Sang Papier (Canada) (2017)
Based on the world created by the Karmina films (yes, there are two, read a review of the first on <a href=”http://cinema-crazed.com/blog/2017/07/28/karmina-1996-fantasia-international-film-festival-2017/”>here</a>, skip the second), Sang Papier follows the recent arrival of a man from Transylvania to Canada and his subsequent interview by immigration officials. Written by Christine Doyon and Kevin T. Landry with Landry directing, the short horror-comedy maintains its source material’s spirit with humor that ranges from innocent to flat out ridiculous and it all works great. The fun is easy for everyone, familiar with the 2 features or not, something that sets it apart in its own world when compared with most film similarly done. Here the cast is kept small with the new arrival being played by Alexand Fournier who does fantastic work channeling the spirit of Karmina’s clan and their ways and mannerisms. His work here is one of the best parts of the film. The other two main cast members play the immigration agents who are as different as can be. Playing the agent who is friendlier to freshly arrived Grigore, Agent Charbonneau, is actress Marika Lhoumeau who plays excellently opposed to her counterpart Agent Ouellet, played by Pierre-Antoine Pellerin. The two of them have great back and forth and their differences help move the film forward. Lastly, the customs agent who sends Grigore to the immigration agents is played by Michael Richard who plays him close to the style of the original border agent Ghislain, played by Gildor Roy, while being less of a doormat. His work is a take on government agents we often see on screen but it works rather well here. The film on all fronts keeps the feeling and atmosphere of the original Karmina, giving fans of the first film something worthwhile in terms of a semi sequel that the official sequel could not manage somehow.
Bullets of Justice (2018)
25 years after the WWIII, pig-human hybrids have taken control of the world and a rare few humans are fighting for survival in resistance battalions across the world. The pigs in charge are now referred to as the Muzzles and they raise humans for slaughter, something only Rob Justice and his posse can fight and overcome. In this batshit insane long form short film, things are just constantly exploding, flying off, or ending up dead or naked. This film throws everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer and hopes that it all sticks. And most of it does. The insanity is fascinating to watch, for better or for worse, and seeing Danny Trejo in a smaller part as the de facto father for the lead and his adoptive sister is something that brings joys in this nutty story. The film is odd, it’s insane, and it’s a whole lot of other things. What director/writer Valeri Milev and writer Timur Turisbekov bring to the screen here is one of the most WTF films seen this year and possibly this decade on festival screens. It’s something else to behold and should be viewed with caution, something not often said here. That being said, the practical effects are great, the style of the film is interesting, the performances by the cast are uneven at best with a few inspired ones, giving the film more than one reason to check it out.
Dylan (USA) (2017)
Nick and Maritza desperately need some time together, but as she finally gets some time off, he asks her to have his friend Dylan over as he’s not seen him in years and he needs a place to crash. As Maritza gets home, Dylan turns out to be more than she bargained for. Written by Robert Belushi and directed by Cory Miller, Dylan is a short film that builds from a simple premise and adds weirdness layer by layer until the reveal. The creepy factor is full force by the time the ending comes, creating an effective suspense throughout and an ending that works wonders. Playing the leads of Maritza, Nick, and Dylan are Aimee Carrero, Chris Gardner, and Robert Belushi respectively. Each of them puts in good performances with Carrero and Belushi getting more screen time and giving the best performances here. Dylan is an interesting short with some great ideas and good quality writing, directing, and performances.
Maggie May (Australia) (2018)
Following their mother’s death, two sisters end up living together after one sister leaves her abusive husband with her twin infants and moves into the maternal home where the other sister already lived. While Sam is trying to reconnect with her sister and family, Maggie is only interested in her television shows and her cell phone, which leads to a dire situation. Mia Kate Russell writes and directs an effective film about the disconnect some people have with society and their families and how too much screen time may be one of the sources for the anti-socialization of some. Here this is pushed about as far as it can be with a situation where many are affected by one’s actions or lack thereof. The film shows this in a manner that is riveting, having Sam be the center of focus while Maggie is completely detached and uncaring. This may come off as exaggerations, but some will recognize people they have met in Maggie. Actresses Katrina Mathers and Lulu McClatchy play sisters Sam and Maggie respectively both turning in good performances that show the dichotomy of these sisters showing the differences in caring and less caring people in this world. The film is well shot and features fantastic special effects by Julian Dimase that give the film a visceral punch.
Cloven (Bahrain) (2018)
Based on a Bahraini folktale, this film shows what can happen when a man picks up a strange woman at a bus stop. From a story by Mohamed Fakhro and Ali Fahro, with a script by Sam D.H. Syn, and diredcted by Mohamed Fakhro, Cloven works on a similar level to most urban legends films and has the advantage that this specific tale has been told as many times as other American folktales and thus feels fresher and the outcome is not as well-known from the viewer. While the ending is a bit predictable, the reveal is still surprising and well-done. The cast composed of Reem Erhama and Mubarak Khamis Zayed does great work with few words and even if one were to ignore the sub-titles, they give performances where words are barely needed to pass on their emotions. The film is a quality first appearance from Bahraini horror on the North American festival circuit.
Acide (France) (2018)
A surprise deadly rain has started falling on the country, as the people try to outrun it, they become increasingly protective of their covers and weary of each other. Parents are running with their child, trying desperately to save him from this newfound terror. In this environmental horror from writer/director Just Philippot, the prospect of acidic rains is taken to an extreme where it ends up killing people, burning alive under its power. The power of this short resides in the performances by Maud Wyler as the mother and Sofian Khammes as the father, their desperation, their emotions as they try and outrun the rain and are ready to give everything up to save their child, this most basic of instinct to protect their young is what gives the film its power and its emotional connection, making it much more than just a film about killer rain, but a film about humans and their love for their son, their most desperate desire to save him.