10 Short Films to Check Out at ScareLA this Weekend
By: J. Carlos Menjivar
Described as “Halloween in the Summer,” ScareLA, now in its fourth year, is just around the corner and with a stacked schedule it might be time to start planning what to do at the illustrious event that dedicates itself to promoting and celebrating everything Halloween. With, perhaps too much to do, watch, and listen at the Elvira hosted event at the Pasadena Convention Center, I’m here to alleviate at least some of that anxiety– at least in the short film department. What follows is a list of the type of film’s you might expect at ScareLA, but of course the event has more to offer than the 10 films showcased in this article, with around 76 feature length and short films being shown throughout the weekend of August 6 and 7, there will be something for every one.
Portal to Hell!!! (12 min)
Dir. Vivieno Caldinelli
Monsters Short Film Block, Sun. 2pm
Directed by Vivieno Caldinelli and written by Matt Watts, Portal to Hell!!! is a hilarious and gory tale about an apartment building’s handyman, Jack (played by the late Roddy Piper), and his quest to read a book without interruption from pesky and needy tenants. However, when the power goes out and Jack heads to the basement to do what he does best, he finds himself face-to-face with occultists conjuring a portal to another dimension in order to extract a monster/demon. Now, instead of fixing toasters, Jack is fixing to save the world from possible annihilation. Portal to Hell!!! is The Evil Dead, The Sentinel with Shaun of the Dead style comedy all wrapped into one. It is a fun short film that is a hilarious joy ride from beginning to end; a devilishly fresh and excitingly good time.
The Prey (8 min)
Dir. James Webber
Screamfest Short Film Block, Sunday 12:30pm
After an argument with her boyfriend on Halloween night, Mel (Rebecca van Cleave) angrily treks down the empty streets and vacant avenues on her long journey back home. But the streets are not quite as lonely as they appear as people with nefarious plans lurk and enveloped in shadows as dark as their minds. A young man begins to stalk Mel down dark roads and concealed passages, for what could be a deadly mistake; how does it all end? Well, you’re going to have to watch for yourself to find out. The Prey is ferociously well-made with a sweet payoff at the end. This film could fit in any anthology horror feature, feeling like something out of Trick ‘R Treat.
Rotten Love (2 min)
Dir. Crystal Ching Cheung
Halloween Treats Short Film Block, Sun. 11am
Take a break from the horrific, bloody, and the real with this cute short animated film about the pains of love. Rotten Love is a silent film, with a big bloody heart, about a zombie fallen smitten with a ghost girl who appears as with an aura of azure atop a well. Will the strapping young lad charm and steal the heart of the beautiful siren? I couldn’t see why not, trust me when I say, this is one charming and adorable zombie. The film is a macabre celebration of horror and love in a beautiful and painfully funny tale about love in the afterlife. The film is reminiscent of the films of Tim Burton and the Nickelodeon TV show Invader Zim.
A Zombie Next Door (15 min)
Dir. Trish Geiger & Frank Dietz
Zomedy Short Film Block, Sat. 4:30pm
A Zombie Next Door is a brilliant short comedy described as “Christopher Guest meets George A. Romero.” I couldn’t think of a more appropriate acclamation as this hilariously offbeat romp shot in the style of a mockumentary, is just that. If you took the last moments of Shaun of the Dead and shot them in a cinema verite style, in the same vain as Best in Show, then you have this film. Set in the post-apocalypse a former zombie hunter, and current owner of four zombie pets, Murdoch (Ron Rogge), has to rid of three in 48 hours (the law only allows one per household). But this proves difficult as Murdoch has become attached to his new pets. Nevertheless, three of his zombies head out on new adventures with their new families in a fantastic film that is often laugh-out-loud funny.
