The amazing aspect of short films is their ability, under the proper creative guidance of course, to tell a complete story with as much running time as it takes to travel from my hotel room to Leicester Square (around 13 mins). In fact a well crafted short film can be more entertaining and engaging than most Hollywood feature length productions. This year at Fright Fest nine short films received their big screen premiers from new and established names in the genre. The event also played host to the imaginatively titled and conceived 666 Shortcuts to Hell film competition. Let us also not forget those highly entertaining and gruesome shorts encouraging the audience to turn off their mobile phones or risk facing bloody retribution.
Two police officers break into the apartment of notorious criminal Vince Deacon (a chilling steely performance by Stephen McCole) beat him and tie him to a chair. Having now crossed the line the senior officer Jimmy Parton (Neil Maskett) threatens to torture and kill Deacon, much to the shock of his junior partner Nathan Reece (Ed Speelers) unless he reveals the whereabouts of a certain package. Realising that the officers have reached a point of no return that it can only have one outcome Deacon attempts to set the two policeman against one another before they decide to clean up their mess.
Writer and director Will Gilbey has crafted and helmed a tense psychological thriller with all the edgy grittiness of a British gangster flick. All three actors give sterling performances and Gilbey keeps the viewers' attention fixed on the mind games leaving other details such as the contents of the package a mystery never to be solved.
Chuck Steel; Balls of Steel Justice
If you love 80s action cop films then this claymation spoof/homage from Welsh based Immortal Pictures is the one to watch. Chuck Steel is the quintessential action hero cop, a lone wolf loose cannon whose arrests and interventions turn the city into a war zone. Yet Chuck, along with his sex-crazed robot partner, is the only one who can save an accountant held hostage from a deadly ball busting (literally) end.
Every cliche from 80s cop films is packed into this laugh a minute animation, including the shouty police chief who is one angry cry away from a coronary, explosions and inventive deaths always followed by cheesy one liners, and grandiose martial arts finale. Think of every aspect of all four lethal weapon films and anything by Arnold Schwarzenegger and what you have is a very affectionate poke at some of action filmdom's most loved films.
A stone cold killer (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen) chooses Halloween night to carry out the murder of his latest bounty so that he can escape with body in tow on the one night nobody would be suspicious. His plan seems to work until he is recognised by an old school friend who is impressed with the killer's "costume" and insists on showing him off at a party. The killer at first agrees but time is wearing thin and so is his patience.
Writers Paul Davis and Paul Fischer have crafted a macabre story laced with dark humour. The juxtaposition of Allen's stoney faced killer posing with his victim at a party full of fancy dressed party goers is entertaining yet never loses any of its sinister side. .Under Davis' direction a tense atmosphere is maintained right up to its unexpected end and Alfie Allen is in fine form as the killer .
666 Shortcuts to Hell
Filmmakers were called to make a film under restrictions around the 666 moniker including 6 lines of dialogue, 6 cast and crew on a budget of £666 and with a running time of 6 x 30 secs i.e. 3 minutes. Around 157 filmmakers responded to call from which six (ha ha) were chosen to compete for the grand prize of £6,666, a premier screening at Fright Fest and mentorship under the guiding hands of film production company Movie Mogul Films. The six-member panel judging the submissions make-up leading names in the horror genre including presenter & actress Emily Booth, actor Laurence Harvey (Tom Six having to withdraw due to filming commitments) and Paul McEvoy programme co-ordinator for the Horror Channel and part of the Fright Fest "four musketeers".
The finalists comprised of up and coming as well as established filmmakers with an array of submissions which included a new twist on the tequila worm, the tale of a heartbroken zombie as told through the medium of 80s power ballads , and a warning to rogue government agencies about the dangers of experimenting with telepaths. Having watched all six films I can only imagine just how hard it was for the judges to choose a winner from this macabre motley crue. Heads might have exploded as in a scene from Cronenberg's Scanners, however thankfully sanity was secure and heads on necks remained whole as the winner was announced; Weronika Tofilska with her disturbing yet highly amusing 6 Feet Under, the story of a young woman working in the mortuary applying makeup to her deceased (and attractive) charge and whose imagination results in her getting a little carried away.
Shortcuts to Hell not only provided an opportunity for talented filmmakers to have fun adding to the beating rhythm of the "dark heart of cinema" but as a testament to the storytelling challenge power of short films. Along with the nine other titles premiered during Fright Fest audiences have been treated to a smorgasbord of creative storytelling and imaginative visuals that have made us laugh, cringe and laugh some more. All hail the power of the short film.