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GenreBlast 2023 Horror Comedy Shorts

When it comes to killer short horror, few fests quite pack the punch as GenreBlast, and the 2023 slate of standout shorts is no exception. 

GenreBlast is one of the fastest-growing and top-rated international indie genre film fests around and also happens to be one of our personal favorites that we love covering. Now in its eighth year, the festival takes place over Labor Day Weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Winchester. It features movies, food, booze, networking, and to-die-for CINEMA. And it’s a must-attend for fans of genre films, especially those films off the beaten path that include the weird, subversive, WTF, and boldly original. This year’s festival featured 12 features and a whopping 98 shorts.

Obviously, we couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the great short-form content. But given our obsessive love of shorts, we wanted to highlight ten of the lighter offerings that really stood out to us and made a huge impression.

PETER’S RECOMMENDATIONS (SHORT HORROR EDITOR)

GenreBlast festival boasts an absolute embarrassment of riches when it comes to shorts, and it is hard to narrow it down to just a few essential watches. But here are just a handful of standouts from the selection that I think should be checked out at your earliest convenience. As my heart always goes to the sillier side of horror, my choices are from the comedy horror shorts on offer at the festival this year.

1. Butt Stuff (8 minutes)

A man’s sentient sex toy becomes jealous when its owner forms a relationship with a human woman.
 

BUTT STUFF – written and directed by April Yanko.

I’m kicking things off with a bang here! Butt Stuff from April Yanko is a comedy horror about a sentient sex toy. If that isn’t immediately enough to sell this film to you, then I don’t think we can be friends.

This short is essentially the tragic scene in Toy Story 2 when Jessie gets left behind, except it’s a sex toy. It’s not nearly as “naughty” as it sounds, featuring only brief implied sex and no nudity. What is, instead, is a sweet, funny, wonderfully weird short that will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

It’s a standout short highlighting Yanko’s self-described penchant for combining the sentimental and heartwarming with the “super effing weird” to create something unforgettable. 

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Editor’s Note: Preview Yanko’s endearing and exceptionally charming filmmaking style by watching her first short film, THIS IS A GARDEN, about two friends hanging out in a graveyard who begin a deep, existential conversation over life, love, loneliness, and death. It’s a captivating two-hander that effectively explores the fears we all have about what it’s like to lose someone you love and whether or not the good times you have make the inevitable heartbreak and suffering worthwhile. It also does a fantastic job telling an LGBTQ+ story in a way that feels authentic, relatable, and sincere.

2. Jess is a Clown Now (12 minutes)

Jess is a Clown

A clown-flavored home invasion horror/comedy about a young woman who’s trying to enjoy her snack — or is she?
 

On a dark and stormy night, a jilted lover seeks revenge on her girlfriend, resulting in lots of surprises and plenty of blood.

Written and directed by Rylan Rafferty, Jess is a Clown Now is a killer Clown comedy horror that really doesn’t go where you expect it to.

This ridiculously fun short keeps you guessing with twist after delightful twist. It throws a little bit of everything into the mix, remaining endlessly captivating thanks to the hilarious and committed performances of its two leads, Kara Jobe and Brianna Ripley. Not only are Jobe and Ripley fantastic, but they truly look like they were having a blast while making this inventive and entertaining short.

If you like your comedy a little kooky, unsurprising, and slightly off the wall, then this stellar short is for you!

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Editor’s Note: Seasoned filmmaker and accomplished assistant editor Rafferty has worked on shows like the CW’s CHARMED and features like BETWEEN TWO FERNS: THE MOVIE. Discover the intelligent and witty work of Rafferty by watching her previous short, PLAYING WITH SPIDERS, about a spider-worshipping cult and a devout disciple who receives a visit from a powerful demon on the eve of a ritual suicide pact.

3. Moonlight Sonata, With Scissors (7 minutes)

A reluctant young woman agrees to help a former criminal associate dispose of a dead body with unexpected results.
 

