The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2014 Best Short Films DVD: thoughts and reviews

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Summary: Got the DVD with the best-of short films from the 2014 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. Some reviews and thoughts about the contents.

BLOT: (02 Jun 2015 - 07:12:56 PM)

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2014 Best Short Films DVD: thoughts and reviews

Upon spotting the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival 2014 Best Short Films DVD for sale, I went ahead and ordered it without really looking at the contents list. There is some risk involved, there, but I am a guy who loves short horror films and a guy who loves Lovecraftian media. Seemed like it would be a good idea, and it was pretty decent. Good job, past me.

There are nine proper shorts on the DVD. There are also three trailers, two promos, and a broader introduction/promo to the Film Festival and Cthulhu Con. The trailers are for the movies Exile, Feed the Light, and The Dreamlands. All three of those trailers can be seen online (just click the links). The two promos were a Festival bumper called "Dread Sign" and a music video for "No Turning Back" (LGT: said video) from the Dreams in the Witch House Rock Opera. Dug the silent-movie styling, though the back-and-forth kind of kicked me out of it.

Now we are getting to the main short films. The first (by order of how they are laid out on the DVD menu) is "The Celebrant", directed by Brian Lillie. It features a voice artist and a sound engineer recording one last poem for a Mordecai Saccades (sort of Crowley type, though apparently a tad darker) audio collection. Upon playing back the recording, though, they find another voice has snuck in, and something dark is answering the call. It is fairly simple in set up, and just about the right length for its story. You have to take a couple of plot expedients with a grain of salt, but it is pretty spooky and ends more wide-scale than your average short.

"Eyes in the Dark", directed by Alex White. This one involves an egotistical scientist explaining how his great discoveries are the byproduct of a box which answers questions asked of it, as long as the questions are big enough to be worth its time. One of the longer ones on the DVD, it backfires a tad when its big-reveals at the end fail to strike home. Might make a fair Call of Cthulhu module, but is one of the more skippable entries on the DVD.

"There's an Octopus in Your Head", by Ari Grabb. A man confronts Satan in an attempt to find out why he—the man, not Satan—likes making pancakes so much. It is an animated metal-opera that is surprisingly touching in places. It is also pretty much not Lovecraftian in the least (unless cephalods are all it takes). Still, one of my favorites from the DVD and one I'd recommend most everyone watch. You can watch a trailer of it.

"Black Sugar", by Hank Friedmann. One of the few you can currently watch online in its entirety. A group of kids find a "legal high", called Black Sugar, and decide to try it. It comes in mochi-like little munchies—read, the filmmakers had teenagers eat mochi—and biting into it takes you to a different realm of consciousness. Literally. Then bad things happen. It generated some buzz last year in some of the various online circles I frequent, but something about it, then, did not quite sit right with me. Watching it, again, I'm a much bigger convert. I quite enjoyed it this round, and would consider it one of the big standouts.

"Ikelos Below", by Thomas Nicol. Simple and weird, a dream-sequence short inspired by a dream. Has some neat visuals, but it is mostly weird for weird sake, and could be skippable (though it is fairly short).

"I Am Not Samuel Krohm", by Sébastien Chantal. A weasely little salesman for a Monsanto like company is trying his best to convince farmers in rural France to sign up for his products, and generally failing. On the way to a big talk, though, he is pulled over by a cop who mistakes him for someone else, the eponymous Samuel Krohm. This turns dark fairly fast and the salesman has to try and find out what is going on while staying alive. The longest on the DVD, I believe, and probably the meatiest in the way of actual characters (and something like development), plot, photography, and mystery. Well acted and the central tension is intriguing. It does sort of run out of places to go before it is done, but it is probably my favorite on the whole disk.

"Somnaphage, by Monsieur Soeur. Claymation short about a recluse who does not dream, and the lonely people she invites over, and the strange mask which enables her to enter the dream, and the dark thing that seems to be waiting there for all of her newfound and fleeting friends. One of the most different films in the set, sweet and sad and gorgeous. Well recommended as one of the "must watch" shorts.

"The Void", by Eric Schwartz. A quirky one towards the end of the DVD. A pair of girls go into a off-limits forest trying to find a kid who has gone missing in it (one of many). They are inspired by their favorite TV show but must face The Void, a horror of local legend. It strives to contrast the quirky sweet opening with the suddenly dark ending, but unfortunately has a too-long already-darkening middle for the contrast to sing. The world building around The Void is fairly effective, and it has charm, but did not quite come out filling whole.

"Vomica", by Andy Green and Darren Ormandy. Winner of Best Short Film. A trio of commandos in WW2 attack a Nazi research post in France to find out what is being held there. Bad things, ladies and gents. Bad things. A meaty little short, with effective use of repetition and slow reveals to help drive up the tension. The big pop at the end might be too big, but the rest of it is so well crafted it is forgivable. Not quite my favorite (almost entirely because of the too-big-pop), but I dig it quite a bit. The trailer does a good job of giving a glimpse.

Ok, those are the films. Of them, I would say that "I Am Not Samuel Krohm", "Somnaphage", and "Black Sugar" are my top three, with "There's an Octopus in Your Head" getting an honorary spot as the fourth of the three despite it's not-quite-Lovecraftian-horror-short status. "Vomica" is also another right up there. In fact, the only one that I didn't really like was "Eyes in the Dark". Even though I felt like "The Void" could have been more, it was fairly unique and watchable. That would be something like four great shorts, four fair to good ones, and only one I felt was meh.

I hope they keep this up, since finding some of the shorts would have been quite difficult otherwise.

Lovecraftian Miscellany


Written by Doug Bolden

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