We kick off our coverage of the 2019 Brooklyn Horror Film Fest with a look at two of the fest’s exceptional blocks of short horror programming.
We are honored to have the opportunity to cover the 2019 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, now its 4th year of celebrating the boldest in horror filmmaking. The BHFF is one of the premiere film fests on the East coast, with this year’s programming spanning 8 days from October 17th-24th. Genre fans and film lovers are being treated to 35 feature films and 40 shorts playing throughout Brooklyn.
In addition to the festival’s boundary-pushing features, one of the major highlights of the BHFF is its incredible Shorts Program, featuring five blocks of exceptional horror short programming: Home Invasion, Nightmare Fuel, Creeping Terror, Head Trip and Slayed.
We had the chance to check out the popular CREEPING TERROR block: consisting of five unforgettably horrifying films in this group of longer, more meticulous scare products that tap into deadly family traditions, unique vampire lore, urban legends and more.
We also scored seats to the SLAYED block: a diverse and empowering line up of LGBTQ+ shorts. Each film touches on various aspects of LGBT issues from the horrors of coming out, sexuality, homophobia, transphobia and more, using the magic of filmmaking to produce powerful messages behind the intense emotion and terror throughout the narratives.
CREEPING TERROR PROGRAM
OTHER SIDE OF THE BOX
This short is the perfect example of how you can make a great film with so much substance with so little time and budget. The premise is extremely simple, revolving around a mysterious box with a set of rules, yet the execution makes it such an intense and breathtaking watch. The characters were also really easy to invest in since their confusion and fear is completely relatable, especially since we only know as much as they do.
This combined with the steady pacing of the mystery, the heart-stopping climax and the haunting pair of eyes watching our loving couple completes this very masterful short.
‘Grief’ can very easily be interpreted as an exploration of grief and the strain it takes on personal relationships. The story follows a married couple whose son is missing and presumed dead. Although little is known about the details of the son’s death, it is the horrifying effect his death has on his parents that centres the film.
As the parents, Kevin and Esther are visited by a strange man from their support group, their marital problems come to boil in the most horrific way possible. Although a second watch is recommended as the film dips into heavily the surreal, it is a very intriguing and emotional ride.
Layered with a false sense of security and strong suspense, this film presents another reason to be terrified of meeting your in-laws for the first time. As a young woman meets her new boyfriend’s family, she is confronted with the deeply unsettling, and deadly, burdens of his family’s past… but not in the ways she thinks.
The best thing about this that its mystery is built up effectively so that everything falls automatically into place upon the terrifying conclusion. The sense of betrayal is also heavily felt since we, like the girlfriend, have been lied to the entire time. The monsters were well-constructed and frightening, especially taking into consideration their unique origins. Overall, The Burden captivating and entertaining short.
SUICIDE BY SUNLIGHT
A refreshing take on the modern vampire, this short explores the journey of a young nurse, Valentina, who has been barred from seeing her twin daughters by her human ex-partner due to her vampirism. Forced to hide her identity due to society’s intolerance to vampires, she struggles to suppress her bloodlust whilst living in a world that degrades her as both a vampire and a woman of colour.
The film is clever with its use of vampires, using the supernatural creatures as a bold method of commenting on race since even in the underworld, there is still racism. This prejudice hovers over Valentina at work and it is the main reason her ex-partner refuses to let her see her children.
Actress, Natalie Paul does an amazing job at establishing her character as the emotional centre of the film, ensuring that we feel for Valentina throughout her every struggle. Valentina herself is a very multi-layered character and you can tell there’s a lot more to her and her story than the seventeen-minute film has shown, making it one of those short films that you hope will be adapted into a feature.
The Boogeywoman centers an urban myth that helps women seek revenge against those who would wrong them. This comes handy to our protagonist as she gets her first period on a night out with her ‘friends’ and encounters many terrifying aspects of womanhood that she learns to face.
The cinematography was beautiful and vibrant with no boring-looking shoot in the entire film. Each scene burst with some kind of contrasting color befitting the intense and/or daunting atmosphere of the scene. The film had plenty of substance with interesting characters, tightly-wound suspense scenes and an overall empowering message of the horrors of becoming a woman in body and how to become a powerful woman in personality.
