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This post covers two programs of nine shorts each, Things That Go Bump in the East and Small Gauge Trauma, so technically it’s an octodecuple feature—a word so fine that our spell-checker does not even recognize it. Without further ado, here are nine pairs of shorts for you to try on.
“Things That Go Bump in the East” program
Chewing Gum (dir. by Mihir Fadnavis; 18 min.)—Getting in the spirit of this horror short, my cat Goose appeared at the door to my left. After some minutes of creepy video, I looked left again, and Goose had materialized in the same position, six feet closer. That’s the kind of unsettling occurrence you’ll find here. Classic black and white visuals, killer foley, and minimal dialogue. Of the eighteen-minute run-time, seventeen are perfect. Dark subway, dark roads, and an eldritch entity in black demanding chewing gum from the adulterous protagonist had me riveted. But when the monster took her (?) dues, it was more “uhh…” than “AGGH!!!”
Carnivorous Bean Sprout (dir. by Seo Sae-rom; 5 min.)—An animated PSA-by-way-of-advertisement, Carnivous‘ greatest strength is the no-nonsense newsy narrator discussing the thrilling, new, titular phenomenon. Looking rather similar to sperm with chompy heads, these aquatic sprouts are a hit tourist attraction: people gather in boats, are rowed over to nest, and then handlers rustle the beans, which jump up and bite you. This craze extends to a new variety of monkeys (which rise from the water and scratch you) and elephants (which extend their noses to throttle the happy spectator). Strange things, people are.
Juan-Diablo-Pablo (dir. by Ralph Pineda, Dyan Sagenes; 15 min.)—I nearly dismissed this out of hand when I realized it wasn’t done with puppets. (How this notion got in my head, I am uncertain.) However, J-D-P does something very impressive by traveling seamlessly from confusing, to mundane, to humorous, to wrenching. All available clues suggest that “Juan Diablo” is Death, and he happens happens to be living in a ratty, newspaper strewn apartment, receiving corpses from a pair of disfigured opera archetypes. His young neighbor Pablo introduces himself with a note hucked through a hole in Juan’s wall, and their wordless encounters at Death’s door have an amusing and wholesome tonality, incongruously achieving Hallmark Card levels of “adorable.” The tone shift at the end is sudden, but not misplaced, poetically bringing attention to the tragedy befalling the Philippines from rampant crime and extra-judicial murders on the part of the police.
Huh (dir. by Kim Tae-woo; 12 min.)—Huh was a Korean mask-maker of legend, and this is a cartoon tribute to his art. Kim Tae-woo mixes curvy animation of chalk-looking drawings with the occasional hip-hop number to bring the ancient carver to life. A mountain spirit drops some beats as he instructs Huh on how to overcome the tide of spiritual possession plaguing the villagers. I expected this to be cute, and it was; but I was not expecting to heave a sigh of relief when the errant spirits barely made it back into the moon.
Koreatown Ghost Story (dir. by Minsun Park, Teddy Tenenbaum; 15 min.)—I wondered what Margaret Cho was up to. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see her show up in this little horror comedy. Hannah, a young painter who works by day at a hardware store, visits the venerable Mrs. Moon to inquire about the contents of a puzzle box and is quickly whisked to a massage table and poked with needles. After some remarks about Hannah marrying Moon’s dead son, the matriarch mystic disappears and a spirit corpse boy pursues the girl around the house. Another cute Korean story, also with a focus on masks and the Autumn festival (gotta do me some research now). I laughed, I jumped, and I reconsidered the possibilities of acupuncture.
Night Bus (dir. by Joe Hsieh; 20 min.)—Great art design, but unfortunately the amateur animation style does this little tale of wronged spouses, wronged passengers, and wrong monkeys no favors. The jarring sequences all unfolded with squicky violence undone by the “Happy Tree Friends” excess and awkwardly arranged narrative reveals.
Seen It (dir. by Adithi Krishnadas; 12 min.)—Gather ’round the fire and learn of the horrible eenampechi, the hovering and easily confused arukola, the mystical thendan, and others in this animated cryptocatalogue of wonders. This wry little black and white squiggle ‘toon is based on some of the innumerable supernatural anecdotes of P. N. K. Panicker, a tall-tale teller of some renown. Its easy-going style makes this the only “kid friendly” pick from Things That Go Bump. The raconteur’s advisements come to life before your eyes, Continue reading FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2021: CREEPY SHORTS DOUBLE FEATURE