Each year Fantastic Fest shines a spotlight on the best in horror short films, and on September 27, 2015, they showed this year’s assortment in the “Short Fuse” collection. While a package of various filmmakers projects will invariable have a mixed bag of quality and approach, there was some very strong entries overall.
The first entry certainly front loaded the proceedings: “The Mill At Calder’s End” was a spellbinding piece of puppetry from filmmaker Kevin McTurk that was an excellent homage to both vintage Hammer Horror Films and 1960’s Italian horror cinema (in a nice touch, Barbara Steele, the villainess from 1960 horror classic “Black Sunday” voiced an evil apparition). His graceful puppet articulation and detailed sets rivaled the acclaimed feature length Fantastic Fest entry “Anomalisa.”
“Trust” was an effective black comedy piece, with two dimwitted friends daring each other to dodge various homemade weaponry, and “Sister of Hell” was a humorous tale of a nun with repressed carnal desires who finally acts out with devilish results. Less effective was “Out of the Mold” with sentient bathroom shower mold, and “El Gigante” a gross-out torture piece that was so mean-spirited I grew weary of it quickly. But it certainly received rapturous applause.
“House of Straw” was an interesting, yet lopsided take on werewolf films, where a married couple tries to subdue the husband’s affliction with scraps from the butcher and powerful sedatives. “The Listing” was a slight piece of haunted house panic with a real estate spin, that had some jolts but never quite gelled. The most buzzed about segment was “The Babysitter Murders”, which offered a slapstick horror take on the slasher genre. While it started off as yet another overly reverential retro 70’s/80’s vehicle, its clever twist ending saved it in the end.
But the true showstopper of the collection had to be “Portal To Hell”, a goofy story about a beleaguered apartment super who must try to close said portal in the basement of his building. The main reason it was so well received was certainly the appearance of the recently departed Rowdy Roddy Piper, who gave a humorous turn as the lead character. It received the loudest applause upon its conclusion.
All in all, Short Fuse was a solid set of bite sized horror that showed the important value of an oft-underappreciated segment of cinema. I’m still thinking about “The Mill At Calder’s End” in particular. Quite amazing.