Knock (5 min)
Dir. Joseph & Will Martinez
Shriekfest Short Film Block, Sat. 3pm
Brief and concise, the Martinez brothers film Knock takes on a small-town’s eerie urban legend. As it goes, if you knock on the door of an abandoned mine, something knocks back, and something might even follow you home. Murielle (Noelle Ann Mabry) is about to find out if this Halloween tale holds any truth. Is it all a silly gag concocted by her friends, or is the tale of horrid specters more akin to the truth? Either way, Murielle traps herself in her room too afraid to come out and face actuality. Knock is a beautifully realized and visually immaculate dive into a chilling urban legend with a fantastically satisfying ending.
Die Goldfeder [The Golden Pen] (12 min)
Dir. Dieter Primig
Witches Short Film Block, Sat. 1:30pm
The Golden Pen is a German film about student Anika (Anika Berger) racing to an empty school, on a rainy day, tasked with passing a written exam administered by curmudgeon Mrs. Poranzke (Irene Oberrauch). Anika is amazed at the ease of the test questions, but little does she know that old witch Mrs. Poranzke has given Anika an enchanted pen with a mind of its own (voiced by Bjorn Schalla). It’s up to Anika to figure out the dark magic behind the pen and use it to her advantage to pass the exam and upstage Mrs. Poranzke. The Golden Pen is beautifully shot and devilishly funny with a great voice performance by Schalla as the mischievous Die Goldfeder.
Howl of a Good Time (9 min)
Dir. Patrick Rea
Horrible Imaginings Film Festival
Short Film Block, Sat. 12pm
Directed by Nailbiter director Patrick Rea, Howl of a Good Time is lighter in tone, but still manages to be just as dark as his aforementioned film. When a plucky young girl, who happens to be a horror fanatic, attempts to buy tickets to watch cult film Foaming at the Mouth II, she is rejected at the box-office despite having a letter from her father. The adamant young girl decides to sneak in through the back exit, but what she learns about the theater goers will make her think twice about her choice. Howl of a Good Time is funny and entertaining, and just when you think it’s over, the film brings it around one more time for an uproarious and unique finale.
Yummy Meat: A Halloween Carol (5 min)
Dir. John Fitzpatrick
Halloween Treats Short Film Block, Sat. 11:15am
Part of the Scary Endings series Yummy Meat : A Halloween Carol follows dentist Amber (Miracle Laurie) and her quest for healthy white teeth, passing out toothbrushes instead of candy on Halloween night. A boy dressed in an adorable werewolf costume comes knocking, unaccompanied by a parent, chanting an eerie Halloween carol that, rightfully, sends a chill down Amber’s spine. But her indignant reaction (and her lack of candy) could land Amber in a whole lot of trouble with the young tyke.
Creature at the Bates Motel (3 min)
Dir. Joel Umano
Halloween Treats Short Film Block, Sun. 11am
If you’re feeling a spooky song, and are tired of the Monster Mash, then take a listen and watch the music video to Brian Evans’ soon-to-be Halloween classic, Creature at the Bates Motel. Shot on location at the legendary Bates Motel in the Universal Studios backlot, the song, which features Carrot Top, will have you humming its catchy tune well after it’s over. Shot in a scratchy black-and-white, the song and video, is a callback to an era of classy tunes about spooktacular things, sung by the sultry voice of Brian Evans, that feels like something straight out of the past.
Scratch (14 min)
Dir. Emma Bell
Scratch Short Film, Sat. 2:30pm
Emma Bell’s Scratch is a feminist masterpiece about the era of political and sexual repression, the 1950s. At the height of post-world war Eisenhower conservatism, Lily, played by Bel Delia in a powerhouse performance, is left home alone with her medication and the noises behind the wallpaper, while her philandering husband (Camron Robertson) lives a social life full of indiscretion and freedom. Is Lily’s madness merely part of her psychological make-up, or is she a victim to the societal repression of woman, tethered to the foundations of her home? Our answer comes soon enough when whatever goes bump behind her walls comes to life, in this film that shares many similarities to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper.