Madre de Dios (Canada) (2015)
During a cult-like ceremony, two Brujos use a scared and hurt woman as a vessel to birth the Anti-Christ. Written by Luke Bramley, Shane McKenzie, and Gigi Saul Guerrero, based on a story by the latter, and directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, Madre de Dios is a quick glance into a deranged couple’s cult and how far they will go to bring forth the one they praise. The cast of three composed of Luis Javier and Gabriela Zimmerman as the couple and Tristan Risk as their victim, their Santa Muerte, give interesting performances.
Javier and Zimmerman give a maniacal glee to their characters as they go through their ritual. Risk brings a palpable fear to her part without saying a word. Together, this glee and her fear create a perfect storm of emotions for this short and its story. The effects created by Andrea Dulmage, Amy-Leigh Poitras, Tomasz Sosnowski, and Carolyn Williams look good and are properly bloody. The film is creepy in its use of religion mixed with cult which may work better for those raised with a Catholic background but it should work for anyone given the cult angle.
Mexican Flaminco (Mexico) (2016)
Two dancers, a girl and a Llorona figure, face off in ruins in a beautiful dance where they represent life and death as well as a myriad of other things. This short by Ma-ria Aliaga and Nur Rubio showcases talented dancers giving inspired performances. The film looks good with beautiful imagery in spots, showing off a nice, old location as background for this dance battle. While the film looks great with beautiful shots and sequences and the dancing is good, it does feel a bit long and could have used a bit of trimming.
Deathly (USA) (2015)
After his disabled wife’s death, a man attempts to adjust to life alone when odd events start happening. Writer/director Mike Williamson creates a chilling, scary tale of guilt and revenge where all the scares happen in one house. His characters are interesting and his cast composed of Alan Ruck and Katherine Wilhoite in the leads with Christina Elizabeth Smith and Mickey Keating in the supporting parts all show talent with Ruck and Wilhoite getting the most interesting roles. The two of them play well together and give their all to these parts. They both show great emotions in an odd situation.
The special effects done under the supervision of Jeffrey S. Farley and by Kevin Dee Watson here bring an extra layer to the fear factor creating a visual source for the feelings of uneasiness then flat out fear, their design interesting and surprising to great effect. The cinematography by Lyn Moncrief makes the film look like a big budget horror film and shows that it is a well-planned, very well shot, and well done film. Deathly is one of those shorts that surprises by its subject, its cast, and its execution. It shows that great things can be done in short format and not all stories require 90 minutes or more to be told with talent and create an interesting film to watch.
Leshy (aka Lesapan) (Czech Republic) (2015)
Anna tells the story of her father the gamekeeper who protects the forest when poachers awaken something that they all must contend with. Written by Petr Koubek and directed by Pavel Soukup, the film tells its story from the point of view of a little girl (mostly) and it does so without going childish or immature while giving off a dark fairytale vibe. The settings and how the film is acted and shot help this a lot. The small cast is led by Vladimira Havlickova as Anna giving a mature performance a protagonist and the narrator; she is both central and external to the story. She gives the kind of performance one would expect from a much older actress.
In the part of her father, a part with very few lines, is Marek Pospichal who gives a solemn performance as he works to keep the forest and its inhabitants safe. As this is a creature film, the creature is rather important and is played here by Josef Rarach who gives a performance somewhere between Doug Jones and Jonathan Breck in movement style and interpretation. This creature is also the work of Rarach and special effects designer Vlad Taupesh who give it a look right out of a Del Toro movie. Leshy is a lush looking dark fairytale that shows tons of talent from all involved and could easily be turned into a feature if the general feel to it can be sustained.