Hexploitation: Short Film Highlights

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The Hamilton, Ontario film festival formerly known as the Fright Night Theatre Festival is back this year with another round of horror and exploitation fare. The festival promises to entertain audiences with “Films that Thrill, Chill, and Kill!”, focusing on indie horror and exploitation fare.

We checked out their short film showcase, set to screen on Saturday afternoon. Here are some highlights.

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Stay (2017)

David Mikalson’s Stay is a witty look at some unexpected consequences of a poorly-executed demonic ritual — or, rather, a series of them. This 8 1/2 minute shot is liberally punctuated by moments of sharp humour (and some strangely sympathetic psychopathy).

A Doll Distorted (2017)

A woman suffers from an extreme fear of touch in this arthouse short that’s sparse on dialogue. Niall Shukla’s A Doll Distorted is an artful exploration of the horrors of isolation and aching loneliness, and the violent lengths to which one woman will go to experience love. The narrative does lose focus and wander a bit at the midway point, but the cinematography does the work to keep interest stoked and the film does regain its footing again with a powerful ending. Keep an eye out for one very well-composed and eerie sequence involving a set of mirrors, and an insanely disturbing climax that I didn’t see coming.

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Lunch Ladies (2017)

This hysterical horror-comedy short from director J.M. Logan starts off with a bang, as two fed-up lunch ladies dream of leaving their thankless jobs and becoming the personal chefs of Johnny Depp — just as soon as they can afford the airfare to make it to his concert. When their cafeteria jobs fall into jeopardy, they need to get creative in the kitchen to save them. A bombastic musical score pairs perfectly with the larger-than-life characters. High production values, pitch-perfect costume design, and all-in performances make this hilarious short an absolute joy to watch, even if the plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

Scraps (2017)

An impromptu romantic walk goes horribly wrong for a young woman after she meets the wrong man at a party in this Christopher Giroux short. I’m a sucker for eerie, masked villains, satisfying narratives, and killer electronic scores. If you’re also into those things, you’ll enjoy Scraps too.

Buzzcut (2016) Bon Appetit (2017) 

I was able to see these excellent, superbly-made shorts at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest — read my reviews here. I highly recommend catching both of these shorts if possible. Bon Appetit is an especially delectable morsel.

Banshee (2016)

A little girl becomes obsessed with a vision of a creepy and menacing figure after spending a night lost alone in the woods. Though her neglectful older sister doesn’t believe her, Olivia is convinced that someone (or something) followed her home. Spooky sound design by Christian Rivest and special FX makeup by Éric Thivierge are effective enough. Adam O’Brien’s short gets bonus points and love for some sweet queer representation.

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Juliette (2016)

An unfortunate car crash during a road trip leads to a surreal nightmare in this French animated short from Lora D’Addazio. The rosy colour palette and animation style is gorgeous, even if the content is a little gratuitous at times, and the musical direction by Nicolas Grombeer hits all the right notes.

The Hexploitation Short Film Showcase is screening Saturday, March 24 at the Staircase Theatre.

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