Along with the terrific feature-film lineup from Twisted Dreams Film Festival’s 2021 virtual version, the fest serves up plenty of superb short-form fright fare, too. Here are capsule reviews of just a few of the short films on offer.
Momma, Don’t Go
Directed by Rafael De Leon Jr.
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A deadly home invasion leaves a terrified young girl begging her stabbed mother to stay alive. The dying mother reminds her daughter about a key to a hidden box containing medicine and money, and which may help the girl survive in a very twisted manner. Writer/director Rafael De Leon Jr.’s short is gripping and gruesome, boasting taut suspense and fine special effects makeup work, along with great performances from Julia Tolchin as the daughter, Leanne Michelle Watson as the mother, and Anthony Franqui and Melissa Sutkowski as the villains.
Make a Wish
Directed by Dinh Thai
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
This horror comedy leans toward deeply dark humor in a tale of love, madness, and revenge. Lexie (Josephine Chang) has prepared an extremely special — in her twisted mind, at least — 30th birthday gift for her fiance Freddie (Edward Hong), and it involves someone from his past (Roman Moretti), who is quick with racist remarks and slow on the uptake about what the situation is. How far will a man go to prove his love, director/cowriter Dinh Thai and cowriter Ivan Tsang ask? Or will other tensions be the factor that takes him to psychological places he has not yet gone? Chang is terrific as the unhinged Lexie, Hong is solid as the conflicted Freddie, and Moretti adds nice support as the third person in the mix. Thai balances the comedy and horror nicely.
The Guard Station
Directed by Matt Zappala
★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Australian creature feature The Guard Station is an excellent debut at the helm for writer/director Matt Zappala. It’s Michael’s (Jayden Arts) first night on the job as a security guard at a junkyard. Coworker Ron (Ron Arthurs) tells Michael how the man he is replacing disappeared without a trace when a sinkhole occurred on the property. After Ron heads home, Michael sees the previous guard transform into something monstrous. The short is bolstered by top-notch man-in-a-suit and practical creature effects, with some fine gore effects and makeup work also on display. Michael is given some back story, which is nicely used to propel the short along and to provide him with a nice character arc. Zappala paces the suspense wonderfully, adding in some occasional dark humor. Arts makes for a fine sympathetic hero, and Arthurs is a blast as the elder statesman of the duo. The Guard Station is an outstanding effort, highly recommended for monster movie fans.
Momma, Don’t Go; Make a Wish; and The Guard Station screen as part of Twisted Dreams Film Festival, which runs online as a virtual event from June 4–13, 2021. For more information, visit http://www.twisteddreamsff.com/.