Mini nightmares: Quick reviews of spine-chilling short films

Karishma Jangid
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WFF International films

At the 4th Wench Film Festival, we discover and review international indie and short films shaking up horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, with stories ranging from revenge plots to spooky encounters and unexpected humor.

At the 4th Wench Film Festival (WFF), where horror, sci-fi, and fantasy take the spotlight, we encountered a variety of international indie and short films that redefined these genres in unique ways. From chilling scares to thrilling adventures, and from deep emotions to unexpected laughs, these films explored a wide range of themes. They showcased everything from revenge tales to eerie encounters with ghosts. Below, we delve into our reviews of nine international short films that we watched at the festival.

Here you go!

Birthday.mp4: (Spain/ 13 minutes)

Birthdays are usually happy occasions, but for some, they bring a sense of sadness. In 'Birthday.mp4,' a film by Ángela Rosales Felipe, we see this sadness in a dysfunctional family. On Jose's birthday, his daughter Alicia records not just the party, but also his hidden frustration. When Jose gets angry and breaks the videotape, he disappears, leading his family to search for him and confront their own pain. The movie subtly portrays the challenges of troubled families, with the actors, especially Alicia, conveying a lot through their expressions. There's a tension in the air that keeps you engaged throughout. I believe Birthday.mp4 has the potential to be expanded into a full-length feature film, offering a compelling story that's both heartfelt and gripping. 


Also Read: May December: Todd Haynes’ slow burn is creepy, unsettling and takes you into the depths of being an actor

Carrion (Court Métrange, France/ 21 minutes)

The film opens with Mengmeng, a young girl, stumbling upon a decaying coyote near her mother's motel. Maggots feast on the carrion, setting an eerie tone. That same night, a mysterious man appears to meet Mengmeng's mother, Ansong. Who is he, and what is his connection to her mother? Yvonne Zhang's 'Carrion' follows Ansong to uncover the truth. The film subtly suggests that regardless of our place in the food chain, whether coyote or human, we all return to the same earth, the same soil that once nourished us. It skillfully intertwines nature and humanity, confronting us with the cycle of life and death. In this regard, the film delivers its message with care. The visuals are captivating, particularly during the cyclone scene. However, the best part of the film is little Mengmeng who gives a stellar performance in the film.  


Electra (CM France/ Slovakia/ 26 minutes)

Daria Kashcheeva’s ‘Electra’ stood out as one of the most captivating films I caught at the Wench Film Festival. It delves into the life of Electra, who reflects on her 10th birthday and the complex dynamics with her parents, alongside the general confusion she faces. Her father had a tradition of gifting her dolls each year on her birthday. In the mix of her imagination and memories, Electra finds herself surrounded by dolls, strawberries, and dental problems. Here, she grapples with a mix of emotions—love, yearning, and childhood trauma. The film is really bold; it doesn’t shy away from exploring a woman’s inner world.

In one particular scene, Electra acts sexually with her father and in an Oedipal fashion, asks, “Are we all doing our fathers anyway?” In another, Electra admits that she was first introduced to makeup when childhood abuse left a black mark on her eye. While you may not personally resonate with every emotion portrayed, the film's thematic depth and stunning visuals leave a lasting impact. Through animation, Electra provides a visually striking and imaginative narrative. The film is rich with symbolism and poetry, making it a thought-provoking and engaging watch.

I Don’t Need Adult Conversation (UK/ 12 minutes)

Motherhood is often glorified, leaving little room for emotions beyond devotion and love. We expect mothers to be perfect, but the reality is far from it. Raising children is undeniably one of the toughest jobs in the world. It's a heavy responsibility when another human depends on you for survival, and children themselves come with their own challenges: mood swings, tantrums, and illogical demands. While giving birth is a profound experience, it's also incredibly demanding. 

Vika Evdokimenko’s ‘I Don’t Need Adult Conversation’ beautifully explores these complexities of motherhood. It follows a new mother who adores her baby by day but grapples with exhaustion and frustration at night. The film authentically captures the duality of emotions in new motherhood, offering a poetic representation of the experience. With its appropriate length, I Don’t Need Adult Conversation provides a satisfying and soothing watch, delving into the highs and lows of maternal love and struggle.

Petting Zoo (UK/ 15 minutes)

In Virginie Selvay’s ‘Petting Zoo,’ five friends gather for a drink on Halloween night and decide to visit the ‘twisted tree,’ rumored to be haunted. However, they soon discover that the folklore may be more than just a story. But that’s all there is to the film. Petting Zoo offers a quick horror experience with well-executed jump scares by the actors. It follows the same old trope of a group of friends coming across their worst nightmare. The premise and the treatment of the premise are both predictable. Thus, Petting Zoo is somewhat entertaining and makes for a decent Halloween watch.

Petting Zoo

Sister: (USA/ 3 minutes)

I get it, condensing a story into a 3-minute film is tough. But honestly, I struggled to grasp the purpose behind this one. In Roshni "Rush" Bhatia's 'Sister,' a guy summons Daisy's spirit using an Ouija board, seeking forgiveness for whatever went down that fateful night. Daisy's ghost declines. End of story. That's the gist of it. Within its brief runtime, the film manages to serve up a handful of jump scares, but beyond that, it's pretty slim on substance. Is it entertaining? Sure. Was it necessary? Hard to say. You could argue that Instagram Reels pack more punch than this film.

Sweet Survival: (Austria/ 14 minutes)

The premise of Katharina Gerlich and Luna Herruzo’s 'Sweet Survival' is intriguing. In a world where indulgences like meat, liquor, and sweets are deemed wasteful, the notion of a lone sweet shop becomes a symbol of defiance. It's a forbidden place, and a man tries to steal from it. The twist? The women who own the shop aren't going to let him get away with it that easily. While the premise interested me, the film did not. The film promises a lot and tries hard, but doesn’t deliver.

You wait in anticipation as the film looks eerie but the 14-minute-long film doesn’t amount to much. Somehow I expected the dystopia to be scarier. For a mystery that relies a lot on how it will end, it ends on a predictable note. However, the film does showcase strong female characters unafraid of confrontation or violence. This aspect adds depth to the narrative, but unfortunately, it's not enough to salvage the overall experience. In conclusion, Sweet Survival offers an interesting concept but fails to deliver a satisfying cinematic experience.

Tooth (USA/ 4 minutes)

For anyone who's ever dreaded a trip to the dentist or knows the horrors of tooth trouble, Jillian Corsie's 'Tooth' will be relatable and scary at the same time. The film kicks off with a woman diligently caring for her teeth, but things take a sinister turn when her teeth decide to seek revenge. What follows is a mix of gross-out humor and hilarity in this 4-minute flick. Despite its simple animation, the film manages to entertain. It's a fun, albeit slightly gory, ride that'll leave you chuckling.

Volition (USA/ 18 minutes)

Similar to 'Sweet Survival,' Ashley George's 'Volition' also portrays women fighting for their lives, but with higher stakes. Emma is kidnapped and forced into a sex trafficking ring, yet she harbors a dangerous and distinct plan. While the film's exploration of themes such as women's empowerment and female friendships may seem predictable, its action scenes are gripping, keeping the audience hooked. Though it may not be highly intriguing, Volition succeeds in entertaining viewers for its entire 18-minute runtime.

Did you catch the Wench Film Festival? Which one was your favourite film? Tell us in the comments below!

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