November 7, 2009

Zombie Short Film Festival: Mini-Reviews

At the 1st annual Zombie Short Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, ten short films submitted from around the world competed for a cash prize and the coveted Z’omb D’or award. Based on jury selection and audience approval, director Jay Molloy's Deadspiel won the top prize. Below, you will find mini-reviews for each of the films screened at the festival starting with the winner: Deadspiel

REVIEWS

Deadspiel (2008): 8min
Winner: Z'omb D'or (1st place)
Director and Writer: Jay Molloy
Co-writer and producer: Pat Corcoran
Country: Canada
RATING: 4.5 / 5 zedheads



There's nothing disingenuous about the tag-line for Deadspiel. It is indeed "The Greatest Curling Zombie Film Ever Made." I don't know anything about curling, but I fell in love with this short film for its perfectly deadpan comedic timing and the zombie twist it puts on the sports movie montage cliché. In the film, a team of human curlers face off against Team Romero, a zombie curling team comprised of slow, moaning zombies. Unlike the human curlers, however, the zombies are at something of a disadvantage during play, especially when it comes to keeping their limbs intact. No shot, no sequence, no camera angle is wasted in Deadspiel. Presented with a humorous tone, the film nevertheless has elements of a true underdog story. Zombie gore fans will be pleased with a spot-perfect scene of zombie carnage and gut munching near the climax of the film, yet this scene is not what it appears to be. The true climax of the film is ironically more satisfying. If you have occasion to see Deadspiel, do not miss this short. It is in many ways better than many of the feature-length zombie films currently on video.


The Skin of your Teeth (2009): 14:30 min
Runner-Up Finalist for Z'omb D'or
Director: Dan Gingold
Country: USA
RATING: 3.5 / 5 zedheads


The Skin of your Teeth is a tense mood piece about four survivors waiting out the zombie apocalypse on a farm. Director Dan Gingold perfectly captures the rural decay of the farmhouse setting to construct an atmosphere of isolation and creeping danger. Shot at Comeback Farm near Clinton in western New Jersey, the film moves at an effectively slow burn for the first half of the short. Characters barely speak, but the tension is palpable. The tension, however, is ruined by the appearance of the first zombie. Unfortunately, the skill behind the camera is not paralleled by the skill of the zombie makeup. Although the zombies run, the filmmakers went with undead-looking zombies, yet their look is achieved with little more than grey face paint. The paint is not evenly applied on the first zombie: it only covers the front of the face (not the back of the head, not the hands, etc.). The other zombies that appear are less cheesy-looking (and there is one particular excellent shot of a horde of running zombies cresting a hill), but the first grey-faced zombie pulled me right out of the movie. That was a shame because the rest of the film develops into a fantastic chase sequence. Great camerawork, great editing, but unconvincing zombies. Seems that if they were going to use running zombies they could have simply went with a 28 Days Later effect by making the zombies dirty and bloody



Zombeer (2008): 12 min
Runner-Up Finalist for Z'omb D'or
Directors and Writers: Barend de Voogd and Rob van der Velden
Country: Netherlands
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 4 / 5 zedheads


Herman, the brewmaster at a Dutch brewery, loves beer so much he can't stop drinking it -- even on the job. Demoted to the late shift after he's discovered drunk during a tour of the brewery, Herman continues to drink long into the night. In his stupor, he falls into one of his own beer kettles. Through the magic of mixology, he is transformed into a zombie while the beer he floats in over night absorbs his juices. Soon, the beer begins to exhibit a deadly effect on those who drink it. The beer is marketed as a "Beer with a Bite," and this becomes more true than ever. Zombeer is a weird film that nevertheless serves up some impressive, low-budget zombie carnage, especially once people start to drink the undead suds during one of the Netherlands' biggest national holidays: Queen's Day.



They Shall Pay with Rivers of Blood (2009): 7 min
Directed by Buck Anderson
Country: Canada
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 4 / 5 zedheads


Perhaps the only disappointing thing about They Shall Pay with Rivers of Blood is that it was completely overlooked by the jury as a contender for the Z'omb D'or award and prize. This film does everything right that most new filmmakers get wrong. Written and directed by Buck Anderson, They Shall Pay with Rivers of Blood is a (g)ripping faux-grindhouse short that combines gunplay, running zombies, and ninjas into what was easily one of the best shorts on the festival program. The film is seven minutes of pure action with an effective grindhouse feel, but thankfully this "grindhouse feel" is achieved without resorting to the cliche insertion of fake film scratches on the digital image that so many other filmmakers have copied from the likes of Tarantino and Rodriguez. Instead, the film's grindhouse feel is a result of the short's gritty sense of urban decay, use of slick digital effects in conjunction with low-budget practical effects, and the surprise insertion of its outlandishly violent final sequence.

