Le Blizzard (The Blizzard)
2019 | Andorra | French and German with English Subtitles
Director: Alvaro Rodriguez
Cast: Aida Folch (Salvador), Isak Ferriz (Black Sails)
Synopsis: During the Second World War, Marie, a french refugee, wakes up wounded and disoriented in the middle of a Blizzard. Ahead of her, a mysterious forest separates her from her daughter.
This film opens in the snow covered forest as a mother is frantically searching for her daughter. The direction and cinematography are excellent here as the upward facing angles create a subtle intensity. The camera moves seamlessly through the forest locations and the visual appeal only complements a plot that instantly builds curiosity. It connects the viewer with the panicked feeling of his main character to result in genuine uneasiness as the pieces of what is happening fall into place. This short captures a scenario that would fit nicely into a larger film. And with the technical craftsmanship on display here, the full-feature would undoubtedly be a beautifully shot film that could easily immerse viewers with a thought-provoking narrative.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/blizzard
2018 | Canada | English
Director: Santiago Menghini (Voyagers, Intruders)
Cast: Cameron Brodeur, Anana Rydvald
Synopsis: On a late night, a young teen goes into the kitchen for a glass of milk. Upon encountering his sleepless mother, he quickly realizes things are not as they seem.
Creating immediate intrigue and uneasiness is what stood out about this short. It’s carried by great performances from Anana Rydvald and Cameron Brodeur, that complement a story from Santiago Menghini that thrives from its simplicity. The concept of the film and its common location is something a person could relate to. We all have those slight moments that creep us out in our homes when we get up to get something to drink in the middle of the night. This film is able to create a haunting but grounded vibe around that plot to craft a fantastic short that delivers waves of fright, in a minimal amount of time. The ominous score and methodical camerawork complement the subject matter nicely and the result is delightfully unnerving. The sound-design, special-effects, and make-up are polished and look great. The use of lighting and the simplicity of Menghini eye truly lets the character performances do the work, and the result was a sinister success.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/milk
2018 | China | Chinese with English Subtitles
Director: Lin Tu
Cast: Jingling Li, Jing Jin, Xiaojun Gong
Synopsis: On an ordinary, hot summer day, Bai and Zhao decide to escape high school to spend some private time together. But the moment they are alone and Bai walks into a strange 80s-style room that Zhao found, she knows something bizarre is going on. She starts to observe the room with caution and great curiosity; soon realizing that her instinct is right: there’s someone else in this room, secretly observing her with great interest…
What seemingly starts out as a normal day with two high-school students skipping school takes a dark turn when they arrive to this sketchy room with odd décor. When Bai’s boyfriend leaves an ominous presence takes over the room that Lin Tu does a fantastic job of capturing behind the camera. The practical-effects and the daytime settings create a foreboding tension as something bad feels lurking behind every scene. What that something will be, is what compels while watching because of the unpredictability in Tu’s writing. The idea of the plot itself is interesting and seeing it play out through clever editing techniques are what results in an elevated creep-factor. The idea of this room being taken over by a sinister presence that preys on its guests is intriguing and this short is able to showcase why and I think its fitting for a feature length film. The styling and cinematography build an atmosphere to this short that could deliver tons of creepy horror moments with a longer run-time.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/sports-day
2018 | Republic of Korea | Korean with English Subtitles
Director: Mai Nakanishi
Cast: Jeongbi Lee, Do Eun Kim, Hee-Jin Jeone
Synopsis: A college student goes for a part-time job interview and is hired on short notice by a single working mother to be a babysitter for her four-year-old daughter, Hana. But when student is left alone with Hana, strange things start to happen.
Creepy children in horror movies are always a soft spot with me and this short was able to capitalize on this trope. It crafts an ominous collection of scenes as this new babysitter finds the child she is caring for is far from a normal kid. Using daytime settings and soft lighting the mood is set right way. Through crisp editing and simple camera techniques the tension is able to land effectively. The performances were perfect for the needs of the roles. I thought the babysitter was able to capture the emotional intensity needed to pull the viewer into her situation and it was enjoyable. The practical-effects were a nice touch and this child walking around the house tormenting the sitter was able to build mystery as to what is really under the sheet. Which is able to provoke thought even after the end credits role, and that is always a positive.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/hana
2018 | USA | English
Director: T.J. Yoshizaki
Cast: Hilary Barraford
Synopsis: In the crime capital of the world, an LAPD officer was having a just another bad day…or not.
The life of an LAPD officer is not an easy job as captured in this short that follows a female cop out on the beat. After a tragic accident in the morning hours the story continues to subtly explore this person’s life though a couple of phone calls that capture her having some added life stresses. Which in turn begin to manifest in outrageous hallucinations. Tempers flare at a food-cart and grim comedy ensues. The performances are solid, and the oddities of the story-line are wildly eccentric which is a trait I can always appreciate. The sound design is a nice addition to over-bloat the mood and it all works together in a short that shows genuine, out-of-the-box creativity.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/hot-dog
Southern California Premiere | 2018 | UK | English
Director: Steven Dorrington
Cast: Shona O’Sullivan, Nicola Goodchild, Patrick Marlowe, Phoebe Rawlinson
Synopsis: Teenager Emma suffers horrendous cyber bullying and her worse fears come true as the body shaming abuse she receives online begins to transform her appearance. She decides to take drastic action, which has disastrous consequences for herself and her family.
