long narrative. The story needs to be quick and to the point – economical and ultimately impactful.
It would take forever to break down all the short films that are being screened; and I only managed to see a third of them. But here are a few that stood out in my mind, left an impact or actually got my blood flowing and stayed with me well after the conclusion.
- Antonio W. Yee’s 3 Versos is a well executed film that features a familiar scenario in the genre, the séance. Events begin to unfold as one would expect, but Yee throws in some unexpected twists that make the film more memorable than one would initially think. It has some scares; it has some laughs; and it’ll likely put a little grin on your face when it reaches its satisfying conclusion. I had the pleasure of seeing this film at Screamfest last year, and it still holds up after repeat viewings.
- Chris McInroy’s Bad Guy #2 is a bloody-good time. This very funny tale follows a henchman’s rise through the ranks and his efforts to maintain his standing. It has a seriously mischievous wit about it, solid comedic acting and fine practical effects. Yay for practical effects!
- Stephen W. Martin’s Dead Hearts is a highly enjoyable fable about love, life and morticians. I had the pleasure of seeing this at Screamfest last year, and it is still as enchanting as ever. This is a well made storybook tale that will have you grinning ear to ear when it’s over.
- Lee Boxleitner’s Downstairs is a sometimes-funny and often-scary ride that has proven to be a fun audience movie. I had a blast seeing this last year at Screamfest, and you can derive further enjoyment when watching others see it for the first time.
- Chris Wyatt’s Fairy Knowledge is a whimsical tale about a young girl who is rejected at a fairy-themed children’s party. Determined to prove she’s worthy of being invited to be at the party, she sets out to learn all she can about fairies and, in the end, gets the last laugh. This starts out nice and cute but dovetails into a dark and enjoyable ending.
- Brian Lonano’s Crow Hand!!! is the type of short film whose sole purpose is just to entertain – making you laugh, making you cringe and making you say “WTF was that!?” in a span of three minutes. It’s an insane little short that features some solid practical effects.
- Teddy Cecil’s Helio is an ambitious dystopian tale about one man who seizes an opportunity to find out just what lies beyond the city limits. It features plenty of great visual effects, quite noteworthy because of its low budget, well paced action sequences and an engaging story that will make you want to see reach its unexpected conclusion.
- Jeffrey Wang’s Lifeline is clearly influenced by Sam Raimi and his horror classic Evil Dead 2. Though the film has the look and feel of a Sam Raimi film, Wang thankfully goes beyond mimicry and gives us a supernatural thriller with tongue-in-cheek humor, solid make-up effects and memorable characters.
- Chris W. Smith’s Movies in Space is a very funny satire on the state of filmmaking in today’s world. When the Earth’s ambassador gets up caught up in an alien planet’s Hollywood-like system, he goes from being a humanitarian to a powerful mogul. It’s original, razor sharp and, above all, very funny.
- Devon Avery’s One Minute Time Machine takes the Groundhog Day conceit and throws in some basic quantum theory, and comedy gold ensues. When it begins, you think this will be like the Harold Ramis classic comedy, but Avery takes it to another level. It features two solid performances that truly sell the concept. It’s well written, directed and performed and worth every minute.
- Florian Frerich’s Phoenix will certainly remind you of Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and unsettling reminders of Nazism will creep in. In a dystopian future, an oppressive military state has all books burned, and anyone caught harboring the illegal contraband will be ceremoniously dealt with. Even if you are familiar with Bradbury’s novel, Frerich’s film still feels fresh and engaging. Nicely directed, performed and written, it’s a familiar tale that doesn’t lose any of its impact.
This is just a small sampling of some of the shorts I managed to see during the festival’s opening weekend. All of the shorts elicited some sort of response from me, which is all a viewer could hope for, especially when filmmakers only have a few minutes to make their case. If you are in the Salt Lake City area, take the opportunity to catch some of the shorts; you are sure to find something that appeals to your tastes.
Keep an eye out for Part II of my series as I continue my look at the short films that I had the pleasure to see at Filmquest Film Festival 2015.