Perhaps I was most impressed by the camera work, editing, and digital effects. Much of the movie takes place during one of two chase sequences shot on what appears to be a handheld camera; however, the expert choreography of the action, the variety of inventive and exciting camera angles, and the steadiness of the camera raised this short film in my esteem over some recent big-budget movies. Especially during the chase sequences, the camera manages to capture both a steady picture and just the right amount of "shaky cam effect" to convey the panic and movement in the scene. The zombies and blood/gore effects are also impressive. The film offers a variety of decayed and fresh-looking zombies created by practical and digital means; at the same time; digital blood is used sparingly and to good effect. Effects and post-production work were done by Buckshot Design and The Juggernaut post-production, design and animation studio. Both deserve kudos for enhancing this film's already clear and effective visual direction.

Easily, They Shall Pay with Rivers of Blood could have bumped either The Skin of Your Teeth or Zombeer for second place. An unrecognized gem of the evening!


The Lift (2009): 6:30 min
Director and Writer: Mark McCarthy
Country: Ireland
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 2 / 5 zedheads


There's not much of a narrative in The Lift. A motorist stops on a lush but desolate road to pick up a hitchhiker who is sporting a nasty bite on his hand. Since the film screened during a zombie film festival, I bet you you can imagine where this is going. And it develops by the numbers. With little acting, scripting, or direction to sink one's teeth in to, it's at least worth a watch for the cute visual gag at the end.


Keg of the Dead (2006): 8 min
Director: Paul Schilens
Writers: James Dirschberger and Paul Schilens
Country: USA
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 4 / 5 zedheads


What sucks more about being a pizza delivery boy? Serving asshole fraternity guys? Not getting a tip? Dealing with zombies? How about all three in one night? In Keg of the Dead, director Paul Schilen's 2006's student film, a delivery is guy dropping off pies at fraternity house Alpha Masta Beta (get it?) when the zombies attack. He discovers that the only thing that will stop the zombies is the one thing the frat won't part with: beer. Channeling Romero and Peter Jackson's Braindead (aka Dead Alive), with music by Todd Mazierski that riffs on the Goblin soundtrack for Dawn of the Dead, Keg of the Dead is an impressive short full of zombie carnage. It's only a shame to see all that beer wasted!



Housewarming (2007): 10 min
Written and Directed by Lee Marquardt
Country: Australia
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 3.5 / 5 zedheads



If Sam Raimi had made The Evil Dead with his sister's Barbie dolls, it may have looked something like Housewarming. Filmed entirely using Barbie dolls, play sets, accessories, and various other miniature props, Housewarming imagines a zombie attack on a couple's brand new home. Although the sound and picture quality is raw and rough, and some of the editing is confusing, the film offers enough low-budget fake blood, spaghetti guts, and Barbie zombie mutilation to satisfy everyone's inner zombie child.



Bum of the Dead (2009): 5:13 min
Written and Directed by Geoff Whitman
Country: Canada
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 3 / 5 zedheads


The film is described as film about "A homeless man tries to light a cigarette with an unreliable lighter during the onset of the zombie apocalypse," and there's really no other story to it than this. What the film lacks in story, however, it makes up for in slick digital effects. That opening sequence, however, is plainly cribbed from Romero's Land of the Dead, but we can forgive them by assuming its an homage.



The Zombie (2006): 1:57 min
Directed by Randy Smith
Country: Canada
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 1.5 / 5 zedheads


Shot as a special effects test, The Zombie isn't really a film. A zombie eats a man's arm and then is shot. The decent effects achieved on a low budget are worth noting, but there's very little to say about this clip.


Zzzzombies (2009): 3:36 min
Animated by David King
Country: Scotland
WATCH SHORT ONLINE
RATING: 4 / 5 zedheads


David King's inventive stop motion animation on an overhead projector follows a group of zombies and their hard-luck attempts to make a meal of a guy during his early morning routine. Funny and visually simple yet fresh, Zzzombies would be ruined by any further explanation. The film may lack a satisfying climax, but each individual scenario elicited hearty applause from the audience at the Zombie Short Film Festival. Check out the short at the link above and experience Zzzzombies for yourselves!

1 comment:

  1. RIVERS OF BLOOD WUZ ROBBED! BEST ZOMBIE SHORT OF 2009! HANDS DOWN.

    ReplyDelete