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Short Cuts: The Short Horror Review Roundup for January

Friday, January 17, 2020 | Short Films

Happy New Year, short horror fans!  I’m excited to present our first batch of films for 2020, including a post-apocalyptic webseries, a dive into madness via Super 8 film, a vengeful spirit versus her even more vengeful killer, a Santa audition gone way wrong, and a man who quite literally makes his worst fears come true. 

As you probably know, next month is Women in Horror Month, and I’d like to do a extra-large installment of Short Cuts to highlight the awesome work being done by women in short horror. If you or anyone you know have a short film you’d like me to consider, please contact me via Twitter or email me at!

Dark Before Dawn
Length: Ten 4-10 minute episodes Director: Brodie Spaull and Paul Krysinski Starring: Brodie Spaull, Paul Krysinski, Kiro Krysinski, Junko Kanamoto
Per co-writer/director Paul Krysinski, Dark Before Dawn started as a one-off short film, but gradually he and Brodie Spaull kept adding segments on to the story until they had a full ten-episode arc.  The series follows two survivors navigating a post-apocalyptic world after most of the population succumbs to a condition where all rationale and compassion are subsumed by an uncontrollable rage.  In an interesting twist, no one really knows why or how people fall to this condition, as it doesn’t seem to be passed like a virus or through bites.  It’s a really compelling story that takes threads you might find in The Walking Dead and distills them into really potent moments.  It’s a reminder that for some, getting through the apocalypse is just about surviving to the next day.
Where you can find it:  All ten episodes can be found at the series’ website.

corruption (2019)
Length: 4 minutes Director: Jason Ewert Starring:  KariAnn Christensen, Corey Medina, Cassandra Medina
Part of what makes Jason Ewert’s short film about a writer’s descent into madness is the mechanics of how it was made.  Produced as part the “Straight 8” film competition in London, Ewert was restricted to one roll of Super 8 film to shoot a film in sequence with no second takes or edits.  The soundtrack was then added over the film without Ewert ever seeing the finished product, which means the dialogue and the music were put in blind.  To that end, Ewert finds some clever ways to incorporate dialogue without having to rely syncing it with the characters’ lips.  It also helps that the film’s premise calls for a bit of the demented. 
Where you can find it: Currently making the festival rounds.  Watch the trailer here.

The Ball
Length: 7 minutes Director:  Zach Lorkiewicz Starring: Avril Dominguez
In his short film about a woman haunted the the figurative and literal ghosts of her past, Zach Lorkiewicz takes a very simple scene and turns into something fun and unexpected.  After all, the raw footage of the scene is basically just one woman in a room talking to herself.  But with some great sound work, creative editing, and a fantastic performance from Avril Dominguez, The Ball becomes a brilliant mix of pastoral and modern with poetic dialogue that at times crumbles into crude humor and a set design hinting at late-19th century that also incorporates large doses of neon.  The end product is a chaotic, fractured mess that seems to have been assembled that way on purpose and to great effect.
Where you can find it:  Streaming on YouTube.

Mad Santa
Length: 7 minutes Director: Bruce Blain Starring: Bruce Blain, Bonnie, Hay, David Bloom, Ashley Fetters, Carrie Ann Fleming
One of the things that makes short horror so interesting is that it allows filmmakers to take chances on plot twists that just wouldn’t work in a feature.   If you watch a film for an hour and a half thinking it’s one thing only to find out in the last five minutes that it’s something else entirely, it can really leave a bad taste in your mouth.  But to swing a hard left turn in a movie that’s only seven minutes long doesn’t seem like a cheat but more of a fun misdirect.  Such is the case in Mad Santa, as I defy anyone to guess the ending of a film that kicks off with director/star Bruce Blain menacing a group of people he holds responsible for keeping him from his dream of being a mall Santa.
Where you can find it:  Streaming on YouTube.

Fear Wish (2020)
Length: 3 minutes Director: Todd Spence and Zak White Starring: Nathan Sutton
I’m sure we all remember the scene in Ghostbusters where Ray accidentally thinks the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man into being as New York’s would-be destroyer.  In Fear Wish, Zak White and Todd Spence take a similar premise to a much darker place.  As a desperate husband tries to help his terminally ill wife through the use of a double-edged ritual, the required payment goes awry in the worst possible way.  It’s a reminder that we hold very little control over anything in the universe, least of all our own thoughts. 
Where you can find it: Streaming on YouTube.

Bryan Christopher