After viewing the incredibly diverse 2010 Toronto After Dark Shorts After Dark lineup, I’ve decided upon two short horror film entries that are definitely worth mentioning…
Off Season (2009)
USA/UK (dir. Jonathan Van Tulleken)
Cast: Bill Sage
Synopsis: In the remote Canadian winter, a transient robs summer cottages in the bleak days and drinks in the bleak nights. Until his dog stumbles upon a less-than-empty cottage with a terrifying secret.
Review: To be able to build an incredibly tense atmosphere and establish a dark, unsettling mood is something that is remarkably difficult to achieve in a film, yet director Jonathan Van Tulleken manages to accomplish all this within the span of only 13 minutes. With hauntingly beautiful cinematography and a bleak, somber tone, “Off Season” captures the merciless, brutal cold of the Canadian north and develops a generally unsettling tale that builds to a gruesome discovery and a horrifying twist. Though it is minimalistic to the extreme, “Off Season” is a short film that sticks true to the film-making mantra that concedes less is more. With only one actor (Bill Sage) and an adorable Jack Russell Terrier at his disposal, Van Tulleken manages to build an engaging story, develop a bleak mood, and keep a steady, never rushed, pace in a 13 minute time frame. “Off Season” is a short that manages to capture the audience’s attention and develops a growing feeling of dread in the viewer right up until it delivers the twist. There is really nothing that can prepare you for the sheer horror of this dark little masterpiece’s disturbing climax, but I’ll tell you one thing is for sure… it will chill you to the bone.
United Monster Talent Agency (2010)
US (dir. Greg Nicotero)
Cast: Cerina Vincent, Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Dana Gould, Jeffery Combs, Carey Jones, Arden Myrin, Erica Frene, Sam Page, Jake Garber
Synopsis: Directors Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez and Eli Roth cameo amidst dozens of horror film icons in this impeccably meticulous and loving tribute to monster movies. Produced by the award-winning artists at KNB Effects Group (Army of Darkness, Scream and hundreds of other classic horror films).
Review: With Greg Nicotero (special effects designer for everything from “Evil Dead 2” to “Hostel 2”) directing this fun little short, could you really expect anything less than fantastic? And with cameos from some of Nicotero’s well known Hollywood horror movie buddies (Eli Roth, Robert Rodriguez, and Frank Darabont), “Universal Monsters Talent Agency” is a star-studded, laugh-a-minute, nostalgia-laced trip down to Hollywood’s golden age of horror. “Universal Monsters Talent Agency” builds on the idea of a talent agency for all the Universal Monsters (Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.) and the repercussions of dealing with such… demanding… talent. This is a hilarious short that was in all likelihood, as fun to make as it is to watch. The makeup is, of course, fantastic, and the horror film director cameos, particularly Eli Roth’s cameo as a 1930s era monster movie director, were great… however, I felt that cameos from some of the horror director elite (i.e. Wes Craven, George A. Romero, John Carpenter) would have been more well received, and in all likelihood, more recognizable among the horror geek crowd. Overall, it’s a lighthearted spoof on the Universal Monsters, and a visual treat.