Today was the screening of the first part of the Leeds International Film Festival short film competition. It'll be continuing over the next few days and I'll be there to bring you the my thoughts on the shorts.
Today was also the first Northern screening of Inbred. This Yorkshire-set comedic horror has yet to be picked up for distribution but expect to see it in cinemas in the coming year.
International Short Film Competition: Part 1
Swimsuit 46 (Dir. Wannes Destoop)- A simple story of an overweight girl saving money to buy a new pair of swimming goggles. It holds the audiences' attention but its direction is unsurprising.
Bear (Dir. Nash Edgerton) - Opening with a panel stating "Jack always goes one step too far." Setting up the audience to view everything Jack does with the expectation of something a little worse, a little worse, a little worse. It pays off perfectly as it carries the audience into each twist with an unconscious knowledge it was coming. It allows the shocks to turn to laughs very quickly.
Music Box (Dir. Cherish Perez de Tagle) - Telling the story of a deaf woman and a mute man falling for each other, the film never strays from convention. Though, one shot stands out and deserves to be replicated. Avoiding a traditional montage sequence when the mute builds the music box the director instead opts for use of time-lapse. Same effect, but it felt much fresher.
Cross-country (Dir. Cherish Perez de Tagle) - Following a cross-country runner who breaks off from the main pack he runs through the forest discovering vignettes: musclemen training, murderers and their victim, and finally a beach that is incredibly open when compared to the closeted forest. The Film is clearly emulating films like Loach's Sweet Sixteen. Yet, unlike those features, this short seems to be about little.
Aglaée (Dir. Rudi Rosenberg) - A story about teenage sexual awakening. Benoit is dared to ask out disabled girl Aglaée. When she turns him down he can't take the spurn and acts out. It's an interesting film and keeps the audience invovled. But it felt like a misstep on the part of the director to leave the perspective of benoit. By showing the actions of both characters the film's outcome is obvious, showing only Benoit's would have hidden the end and deepened the effect.
Dir. Karl Markovics, Austria/Germany, 2011, 90mins
Roman's never known life outside state enclosures, raised in an orphanage before being imprisoned at 14 for killing another child, he has never known any family. However, a parole hearing is approaching and he must find a job to prove that he is able to live in society. He chooses to become an undertaker. The film follows his slow awakening to his prison life.
The film's direction is faultless, but this is because it takes no risks. The plot is predictable, with an orphan there's going to be the search for a mother, for a prisoner there's going to be a yearning for freedom, and for a loner there's going to be a gradual breakthrough into friendships, so to break away from this the director needs to shake up the conventions a little.
Breathing is a fine and enjoyable film, but it isn't memorable.
Dir. Alex Chandon, UK/Germany, 2011, 90mins
Two care-workers head deep into Yorkshire with a group of kids for a weekend of team building exercises. Heading off the beaten track they shack up in a cottage on the outskirts of Mortwater. The locals quickly reveal themselves to be less than benign and what follows is the expected whittling down of numbers in a messy fashion. But this film shouldn't be judged by its plot, because, whilst not a parody of the genre, it's definitely one that finds fun in the conventions of horror.
It is an immensely funny film but also more gruesome than any I've seen in a long time. I had a gut reaction to the film. By which I don't mean "I just knew it was good." I mean my stomach felt like it was curling up and retreating as far from the screen as my body would allow. It's not just that the special effects are visceral, or because the deaths are new (filling someone with silage is certainly one I haven't seen before), but because I actually cared for the characters. I didn't want a single one of the characters to die. Unlike other horrors, where the characters are simply walking opportunities for gore, this bunch were funny people. That's not to say they're all likeable but none were annoying to the audience.
The discomfort also derives from something else, something separate to the humour, none of them wanted to go on the weekend away and yet they're having to suffer hideous deaths. Horror often tries to justify itself with moral lessons, some are successful and others aren't. But sidestepping the issue entirely, this film finds great potency in the uncomfortable knowledge we're watching, by film standards, undeserving people die.
Director Alex Chandon sugars this rather unsavoury prospect by filling the film with humour. Though don't expect subtlety, a lot of the laughs come from the blunt nature of it, for instance the village pub is called 'The Dirty Hole'. Director Alex Chandon understands how to shock an audience and immediately capitalise on the tension with a laugh. Following every death was an outburst of laughter from the audience. Time and again he'd twist the tone between horror and humour.
This film deserves to reach the big screen as it is so much better than the plethora of torture movies that fill the cinemas, it is both one of the best horrors and the best comedies to have been released this year.