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On Day 2 of Panic Fest Tricks & Treats, the lineup of killer short horror content continued — and continued to deliver — with Short Film Showcase #2.

I spent Halloween weekend enjoying the many amazing films out of this year’s Panic Fest Tricks & Treats Film Festival (#PanicTricksTreats). Yesterday, I reviewed the stacked short horror showcase that kicked off the fest, showcasing seven sinfully good and incredibly diverse short films (I’ll be covering the eighth film in the block later this week). My coverage of the fest will continue all week. Today, I’m choosing to shine a spotlight on two of my favorite shorts showcased in Block #2.

While all the shorts were exceptional, these two really blew me away. They couldn’t be more different from each other in both style and content, and that’s a huge part of the fun of exploring short horror blocks.

For Him is a dark comedy where one woman turns the tables on the age-old trope of men using and taking advantage of women. In this short, it’s the woman who uses men, but not for sex; she’s got much cleaner things on her mind. Bloodshed is an emotionally gripping dark drama about the pain of loss and the lengths one man will go to for the love of his deceased wife. His heart beats only for her… and his blood flows for her, too.

For Him (Ian Killick)

A tale of home craft, seduction and cleanliness.

A man known only as him (Jamie Hutchins) and a woman known only as her (Kathryn O’ Reilly) are both drinking alone in a bar at adjacent tables. The woman begins flirting seductively with the man, lifting her skirt and rubbing her thigh. He motions for her to join him at his table. He takes a sip of his beer, and she downs a shot. She then coyly nudges her empty shot glass towards him, implying she wants him to get her another one. He leaves his beer and heads to the bar.

As soon as he leaves, the woman surreptitiously removes a dropper bottle from her purse and adds a mysterious liquid to the man’s beer. Cut to him lying dead on her floor, with foam coming out of his mouth. We see him being dragged by his feet into the bathroom. Through a partially open bathroom door, we get a glimpse of the man lying in the bathtub. The woman has her back to us. She’s wearing an apron and grabs a large butcher knife from under the tub. She then leans over him and we can hear the sounds of cutting and her labored breathing.

Very cleverly framed, we don’t really see anything, but the scene is sufficiently spine-chilling nonetheless.

We then get another powerful transition to the woman putting meat into a boiling pot on the stove. It looks like chicken, but we get the distinct impression it’s human meat she’s cooking up. Once the meat is tender, she puts it into a blender and looks positively orgasmic as she mixes it. I won’t ruin what happens next because it’s a devilishly fun surprise with an enormously sinister and satisfying ending.

Extremely clever, wonderfully dark, and very funny, I had a blast with this eight-minute short. Kathryn O’ Reilly is phenomenal and looks like she’s having a blast with a perfectly twisted role.

For Him is the first film from writer/director Ian Killick, and he is currently in pre-production for another short called BabyThump. I can’t wait to see what he does next and feel confident he has a great future ahead of him.

If you get a chance to see For Him, don’t miss it!

Bloodshed (Paolo Mancini and Daniel Watchorn)

A grief-stricken man goes to extreme measures to cope with the death of his wife from a rare-blood disease, seeking redemption through brutal sacrifice.

Bloodshed was one of my favorite shorts out of Panic Fest Tricks & Treats. Highly original, incredibly dark, and exceptionally well made, it’s a short that stayed with me and left me craving more from these talented filmmakers.

It begins with an Old Testament Bible verse that reminds one just how much creepy material can be mined from scripture.

“Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of Sin.” Hebrews 9:22

We open in a hobby shed and see man named Getty sitting in a chair strapped to a machine. We hear a pumping noise and see a close-up of tubes filled with blood. Next to the machine is a Ziploc bag full of blood labeled “Pig #7”. From the voiceover of the man’s thoughts, we learn that he’s strapped to a homemade transfusion machine, and he’s been undergoing some type of crude medical experiment. He’s feeling optimistic that he’s making progress.

The man speaks as if talking to someone else, though no one else is there. He says it will all work out… he promises it will. After a cut to the title screen, Getty utters offscreen, “Sacred is the routine” as the camera pans to a bible and a wall filled with pictures of him and his wife. We see him sleeping on a hardwood floor, getting up to make breakfast, and reciting scripture. He says, “See you later ladybug” and heads out with an axe to get more animals for his blood experiments.

He’s weak from all the blood transfusions and clearly losing his mind. Convinced his wife’s death is his fault, due to his selfishness and corrupt spirit, he’s determined to make things right — by ridding himself of his bad blood. When his neighbor shows up offering his sympathy and looking for his missing dog, we begin to realize the full extent of Getty’s madness and the awful lengths he’s gone to in order to rid himself of his wickedness and save his soul.

This powerful short has the richness and depth of a feature film — with beautiful writing, stunning production design and cinematography, skilled directing, and a magnificent performance from Bruno Verdoni as Getty. The ending took my breath away, and  I immediately tried to seek out more work from these visionary filmmakers.

Unfortunately, my search for me left me empty handed. But after this short, I will definitely keep my eyes out for whatever Mancini and Watchorn do next.

I encourage you to see this one as soon as you get a can. It’s a revelation.

 

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