The mental effects of cyber bullying are explored with grim results in this short that in a small amount of time is able to capture the consequences of bullying. This character as she receives messages and sees posts online about her appearance, begins to see the representation of herself that she feels others see. It begins almost satirical but soon turns dark as the changes she begins to see increase in severity to the point she begins to disfigure herself. What the camera doesn’t show you is the strong suit of this film. With a clever use of editing it allows the viewers imagination to picture the grim results of blood and skin hitting the sink and floor from above. You want to see more, but don’t want to at the same time with a level of cringe that creates strong, appealing uneasiness within a small package.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/off-fleek
2018 | USA | No Dialogue
Director: Bismark Fernandes
Animators: Bismark Fernandes, Andres Eduardo, Corey Householder, Paige Hurd
Synopsis: A stop-motion film about a man’s endless hunt for elusive energy sources in a decaying world.
In only a few minutes this film is able to show itself as a treat on two fronts. One with a snippet of a story premise that evokes thought and plenty of curiosity. A man out on the countryside in a futuristic apocalypse scavenging for an item that only rewards him with a few slight moments of happiness, just has an interesting aura to it. But the true greatness of this short is in the technical crafting from the team of animators. The stop-motion work is excellently done and the detail in the backdrops and detail in the character creates a world you simply want to see more of. This form of art is not easy and this one showcases the painstaking detail stop-motion requires. It also shows that when done right, it can build a world that is rich with depth and appeal, much like this one did that will certainly leave the viewer wanting more.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/expend
Youth & Student Spotlight | 2018 | USA | English
Director: Kennikki Jones
Cast: Shellita Boxie
Synopsis: Sinia does the best she can to help the kids next door, however when they are in danger, she does nothing. Stricken by guilt, she decides to check on the kids, but she discovers is a chilling reality that pushes her over the edge.
A great lead performance and an interesting premise that leaves you thinking after are what makes this short from Kennikki Jones such an engaging time. It starts seemingly innocent as this woman seems to have an affinity for the children next door that live with an abusive parent. She goes about her evening but can hear things through the wall. It shifts the tone that in turn makes the film take a sudden, but appealing turn to the darker side. While watching you can feel something is not what it seems. It’s appealing and interesting as the subtle insinuations cast a foreboding atmosphere. The lighting and camerawork turn a common apartment into a haunting backdrop that keeps you on edge. And when the end credits show themselves, as the viewer, you are left reflecting on preconceived notions and how the grim truth was there all along.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/knock-knock
Southern California Premiere | 2018 | USA | English
Director: Tony Reames (El Chevere)
Cast: Haley Leary (Nashville), Evan Reames (El Chevere)
Synopsis: The only thing Dee loves more than classic horror movies is terrorizing the babysitter. It’s New Years Eve, Dee’s parents are looking forward to one of the rare nights without their angel. Little does Laurie, the new babysitter know, the fifty bucks an hour won’t cover the years of therapy needed after spending one night with Dee and her stuffed friends.
This film sets the tone immediately with an upbeat score and our first look at the young boy with a love of horror movies that will soon torment yet another babysitter. The sinister sense-of-humor shines in this one as this kid uses moments from horror movies to wreak havoc on a sitter that soon cannot wait to leave. The direction from Tony Reames was excellent with fluid movement and a great injection of style. The performances are charismatic, and they sell the material through their energy. It makes watching the terrorizing of the babysitter escalate to more violent levels both comical and grim. Making this film a success in being able to showcase the craft of film-making while also telling a comical story set in the horror genre.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/playtimes-over
Southern California Premiere | 2018 | Mexico
Director: Jorge Malpica
Cast: Manuel Poncellis, Michelle Betancourt
Synopsis: After encountering a mermaid and its enchanting call, a fisherman goes out to the ocean without knowing if he will be able to come back.
Elegant would be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of this short from Jorge Malpica. The locations and camerawork create a beautiful landscape that immediately immerses the viewer. This man looking over the cliffs sets out onto the seas and encounters a mermaid. For the budget, the special-effects are impressive and equally ambitious for your common short-film. And the result is a film that engages curiosity with a soft intimacy, before taking a startling and morbid turn. This shift in the tone locks in the intrigue instantly and leaves the mind pondering the much larger picture of the story in all the ways one would like. It’s unrelenting, while at the same time unassuming, and that is where the beautifully tragic impact of this film is found.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/ulysses
How to Be Alone
2018 | USA | English
Director: Kate Trefry (Stranger Things)
Cast: Maika Monroe (It Follows), Joe Keery (Stranger Things)
Synopsis: Lucy struggles to survive an increasing bizarre and horrifying night. When her husband Jack leaves for the hospital graveyard shift, Lucy is left alone in the company of a particularly menacing kitchen cabinet, which she is convinced contains all her most secret fears. As the phobias begin to manifest and attack her, she must fight for control of her mind, and ultimately her life.
