By GRACE DETWILER
The most exciting part of any horror film festival may very well be the short film showcase. Nowhere else are the efforts of up-and-coming genre film directors collected and screened for audiences who may never otherwise have had the opportunity to see them. Many stellar short films are screening at this year’s Panic Fest in Kansas City, Missouri; here are just a few! Featuring diverse characters and a variety of supernatural threats, these four horror shorts are worth keeping an eye on.
THEY SEE YOU
A woman who lost her parents in a car crash receives a frantic phone call from her reclusive and mentally ill sister. A the urging of her partner, the woman goes to see her sister who has secluded herself in their family’s cabin. When she arrives, she finds that her sister has abducted a woman who may or may not be a shapeshifting creature responsible for their parents’ deaths. Written and directed by Jared Januschka and co-written by Brian Carmody, THEY SEE YOU had its world premiere at Panic Fest ‘22 and features a story led by women and non-binary characters. The film tackles themes such as grief, sisterhood, and mental illness/PTSD, and is a tense and unnerving ride from start to finish; the ominous ending of THEY SEE YOU is sure to leave viewers on the edge of their seats.
THE ROTTING OF CASEY CULPEPPER
A young girl with cancer and her single-dad battle a ‘Tumor Man’ who cannot be destroyed without destroying parts of Casey as well. Inspired by writer/director Daniel Slottje’s own experience of chronic illness, CASEY is an artfully styled and cathartic creature feature that meditates on the self-destruction that can often accompany recovery from an illness such as leukemia. Starring Slottje as the father and Dance Moms break out Lillian Ketchman as Casey, this short film has the potential to be a frightfully fantastic feature film. CASEY world premiered at Panic Fest ‘22 and showcases Slottje’s visually dynamic filmmaking and powerful vision of the horror of a child’s experience of illness.
Ramone Menon’s THE PEY is a social media cautionary tale of a demonic winged monster summoned by a viral gif posted by teens in order to gain more Instagram followers. Described as “The Ring meets The Babadook with a touch of Searching,” THE PEY follows the harrowing experience of a teen girl who is victimized by the monster and the reactions of her friends and followers. With Wan-like jumpscares and plentiful on-screen digital interactions, THE PEY has the makings of a successful supernatural horror flick for the online generation.
Having been mysteriously deafened in her young adulthood, the protagonist of THE SOUND and her friend are terrorized by an invisible force that appears to have been responsible for her loss of hearing. Featuring dialogue in sign language and a spectacularly gory conclusion, THE SOUND has a short and sweet runtime of just under seven minutes. Director Jason-Christopher Mayer made his debut at age 23 with the horror film Nobody Gets Out Alive (RLJ Entertainment). Since then he has directed music videos and toured with Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Scott Weiland, and Alice Cooper. THE SOUND has a promising premise and showcases Mayer’s talent for tension.