Friday, April 13, 2012
Five Dallas International Film Festival short films explore real world nightmares
All illustrate the vulnerability and paradox of the human condition with cleverness and nuance.
When taken together, an initial thought for Bear, Hellion, Another Bullet Dodged (all screening as part of Shorts 1 on April 13 and 14 at Angelika Dallas), The Hiccup (screening as part of Late Night Shorts on April 13 and 14 at Angelika Dallas), and Fungus (screening as part of Shorts 2 on April 18 and 19 at Angelika Dallas) could be that they’re all excellent black comedy shorts that are screening at the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival.
But upon closer examination, an even more specific thread ties them together: they explore the terror of real life. This stuff could happen to me, or you, or anyone.
The phrases “horror film” and “scary movie” evoke certain key components: rampaging monsters, senseless violence, chilling musical scores and unbearable suspense, to name a few things expected by viewers. But what about when a film eschews most of those traditional trappings to focus on dark and realistic irony? Does it qualify as ‘horror’ if what it addresses is the terrible potential of plausible human interaction? In reality, some of life’s most horrific moments are born of sheer absurdity, and often the fear we experience results from the poetry of an unexpected turn. In these five short films, that concept is explored.
Aussie stuntman Nash Edgerton’s Bear is an excellent example of dark ironic twists. Like his similarly uproarious short Spider, which screened at DIFF in 2008, Bear starts out well intentioned. But its circumstance (literally) veers off in a horrible direction…and then becomes even more tragic. (Without revealing too much, Bear does make use of a rampaging monster). Matt Smukler’s The Hiccup is also undeniably hilarious but totally frightening as it highlights fight-or-flight human behavior at its worst, then spins completely out of control.
The Austin-filmed Hellion approaches its real-life terror differently: as a “coming-of-age tale with a rock and roll aesthetic”, said director Kat Candler. Expect the unexpected to pose these questions: which hell-raiser should you fear more, the teacher or the student? And exactly who is doing the teaching, anyway?
The other two films may contain less bombast, but the discomfort is no less affective. Another Bullet Dodged, directed by four-time DIFF alum Landon Zakheim, reveals the horrible potential of human intent, behavior and response. Disaster strikes and solutions are applied in a very direct manner, but just who is it that actually benefits from a near miss?
With a lovely visual style and melancholy tone, the Swedish short Fungus applies its irony in layers after establishing its titular unpleasantness. While its situation may not be completely unexpected, it is no less scary (and whether it’s deserved is left up for debate in a “careful what you ask for lest you receive it” kind of way).
These shorts all illustrate the vulnerability and paradox of the human condition with cleverness and nuance. They’ll leave you laughing with humor, as well as relief that these plausible situations happened to someone else and not you.
Pegasus News Content partner - Dallas International Film Festival
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