Jeremiah is a clever and sincere short centered around a young man’s journey of self-discovery. The film has plenty to say in regards to a range of topics from masculinity, perceptions of gay men, the dangers of suppressing emotion and coming out.
Jeremiah, an Asian-American teenager is haunted by a mysterious figure that pushes him to face his darkest fears. As a football player, the pressure to conform to certain stereotypes and expectations is unspoken but there nonetheless. However, the film challenges these stereotypes by putting a traditionally masculine man in a situation where he is questioning and fearful of sexuality.
The film makes use of mis en scene to project Jeremiah’s fear and stress with contrasting lighting used to not only enhance the eerie astrosphere and the dark shadows but to also highlight Jeremiah’s isolation and vulnerability. Another touching aspect of the film is the friendship between Jeremiah and his fellow football player, Michael who shows a refreshing amount of support and sensitivity towards his struggling friend.
This is a highly emotional film that is safe for even non-horror lovers as the spookiness is minimal but the messages are strong and important.
4 / 5
Stigma’s message lays primarily within its title, and it projects said message with such captivating, emotional power. The film surrounds a hook up between two young men that turns sideways as one suddenly becomes severally ill. The lead up to this event is highly erotic, yet there is a slight eeriness in the air, lingering until the horror unleashes.
The infection that our main character experiences is grotesque and shocking to say the least. I would not recommend having even a light snack as you watch. The special effects are impressive and extremely realistic, leaving you completely horrified.
However, after the horrifying climax, there is calm as the message behind the film is unveiled. The film does an amazing job at raising awareness of the horrors of living with HIV and the importance of acceptance and ending the ‘stigma’ so those with the disease don’t have to endure more suffering as a result.
This sci-fi horror definitely hits close to home with its emotional journey and moral dilemma. It follows a young woman, Alana whose girlfriend, Gwendolyn is critically ill and requires a ground-breaking operation that will cure her. However, not everything goes to plan.
The black and white filtered cinematography highlights the darkness and desperation in the couple’s lives, as well as the darkness behind the sketchy doctor’s practice. It also allows for the sourness of Alana and Gwendolyn’s once sweet triumph to sink in as we question what we might have done if stuck in a similar situation.
Despite its short length, the film is full of raw emotion and a sharp moral dilemma that leaves it lingering in audience’s minds.
A very powerful addition to this collection, Penance touches on the very relevant topic of the dangers of gay conversion camps, particularly those run by religious groups. It centres around a group of LGBTQ+ youths who are forced into a gay conversion camp. However, not everything is as it seems.
Barely three minutes long, the film still makes a very strong message of self-acceptance, empowerment and the strength of a supportive community.
4 / 5
For fans of satire, this film takes a new twist on the Stephen King classic, ‘Carrie’ by addressing the relevant topic of public bathrooms and gender. The film surrounds the ironically named ‘Cassie’ who has several prominent masculine characteristics despite her female gender identity. She is ridiculed and assaulted by her fellow students in the girl’s bathroom who believe her to be a transgender woman. However, Cassie finds revenge in a demon troll summoned by her satanic mother.
It’s very befitting that the demonic troll attacks its victims within bathrooms, making their experiences just as horrifying as they made it for poor Cassie or any other transgender or nonbinary person.
However, despite its great message, I feel as if the film occasionally leans too heavily on the classic tale of Carrie and needed a tad more separation so that the borrowed narrative wouldn’t smother the message behind the film.
3 / 5
This is an unusual film to say the very least. With only a single line of dialogue and some very ‘detailed’ animation, the film is centered around the director’s fears of dating.
2 / 5
Switch is a clever, expressive short that explores possible one of the most confusing and stressful times of any teenager’s life — the first time. The narrative follows a bisexual teenager who discovers a strange occurrence concerning her body as she is about to have sex for the first time, ruining the moment and shattering her self-esteem. However, she soon learns that being a little different isn’t a bad thing and that her ‘quirk’ doesn’t make her any less desirable.
Frightening in concept, the film uses a supernatural occurrence to describe the scary and confusing world of first times and discovering your sexuality. Inherently erotic, the film is also very inclusive of different sexualities and addresses the question every teenager has ever asked themselves concerning their body and sexuality; ‘am I normal?’
5 / 5