Okay, appologies for the late reviews, I hoped to get these up last night but I've had a heck of a week.
Overall this competion offered up an interesting group of films, and I was surprised by how different filmakers interpreted the 'horror' theme. Its a shame we didn't get more entries, especially with the extended deadline.
For me there was one clear winner, and that was 'She's not gone' by Randy Smith, although it was flawed in terms of story logic, it did have some great atmosphere and some nice genre touches and effective practical effects.
More detailed feedback on each film below.
"She's not gone" – Vishus – Randy Smith
Art design: 15/20
This is very strong entry, I like the simple idea, and it riffs on the ‘creepy woman’ vibe used so successfully in Asian cinema and in classics like The Shining. I love the use of music here; this film is really made by its soundtrack which helps to up the tension and the creepy atmosphere. There were some nice touches, like the wet footprints on the street, and the fact the story takes place in an average suburban house is a nice homage to many of the classic ghost movies.
The story was simple, but I didn’t find the fathers actions to be particularly believable, especially when he discovers that the woman is in the closet… he just slowly picks up his daughter and leaves the room!? I’m not sure if many people would be so calm if they discovered a creepy stalker/ghost in their kids room. This behavior from the father made me feel that he had either encountered this ghost before, or somehow knew more than he was letting on.
The build up to the final line was good, but obviously the title of the film kind of gave away the twist.
Technically the film was fairly well executed, there were a few shots that weren’t level, which I found distracting, especially the opening pan and the handheld shots following the father. The lighting was very dark on the ghost in some of the shots.
So overall this was an effective film, with some good creepy moments, but let down for me by the details of the story and some of the actions of the main character which didn’t seem consistent or believable. I wonder if some scenes that would have filled these logic gaps were left out due to the need for a short running length.
"Guitarputated" - Christen Metcalfe
Art design: 10/20
First of all, I love the title for this film; it conjures up a real sense of humor and z-movie sensibilities. This video is an interesting one; it feels like more of an editing experiment than a genuine horror short film. I took the narrative to be a suggestion that the guitar was in some way haunted or possessed, and perhaps that anyone who played it would end up ‘guitarputated’ with the numerous shots of the severed hand in the early part of the film either meant as a foreshadowing or as examples of what happened to the previous guitarists. But perhaps I am reading more into the film than was intended.
Overall: I liked the editing style, this film had a very grindhouse feel and the guitar music helped to give it a Robert Rodriquez sensibility. The editing is really what made this film and the use of split-screen and numerous freeze frame and negative-image effects was interesting.
The sound was well implemented, and although there were some technical issues and foley like the footsteps which repeated, the overall effect was consistent and worked for the film. There was good use of tripod and dolly shots and other than some soft focus the cinematography worked well.
Despite being a very simple idea, I believe this film had a lot of potential to be quirky and interesting, the idea of a possessed guitar is good and the film shows a strong sense of shooting and editing style, so with some extra work on the actual narrative this would have been a strong contender. As it stands it felt rushed.
I look forward to seeing Christians next short, and I’m especially interested in seeing what he does with his editing and shooting style when coupled with a more coherent narrative.
"o40" - Brendan_pr
Art design: 10/20
This film got off to a great start, I especially liked the staccato editing style and the multiple overlaid imagery, and the look of the main character with his plaster cast and that nervous scratching tick was good. However, after he left the garage the film seemed to lose focus, the other two characters, the zombie(?) and the masked guy didn’t really seem to serve any purpose. I assume the masked man is supposed to have murdered the main character after unscrewing the lightbulb, but this wasn’t clear, especially as the main character seemed to be enjoying whatever it was happening to him with the lights out.
So this film was a bit confusing to me, it didn’t really seem to have a coherent narrative, and although the editing style was interesting, it contained several very long shots (especially the shot that holds on the staircase after the main character is out of sight) so editing this down to be within the limits wouldn’t have affected the film in any way that I can see, therefore I’m not sure why it wasn’t within the limit?
Overall this film is a nice mood piece but not a successful narrative piece. The opening is particularly good and if the rest of the film lived up to the atmosphere created at the start I think you’d have something really interesting here, I wanted to know more about this guy, who was he waiting for? Why was he itching? What was in that bottle? None of these things seemed to play a part in the actual story of the film, and even the guy in the mask didn’t really seem to make sense. With a little more story this film could have been really great.
"The Danger Zone" - Timbit.
Art design: 5/20
This film was a really unusual entry for a horror film competition, it didn’t really seem to have any obvious horror aspects in it? I get that the guy cuts his foot with an axe, but that’s more medical drama than horror unless there is some supernatural or ritualistic aspect to the story. The title had me wishing for some Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack
The shots of the barking dogs and the quizzical cows were cute, but if you had edited the film to make it look as if the cows were the harbingers of doom, as if those cows had made the accident happen, then I could see this starting to resemble more of a horror film. Perhaps that killer cow vibe was the intention?
On the technical side, the camerawork suffers from being that single locked off shot; making it obvious you are shooting on your own. Clearly that is a difficult limitation to work around, and you did a very good job of framing your action considering you had no way to look through the camera. Adding some camera movement in post to would really help to add some life to the framing, a simple post-zoom or pan would really help, and if you shoot 1080 and edit 720 then you could do that easily as you have extra resolution to play with. As others have noted, some grading would really help the visual style of this film.
So, this film was good work considering the limitations you have to work with, but overall it didn’t feel like a horror film to me.