Telluride Horror Show is finally upon us! Kicking off the virtual edition today, Efrit and I scheduled out our on-demand content to fill the [extended] weekend with every bit of the THS films and shorts! To launch our first day into the festival, we've started with two short blocks (Down the Dark Rabbit Hole and Suffer the Little Children) and the feature film anthology, The 100 Candles Game. So...in essence, a lot of horror stories crammed into one night. Check out my coverage of the day's events below and be sure to check out Efrit's take as well!
Down a Dark Rabbit Hole Shorts Block
Tackling elements of philosophy and social/psychological commentary throughout, this block is more mind-racing than mind-numbing and requires undivided attention from short to short. A solid block consisting of a wide array of emotions and fears.
Drawing - A woman struggling with the grief of a miscarriage finds unexpected solace in a seemingly supernatural sketchbook.
This was a short Efrit and I thought would be a bit of a gamble...On the one hand, the premise sounds interesting...on the other, it has a hefty runtime for a short and the potential of being too..."artsy"...but Drawing ended up being a surprise hit of the block and one I wouldn't mind recommending to a breadth of people. It's message is certainly dark and often unsettling, but despite its slow burn, it is engaging and very unique.
The Body - Two men bury a body in the wilderness as they come to terms with the extent of their conscience.
An ambiguous and imbalanced look into the mind of a killer, complete with dark and pretentious dialogue. The depth of its vague construct is redeemable, but the delivery wasn't my cup of tea.
The Appointment - A man tries to discover the truth behind an appointment scheduled in his diary.
A whacky, surreal short that is eerie and goofy in a seesaw-like flow. Its dreamlike sequences are off-putting (particularly those shot within a fancy restaurant offering a smorgasbord of disgusting delights) and hard to pinpoint, but still, the mystery unveiling itself throughout the runtime is intriguing and inevitably satisfying despite a plot that feels unsettled.
That Old Misery - In a post-apocalyptic society, a woman tries to survive in a world overrun with psychosexual maniacs.
I think I'm describing this short accurately...It's a fairly effective view of the collapse of traditional society should we lose technology, perhaps even a subtle commentary on pornography addiction and its affect on sex drive. An interesting, if off-balance story.
The Altruist - A man cares for a bedridden woman with a disturbing ailment. To pseudo-quote Homer Simpson, "I don't get it...there's [philosophy] in front of me, but I don't want to [dissect] it!" Reaching the end of this shorts block, my brain was incapable of properly deciphering the message of this piece. Heck, on a fresh mind I may have failed to grasp the moral compass of this short. Nevertheless, the tight, purposeful cinematography and grotesque effects work keeps you glued to the concept unfolding despite a hefty 35-minute runtime.
Suffer the Little Children Shorts Block
This block did not take it easy on the laughs, scares or drama, undoubtedly giving us some of the most entertaining shorts of the weekend. Each one accelerates into the next in one of the most consistently enjoyable short blocks you'll see.
Tea Time - A young girl has a bloody tea time with her dolls.
What promised to be the horror-comedy gem of the block delivered. The cheery yet disturbing atmosphere is perfectly conveyed in its score and the little girl's chipper facade that masks her violent tendencies. It ends up being a solid piece of bloody fun.
We All Scream - A boy is lured to a mysterious ice cream truck with an insidious agenda. What I commend most about this short is the eerie atmosphere and fantastic handling of the ice cream truck and its driver. From the traditional yet effective appendage stretch to the delicate use of lighting that gives us a subtle glimpse of the creature in the shadows, it is a somewhat conventional but very effective horror short.
Ashes - Two girls stumble upon an abandoned building that contains a ragged book that just might summon something sinister.
Of all the shorts today, I would say that this one boasts the best cinematography. It has a handful of great shots and angles throughout that encapsulate the setting well while keeping the tension high. The creature reveal and scares are on par with the deft directing, making it a high quality scare short in every way.
Teething - A night janitor must deal with a vampire that descends upon a nursery. The true highlight of this short is the storytelling through the eyes of our protagonist. We get a lot of his personality and character through very little dialogue, which speaks to the skills of the lead actor and the directing. It's a powerful piece that has more than one moment of gut-wrenching intensity given the subject matter, ending on a rather abrupt yet thought-provoking note.
A Strange Calm - This short felt eerily similar to the recently-reviewed film, The Boy Behind the Door, in which two friends are kidnapped by a predator and they must try to escape. The contents aren't significantly different (other than, of course, being on a much smaller scale in the short's case), yet there is enough energy to go around between the two. There is certainly more nuance in the short, tackling a breadth of real and surreal moments that leave you contemplating exactly what happened and the effects therein.
The Familiars - A girl finds a precious family heirloom that bestows powers on those who wield it, and she must decide how, and on whom, to use it.
This short carries significant emotional weight with its use of witchcraft as a vehicle for child abuse, and it can be felt most powerfully in the climax. Australia rarely does horror wrong, and they nail it again with this short.
Mr. ThisForThat - A dark entity visits a girl in her closet at night, offering three wishes that also come with a price.
This short boasts so much character, atmosphere and scares throughout that it was a great highlight to end the first night on. From the persistent whine of the oil pumpjack outside, to the unsettling nature of the entity in the closet, there is a significant attention to detail in this piece to keep your conscious and subconscious areas of your brain fixated. A short we will be sure to add to our Halloween Short Marathon when it becomes available.
An awesome first day of THS packed full of great content! It was a blur of laughs, scares and thinkers that culminate in more excitement for what's to come! Catch us tomorrow for our continuing coverage of THS!