Groovie Movie Reviews presents Short Film Saturday covering the very best short films out there and the upcoming talent you should keep an eye on.
RUSSELL: Before they made one of the most talked about films of 2020, Host (an exemplary slice of demon possession filmed in lockdown and running at a sprightly 57 minutes), director Rob Savage and writer Jed Shepherd made, amongst other films, the short Salt. And it is another marvellously condensed work chronicling our relationship with the paranormal.
A mother and daughter awake late at night, surrounded by cannisters of salt. The daughter is sick and needs medicine, prompting the mother to do a journey through the house. But she isn’t alone and the only protection she has is a ring of salt.
A remarkably ambitious short, what makes Salt so impressive is the detail it packs in as it propels itself forward at breakneck speed. You feel yourself trying to crane back to get an added glimpse of the setting, to try and unpick Julia Grudnowska’s terrific production design. There is a fabulous technical gloss here, and it’s no surprise to see cinematographer Sam Heasman (Doctor Who) and composer Patrick Jonsson (Black Earth Rising) move on to bigger projects. The film oozes tension and claustrophobia even before the arrival of the demonic presence that haunts our mother and daughter. James Swanton, who pops up in a not dissimilar role in Host, is fast becoming a go to actor to embody something otherworldly and terrifying.
The rest of the ensemble are equally strong. Beau Gadsdon leaves an impression even if here role is the most limited of the cast, whilst Alice Lowe once again proves why she is one of the best things to happen to the British independent genre scene. In the (remarkably) brief running time she brings an impressive amount to her character.
The only real limitation to Salt is that you wish it were longer, that you had more time to linger in its narrative. I’d say Savage and Shepherd are talents to look out for but they have ascended beyond this. Salt is a short, terrifying stab of horror that you’ll need to catch your breath afterwards. It’s available to watch on Vimeo here.
CHLOE: This short film debut from writer/director Hannah May Cumming, which is co-written by Sam Schrader, is a stylish homage to the Giallo genre. Although I’ve not seen a ton of Gialli in my time as a horror fan, I can still confirm the filmmakers nailed the visual style and all-original score that pays tribute to the films that inspired Fanatico. It’s got all the cool lighting and killer’s POV shots a film like this needs.
The story follows Sofia (Morgan Demetre) as she starts attending a Catholic boarding school and starts having visions about murders of her fellow students who’ve turned to sex work. Although the acting can feel a bit off at times – and this really could’ve been an intentional move, as I do sometimes feel this way about even some of the old classics of this genre so it actually makes sense in the context – Fanatico is an impressive and promising student film. I did film studies and honestly, not many student films are this good. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be allowed, it’s embarrassing for the rest of us.
Overall this is a well-paced neo-giallo that while paying homage to the genre, also adapts what some people may argue can be a misogynistic one to elevate the voices of women and proposes that sex workers and sexually liberated women shouldn’t be judged or targeted. Sadly, apparently some people need to be reminded of that.
Subversion of the horror genre seems like it’ll be a common theme for Monstrous Femme Films, as it’s also the case with their upcoming short Camp Calypso. Unfortunately this isn’t available to the public yet as it still has to do the festival circuit, but definitely keep and eye out for that. It’s a twist on summer camp slashers, where the camp legend involves sirens that lure men to their deaths. Both Fanatico and Camp Calypso have me looking forward to Hannah’s and Monstrous Femme’s future projects, so she’s definitely a director to look out for. Fanatico is available to check out on Vimeo here.