Along with the terrific feature-film lineup from Vienna’s SLASH Film Festival, plenty of short-form fright fare is on tap, too. Here are capsule reviews of just a few of the short films on offer.
Directed by Annalise Lockhart
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
This science fiction/horror hybrid set on family property in rural Vermont finds a young woman (Victoria Villier) celebrating her birthday with her brother (DeLeon Dallas) and father (Ron Brice), the latter of whom gifts her with a document giving her part ownership of the property. Once this happens, she begins seeing eerie, silent ghosts staring at her — something that her brother and father have long known about but kept secret from her until now. The makeup and costume design on these entities are highly impressive, and provide the short with a macabre, eldritch atmosphere. The three main cast members all give top-notch, touching performances. With Inheritance, writer/director Lockhart has crafted a spooky tale of the supernatural that also offers engaging family drama and a good deal of poignancy.
Directed by Deanna Milligan
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Colorful visuals and a great soundtrack are just part of the fun of Lucid, director Deanna Milligan’s tale of art student Mia’s (Caitlin Taylor) shaking off expectations from egotistical teachers and pretentious classmates, and embracing what she truly loves. Ever since she was a young girl, Mia has been fascinated with “big bags of blood” — humans and animals alike, and what’s inside of them — so after a disastrous class project, when one of Mia’s teachers challenges her to “Show me something with heart,” seasoned horror film viewers know that this is going to end in a manner much different than what the teacher expected. The art direction, costuming, and gore effects are all eye-popping, making this tale of finding the courage to be yourself a cinematic treat for the eyes as well as the mind — and of course, the heart.
The Last Queen on Earth
Directed by Michael Shumway
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
This playful take on the “last person on Earth — or are they?” trope finds farmer Zebediah (Travis Farris) waking up to find himself possibly the sole survivor of an apocalypse. With nothing around but dead bodies and acres of land to work, he decides to live his best life. The muddy, postapocalyptic world has other plans for Zebediah, though. Shumway’s short is basically a silent one except for a few grunts and unintelligible utterances, relying on pure visual storytelling, Farris’ fun performance, and a cool accompanying score by the director to advance the action. The Last Queen on Earth leans much more toward comedy than horror, but it offers genuinely suspenseful sequences and some discomfiting sights.
Inheritance, Lucid, and The Last Queen on Earth screen as part of SLASH Film Festival, which runs online as a virtual event and as in-person event in Vienna, Austria from September 23–October 3, 2021. For more information, visit https://slashfilmfestival.com/en/.