Written and directed by Chris Ethridge (Haven’s End) and based on a short story by Darrell Z. Grizzle, Moonlight Sonata, With Scissors plays out like a wacky crime thriller gone wrong.

In the dead of the night, a former criminal associate (Troy Halverson) of a woman (Hailey Swartwout) turns up at her house with a dead body to dispose of. From there, the fun begins.

Ethridge has directed two feature films and over a dozen short films and music videos, including an award-winning, authorized adaptation of Stephen King’s short story, “Survivor Type.” Ethridge was honored with the prestigious Esprit de Gore award at the 2018 Nightmares Film Festival. He won Best Director U.S. Feature at the 2019 Austin Revolution Film Festival for his work on Haven’s End. His most recent work includes the opening segment of the experimental feature The Transformations of the Transformations of the Drs. Jenkins.

Ethridge’s latest, Moonlight Sonata, With Scissors, is a clever short that subverts expectations, beginning with a bang (literally) and keeping viewers fully on the hook throughout its short runtime. 

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4. The Haunted Baby Carriage From Hell (8 minutes)

A couple moves into a new home only to find it happens to be haunted by an old baby carriage.
 

Written and directed by J.T. Seaton, The Haunted Baby Carriage From Hell is an LGBTQ+ comedy horror about a couple, Spencer (Dylan Wayne Lawrence) and Cameron (John Reddy), who move into a new fixer-upper only to find that it comes with a little something extra that they never bargained for. An old baby carriage haunts their new home. As the carriage attempts to scare the couple and their delightfully snarky friends, something completely unexpected happens: no one cares!

Rather than scream in terror or run for the hills, the couple merely expresses frustration at the minor nuisance, on par with their disappointment over the home’s unpainted walls.

You know you’re in for a treat when a short film hooks you from the opening title, this time playing out like a love letter to classic monster movies.

With clever writing, great performances (including a fun cameo from horror legend Kelli Maroney), and a funny twist on the haunted house subgenre, The Haunted Baby Carriage From Hell is a devilish delight. 

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5. We Forgot About the Zombies (3 minutes)

Two men, hiding in a barn during a zombie invasion, think they’ve found a vaccine.
 

Written and directed by Chris McInroy, We Forgot About the Zombies is an absolutely hilarious short from the man behind such other classic horror comedy shorts as GUTS and We Summoned a Demon.

McInroy manages to take viewers on a wild ride in just a few short minutes. It’s as funny and unexpected as it is gleefully gory.

This one is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish and has a brilliant payoff.

STEPHANIE’S RECOMMENDATIONS (EDITOR-IN-CHIEF)

While I love a good comedic romp, I also appreciate shorts that weave some sophisticated satire, unexpected pathos, and darker themes into the fabric of the film. Thus, my picks out of the remarkable GenreBlast short film selection feature are certainly witty and entertaining, but they also leave a lasting impression and give viewers something to think about.

1. Sucks to Be The Moon (10 minutes)

Jealous of the Sun’s stardom, the Moon journeys into space, searching for a planet that cares about him. Will he find his place in the universe, or is he destined to be a lonely loser forever?
 

Have you ever discovered something and felt a strange combination of gratitude and guilt — joy that you found something so amazing and embarrassment that it took you so long to get turned on to it? That’s how I felt watching the latest short from the geniuses behind Tiny Little Cartoons, Eric Paperth and Tyler March, as well as musician Rob Tanchum.

Not only is their latest animated musical short, Sucks to Be The Moon (written, produced, and directed by Paperth and March, with music and lyrics by Tanchum), my favorite thing out of this year’s truly stellar GenreBlast lineup, but it’s one of my favorites shorts of all time.

It features the voice talents of Tanchum, the incredible Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and a favorite of mine, Jack Quaid (The Boys, Scream V), so it’s far more delightful and captivating than I can put into words.