This was a dark, demented, and comical story that was carried by its twisted creativity, and the charismatic performance of Maika Monroe. I thought the writing was sharp and very witty, with the delivery through narration being a great choice. The voice-over work was timed perfectly with Monroe’s performance to tell the story like it needed. It was effective in creating curiosity as to what demented elements would manifest themselves from her mind next.
The clever, yet edgy sense-of-humor fit perfectly into the narrative as well and it made the dark comical undertones hit with the intended sinister amusement. The musical score was also nicely selected to elevate the overall edgy attitude of the story as well as infuse the film with a constant energy. This story was able to portray a dark and haunted mind but in a visual way with solid practical-effects that I enjoyed. Making this a short-film that plants a seed of grim curiosity, gives you a strong dose of it to set the tone, then leaves you imaging much more on your own.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/how-to-be-alone
What Daphne Saw
World Premiere | Horror for Humanity Showcase | 2019 | USA | English
Director: Lizz Marshall
Cast: George Griffith (Twin Peaks: The Return), Selynne Silver, Lia Barnett
Synopsis: In the future, capital punishment has been abolished. Violent criminals are reprogrammed into unquestioning servants, their free will and ability to speak taken away. A young woman endures her punishment of servitude in a seemingly normal man’s home, where she discovers dark secrets.
Director Lizz Marshall packs a lot emotional intensity into this short film that captures the seed of an intriguing much larger story. A connection to the characters is established early and it sets the stage for a grim plot-line that weaves science-fiction and the macabre together seamlessly. The performances were fantastic, and the direction lets their expressions speak louder than the already tightly written dialogue. The editing was crisp but simplistic, and it builds a great foreboding intensity when mixed with a musical score that heightens emotional responses perfectly. On its own this is a story that fits the template of a short film, but it also lays the groundwork for a full-feature film that would be gripping without question.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/what-daphne-saw
Southern California Premiere | 2018 | USA | English
Director: Samantha Kolesnik
Cast: Alex Malcolm Mills, Kara Vedder, Nathan Ludwig, Jaysen Buterin, Hope Bickle
Synopsis: A young man’s life spirals into depravity and madness when he confronts the trauma of his childhood.
This was a dark, twisted, and at the same time heartbreaking look into the life of a young man haunted by the events of his childhood. Director Samantha Kolesnik does not hold back in this venture inside the saddening darkness of a tormented man. His conversations with the body of his mother capture his pain, and his actions in life reflect the results of that heartache in a beautifully sinister portrayal. The lead performance from Alex Malcolm was impressive and while he delivers his dialogue with authenticity, it was his visual expressions that convey the emotions that are manifesting inside of him with an impactful result.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/mamas-boy
Horror for Humanity Spotlight | 2019 | USA | English
Director: Bears Rebecca Fonte
Cast: Sara Fletcher (NCIS), Evalyn Jake, Michael Dickson, Jordan Morgan
Synopsis: A pansexual, polyamorous trio kidnap a ‘pray-the-gay-away’ evangelical conversion therapist and torture him until he sees the light.
Social commentary is woven into a grim horror short in this one that captures what could happen when a conversion therapist is forced to account for his actions. The dialogue captures the message within the film and the visuals capture the intense horror as a man is tortured mentally and physically. Is it a simple case of differing viewpoints on life that have brought these characters together? Or is there something personal in play? That is the question that evolves as the time passes and the levels of violence increase. I always tend to think short-films are only as good as their closing twist. And this one comes in with an unassuming landing, while still fitting perfectly into the realm of horror.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/conversion-therapist
A Noise That Carries
2019 | Canada | English
Director: Guillermo de la Rosa
Cast: Paul Payne (See No Evil), Lee Lawson (Offworld), Meredith Heinrich (See No Evil)
Synopsis: A lonely man has the chilling feeling that someone has broken into his home.
The simplicity of this story is what makes it such a fun short that is filled with frightening and at times downright creepy imagery. The premise is one anyone can relate to, that of hearing something outside your door at night. So for that aspect the allure is immediate. But through two great performances the ominous elements continue to add up and with very capable direction from Guillermo del la Rosa, the uneasiness is captured with impact. The use of shadows and angles heighten the atmosphere nicely and for the entirety of this film you are completely captivated as a seemingly common conversation between neighbors proves to be much darker than that.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/a-noise-that-carries
2019 | USA | No Dialogue
Animator: Daun Kim
Synopsis: An agile long-legged frog escapes from being dissected by a frenzied and determined 12 year old girl.
Probably the most amusing of the short films, this one captures the life of the frog many of us had to dissect in science class as children. What that little frog must have been going through? This is answered through a comical short that boasts detailed animation, vibrant colors, and strong splashes of adventure as well. Kids are often hesitant to dissect a frog, but that is not the case with this young girl as she goes on a murderous mission. And just when you think things couldn’t get worse for this innocent frog, they do. In the most comically horrific ways that will more than likely leave a smile on your face.
For More Information Check Out – https://hifilmfest.com/dont-croak