IIFF 2008 - Thrilling Shorts! reviews

A diverse spread of short subjects comprised the 2008 IIFF program “Thrilling Shorts.” Eschewing traditional suspense tropes in general, each managed to draw tension from unique perspectives on shopworn material. Where possible, I've provided links to webpages for the films, homepages for filmmakers. In some cases, shorts (like the superlative Spider) are available for download via iTunes.

A Day’s Work - the plight of day laborers violently intersects with a suburban family over a misunderstanding bred from frustration, prejudice, and the inability to communicate. Surprisingly tense, with strong performances.

Shuteye Hotel - venerable cult animator Bill Plympton delivers a cheeky riff on both film noir and the classic monster movie, as a sleazy motel is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths. It’s Plympton – what’s not to love?

A Little Night Fright - an otherwise lush piece marred by some unnecessary, bad CG. Bedtime stories take on frightening real proportions for two young boys. Short and sweet, tech quibbles aside.

Static - an ambitious thriller that treads on memory, dreams, and biological horror. Highlighted by a series of intricate compositions and lighting schemes from the glory days of Argento, the ends plays a bit rote but a strong impression remains.

Ten and Two - an aloof driving instructor falls victim to a lapse of concentration and violates the rules of the road in a rather serious fashion. The blackly comic dénouement left audiences audibly uncomfortable, which to me equals a “win.”

Taua – War Party - a tribe of Maori warriors haul a massive canoe through the forest, an enemy soldier strapped to its front. Building tension out of thin air, the film offers commentary amid suspense. Gorgeous production values abound.

Spider - already reviewed at SXSW, but damned if it wasn’t fun to see this with a crowd again. One of the best sucker-punch endings in recent memory, this never fails to bring the house down.

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