Packed with plenty of humor, truly great music, charming animation, and enormous creativity, the film follows the put-upon Moon (Tanchum), who feels lonely, unappreciated, and neglected in the shadow of the superstar Sun (Hsu). Tired of the indignity of it all, Moon abandons Earth in search of greener pastures in a vast universe. He soon comes across a celestial hot spot where he meets the rest of the planets in the solar system, only to discover that no place is perfect — and no one, not even the worshipped and adored Sun, feels entirely secure with their place in the world.

It’s all wildly entertaining and toe-tapping good fun, and Tanchum’s infectious tunes are the kind you’ll want to listen to repeat on Spotify.

(Speaking of, his album on Spotify, Disturbed Depressed Inadqueate, is essential listening. With a title like that and an album filled with catchy, well-produced, genuinely hilarious bangers, Tanchum is the kind of artist I’m convinced I could be best friends with.)

As a space nerd, I adored the representation of all the planets; it’s like School House Rock for disaffected adults!

Finally, despite the humor, there’s a bit of pathos here and relatability in a story that is ultimately about comparing yourselves to others, feeling inadequate, and envying what others have without realizing their paradise is likely paved with just as much self-doubt and insecurity as yours.

The film ends with the short’s best song— side-splittingly funny — and an end screen that says: “Dedicated to anyone who’s ever sucked. We suck too. Let’s all suck together.” For as much of a joyous and laugh-out-loud romp, as this is, there’s something so potent in that which hits home, especially for fellow creatives struggling with imposter syndrome.

Sucks to Be the Moon and its talented creators have found a new place of extreme affection in my heart, and I urge you to see it as soon as you can. In the meantime, head to the YouTube page for Tiny Little Cartoons and go down a rabbit hole of more stellar content. 

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2. A Ben Evans Film (15 minutes)

A kind yet delusional man makes a film starring his recently deceased parents.
 

An extremely socially awkward loner, Ben Evans (the dementedly hilarious Sky Elobar, who you may recognize from the cult hit The Greasy Strangler), is having difficulty dealing with the recent death of his beloved parents, who he still keeps sprawled out in their bed at home rather than allowing them to be buried.

Ben had dreams of being a filmmaker, and he’s cast his dearly departed mom and dad as his film’s stars. Watching him put a dress, wig, and makeup on a corpse, tying his mom to a chair with a cutup plastic bag so she won’t fall over while performing dubious voiceover work, is as wickedly funny as it is deeply disturbing.

Elobar shines with his trademark manic weirdness and oddity as he tries to keep a well-meaning, nosy neighbor (Sara Key) out of his business while stopping at nothing to get his movie made. Even a serious derailment when his “actors” get discovered and buried doesn’t stop Ben from pursuing his passion in the most horrific means imaginable.

Along the way, he’s accidentally encouraged by an author who writes books on how to be a scriptwriter, played by the delightful Rob Zombie regular Pancho Moler (31, 3 From Hell, Candy Corn).

Written and Directed by James Henry Hall and Bret K. Hall and based on a story by Josh Malerman, the film ends with a darkly comical bang, making A Ben Evans Film a twisted treat from beginning to end. 

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3. Righteous (13 minutes)

A family gathering for Shabbat dinner doesn’t go as planned when Mom and Dad introduce a new friend to the family.
 

Created as a student Capstone project/thesis film and made with minimal crowdfunded donations, burgeoning filmmaker Ethan Grossman proves you don’t need a lot of resources to make a big impact.

Righteous is sweet and quirky, but it also has a big heart and a big message of acceptance behind its deceptively simple, initially shocking concept.

It begins with a teen boy in his room, Marshal (Tomas Moser), blissfully playing video games while his headphones drown out the sound of his parents upstairs having uncomfortably loud sex.

Two older kids, Walter (Austin Greene) and Laila (Kelly Warren), who no longer live at home, arrive for the family’s annual Shabbat dinner. When they sit down at the dinner table, an unexpected guest is there. He says his name is Fred (Aidan Hughes), but the kids have no idea why he’s there at such an important family event. He’s never properly introduced as anything other than a friend of the parents, Jocelyn (Jean Rosolino) and Moshe (Ron Lake).

