Worldwide Short Film Fest Reviews Part II

Identical twins have always played a large part in film fantasies both titillating and frightening. It’s no surprise that this genetic and reproductive anomaly is fascinating, and Scooter Corkle takes advantage of this fascination in his film Chloe and Attie. Identical twin sisters Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins play the title characters. Chloe looks after her sister Attie; Attie appears to be in a strange wakeful yet vegetative state, not able to walk or move without Chloe’s assistance. Chloe spends most of her time drinking by her sister’s bedside. One day, Attie sends her sister a signal. And then the horror begins. Attie has a secret and deadly power; Chloe is her enabler. Would it be different if they weren’t twins? Does the loyalty to family matter over everything else? Or does Chloe get her own perverse pleasure from Attie’s destruction? The washed-out photography adds to the somber and terrifying atmosphere of the sisters’ blind devotion. This is one of the few times I wish a short had been longer, as the creepy feeling almost didn’t have enough time to set in. Not since The Shining has there been a more disturbing set of twins.

The mockumentary has become a popular cinematic device for telling fantastical stories, particularly in short films. Sex! With Hot Robots is one such film, set in a future where former cleaning / maintenance / sex robots have taken over and use humans as their slave labour. Various humans who were children when the robots began to appear give their views: the men who dreamed of their first sexual encounters (cleaning schmeaning – these robots wore French maid outfits!), a wife tells of her frustration with the device until the male version was made, and one of the creators of the original device who only later realized his mistake. In this future, the male and female bots discovered each other and almost completely eliminated human society, the remnants of which live in the sewers. Except that the humans being interviewed all look healthy and well-dressed, and have a documentary made about them, which takes away from the effect. But then, this is a pretty tongue-in-cheek look at western culture’s obsession with gadgets and sex, with finding the perfect person who isn’t a person: both the stereotypical male desire for a woman who will cook, clean, and do whatever her “master” desires, and the female stereotype of having a man to repair things and let her do all the talking.

Canadians know cold. Not only the chill that sets into your bones that you know won’t go away until May, but also the knowledge that you could be caught outside, in the middle of nowhere, on our vast wilderness, with no one to help or to hear you scream. The deserted cottage country in winter is the lonely setting for Off Season. Director Jonathan Van Tulleken’s story takes us to poorly-secured cottages and the drifter who takes advantage of winter’s abandonment to steal. With the help of a sled and only his dog for company, the drifter for pillages the cottages for valuables, eking out an existence far from any sign of life. Once in a while, he finds something worthwhile such as a particular brand of scotch. But some homes turn out to contain more than he bargained for, such as one filled with booby traps and the body of a young girl inside a refrigerator. The drifter and his dog attempt to retreat from danger to their own cabin, but someone or something is after them. Van Tulleken knows that the frigid, lifeless landscape and almost complete lack of sound give enough atmosphere, and makes this the mood centerpiece. As in space, in the middle of the wilderness in Canada, no one can hear your scream.

How far would you go to try to find a nice girlfriend for the young man who lives upstairs from you? Would you invite him over for tea when your pretty granddaughter came to visit? Or steal his bike loaded down with expensive sound equipment and make him chase through the streets with a strange Goth girl so he will final make some kind of connection with the opposite sex? Epic Fail follows a very bad afternoon for one young man. He spends his morning recording the odd sounds of Reykjavik, such as cars passing through puddles or deliverymen walking down the street. When his bike is stolen while he is getting pizza, he commandeers a car and its driver to follow the suspect. When he lets his guard down, or at least finds an unusual determination, he exudes a strange charm. While it might be a bit cliché to show two people’s budding romance beginning with arguments, director and screenwriter Ragnar Agnarsson manages to make the couple interesting and funny, rather than annoying. And only in a country as small as Iceland could you have such a short yet successful car chase.


We’ve all had moments in our life we wish we could do over again; if only we had a time machine, we would go back, and back again possibly, until we got the moment right. In False Start, François gets this opportunity. He has decided to break up with his girlfriend Anouk, and he must get it exactly right to make sure he doesn’t look like an ass and doesn’t hurt her. First, he must figure out if she wants ice cream or water. Then, he must rid himself of pesky kids playing soccer near the park bench. And more minor details, such as, should he reveal his illicit affair with her almost-underage sister? Breaking up is never easy, and François takes advantage of his time machine to try and get away unscathed. François keeps repeating the moment to perfect even the smallest gestures, as if there is one perfect way to break someone’s heart. The only thing he can’t control is Anouk, and perhaps the truth is best left unsaid.

Probably every child (and every adult geek) wishes that their toys would come to life, a lá Toy Story. And as in the Pixar film, the Bruce Lee action figure in The Little Dragon is not aware of his status as an action figure. While a little worse for wear, the Lee figure can still kick and fly through the air like his namesake. But who are his enemies now? Finding himself in a fanboy’s bedroom, the figure discovers a graveyard of toys, some of which are covered in cobwebs and falling apart. As the figure fights unseen enemies and his own plastic form begins to tear, the audience questions why we buy so many things only to let them rot? What happens to our childhood heroes when we grow up? The stop motion animation is superb, and any fan of Bruce Lee will relish not only the care taken to replicate his style, but also the familiar sound of his fight call, and facial expressions. The figure will fight to the bitter end, until his body has fallen apart. But when a fanboy is obsessed with one particular figure such as Lee, the spirit that enabled the animation of the figure might just find its way to other Lee images.

Many directors choose animation as a story-telling mode as there are certain subjects and themes that they can portray through animation that they would never be allowed to show in live action. Such is the case with Marc Riba and Anna Solanas’ The Twin Girls of Sunset Street. These old ladies kidnap children, cut off their hair, and use the hair (and other bodily items) to make strange medicines. One young boy finds himself trapped by the sisters, and must attempt to escape. Using stop-motion animation and filming in black white and grey tones, Riba and Solanas create a chilling atmosphere. The bodies and faces of the characters must speak for them in this dialogue-less film, and the big eyes and round face of the little boy belies the incredible fear expressed through his hesitant movement. The sisters tower over the children, like old witches in a demonic gingerbread house, and their own incestuous relationship adds to the horror and distracts them enough to help the boy escape. As horrifying as this film would be if it was live-action, the animation allows Roba and Solanas to explore the horror is much greater detail, to show the horror in every dusty crevice of wood furniture and every dark shadow on the sisters’ faces.