As Laila, on edge from her recent relationship problems, continues to push and express dismay at a stranger joining them, a bombshell secret is finally revealed.

Fred is not just a friend; he’s the new lover of the older married couple. While the youngest son remains unbothered, just content to see his parents so much happier and more relaxed, the two older kids are troubled by the unconventional romantic partnership.

It’s a fun twist on sexuality, which flips the table on an old script that typically sees older, often conservative, parents struggling to come to terms with a child’s sexual orientation and controversial choices.

The way Fred’s inclusion in their lives is introduced without fanfare — as if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world — is a delight. It is brilliant to take a situation that would normally be played for shock value and funnel it into a “what’s the big deal of it all?” perspective.

I greatly respect Grossman and his student-run production crew for creating quite a memorable film with a minimal budget and tight deadline; he’s one to watch. 

4. PicMe (8 minutes)

Alice is pressured into downloading a new social media app by a friend, but when the app starts to control her, will she be able to escape, or will she fall farther down the rabbit hole?
 

Films focusing on the dark side of social media and its negative impact on our psyche and self-esteem are a dime a dozen these days, but there’s good reason for this proliferation. Few things have as much of an ever-present, all-consuming impact on our modern existence, and that’s especially true for young people who have known an existence outside of the sphere of online social influence.

While the concept isn’t new, the execution by writer-direction Molly Tomecek feels fresh and innovative in PicMe.

Alice (Arielle Beth Klein) is a young woman who’s a bit shy and introverted. She feels most comfortable alone at home and actively shuns social media, abhorring the influencer culture. She tends to flake on plans with her best friend, Ellie (Breezy Diabo). But she’s determined to honor her commitment this time. Still, her resolve is challenged when Ellie drops a bomb via text: She’s invited a stranger, Marie (Briana Sky Riley), to join them.

As much as Alice wants to protest, she’s trying to be a good friend. However, the bad news keeps coming. Ellie informs Alice that Marie has gotten them into an exclusive hotspot, with one very big caveat. The establishment requires a certain amount of social clout to enter. Guests may have at least 5,000 likes on an app called PicMe. Desperate not to disappoint Ellie, Alice vows to download the app and meet her popularity quota in one night.

Her quest for instant status, modeling her social presence after the beautiful and popular Marie, reveals much about the perils of crafting a false identity and seeking acceptance from strangers on the internet. It effectively shows how insidious and fickle the world of clout chasing is. One minute, the vapid praise gives you an over-inflated ego. The next minute, following a simple misstep, you’re met with crushing criticism and ridicule.

It’s a funny but heartbreaking descent into desperation, insecurity, inauthenticity, and a hunger for validation.

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5. Bowling 4 Eva (14 minutes)

Bowling 4 Eva

A depressed young girl uses medication and an obsession with bowling to dull her emotional pain.
 

Smart, incredibly fun, and wildly creative, Aelfie Oudghiri‘s Bowling 4 Eva delves into some mighty dark and heavy themes, delivering considerable whimsy without ever sacrificing the gravitas of her subject matter.

Right out of the gate, the stellar short has an enticing metal/punk rock vibe and a killer 90’s aesthetic that will make Gen Xers and elder Millennials intensely nostalgic. We meet Kristina (Olivia Claire Liang), a troubled teen girl back home from boarding school after a failed suicide attempt. She tries to fill the days by trolling chat rooms, where she offers to meet up with unscrupulous men, and indulging in her greatest passion: bowling.

It’s clear Kristina has never wanted for anything when it comes to material comfort, given her family’s opulent estate, but her emotional needs have been severely neglected. Her mother’s main concern is pumping her full of psych meds, insisting Kristina takes a new drug called Tranquilia that’s been billed as a loneliness inhibitor.

Intense and emotional, Bowling 4 Eva cleverly tackles some really big and complex ideas, ranging from a corrupt healthcare system, overmedication in the