2016 was the third year of Etheria, a film festival for the best new horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, and thriller films directed by women. All the shorts in this season are official selections that played at the AeroTheater in Santa Monica, California to a live audience on June 11, 2016.
This season promises to transport its viewers to strange new worlds, all with women-directed shorts that feature killer hairstylists, medieval warlords and magicians, musical androids, apocalyptic western gunslingers, time loops, dead bodies, slashers and lots of extra body parts.
2016’s The Stylist is the first film. Directed by Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian — who spent a decade working as a hairstylist herself — it’s all about Claire, a lonely hairstylist who years to escape from her boring life. When her final appointment asks for perfection, Claire delivers with plans all her own. This short was made into a full film in 2020 that we’ll have to track down, because what is here is really interesting. Najarra Townsend stars in both this version and the full movie.
Genghis Khan Conquers The Moon (2015) is next and it’s all about the great warrior’s last days, as a magician sends him to the moon, where he must confront a spiritual quest and the silence of the Universe. This was a USC thesis film directed by Kerry Yang, who works in visual effects, and boasts a cast with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung!) as Khan and James Hong (Lo Pan!) as the wizard. This looks way better than you’d expect from the runtime and origins of this film and is a really interesting tale, as well. You can learn more at the official site and Facebook pages for this movie.
Hoss (2015) takes place after an ecological disaster has crippled the sea-level areas of the West Coast, turning the hills of Los Angeles into a lawless land much like the Wild West. Directed by Christine Boylan, this stars Lyndsy Fonseca (the Kick-Ass movies, the Nikita TV series) as Sam Burke, who cares for horses to mask the mental scars she earned in the military. You can learn more on the official site for this movie.
Bionic Girl (2015) is a French surrealist musical about a scientist who has made a clone of herself so that she no longer has to face the outside world. It’s directed by Stéphanie Cabdevila and has an incredibly strong visual style that must be experienced. The look of the android looks like a painting come to life and this is probably my favorite film of the season, as it has a style, look and story all its own. It’s absolutely astounding and a welcome surprise on every single level. Wow.
In Boxer (2016), a middle-aged contract killer must reconcile her life of murder with the son who thinks that she is just a boxer. Toy Lei, who made this movie, is a multiple threat creative, working as an actor, director, fight choreographer and swordswoman. While a very short entry, this one is absolutely filled with pure action. You can learn more at the official Facebook page.
ReStart (2015) comes from Spain’s Olga Osorio and tells the story of Andrea (Marta Larraldean), who is trapped in an inescapable time loop. While a short story, the look of this segment nearly begs for a full length version of this tale.
With the tagline “Three Women. One Corpse. Stupid Plan.” husband and wife duo Mindy Bledsoe and Rob Senska put together a script that Mindy directed and stars in called Hard Broads. It’s a much darker and more female Weekend at Bernie’s, if that makes any sense. You can learn more at the director’s official site.
2016’s The Puppet Man has been on Shudder for a while and stands out because not only does it tell the story of a killer stalking several people at a bar, it also features a soundtrack and an appearance by John Carpenter. Directed and co-written by Jacqueline Castel, it feels like an expensive proof of concept for a much larger film. It plays with the red and blue tones of Bava while fitting in somewhere between Freddy-style slasher and giallo while not feeling that it understands the latter, outside of the imagery of the form. That said, it’s hard to tell where this could go with a short running time. There’s more at the official site, including an amazing press book that really tells the story behind the making of this film.
In Used Body Parts, Venita Ozols-Graham — whose credits go back to second unit work on Prophecy and Xanadu, as well as work on tons of TV from The Dukes of Hazzard and Alien Nation to The X-Files, The Shield and Veronica Mars, tells the story of two women who encounter a gas station in the middle of nowhere that deals in more than mechanical problems.
Karen Lam’s Stalled is another strong entry, one of the darkest short films that I’ve seen in some time, nearly perfectly told. The description states that “Alex Macey is getting divorced. In an underground parking garage, an emotional call to his wife cuts out. Returning to his car he confronts a would-be carjacker. With violent results.” That is a very simple way of telling what is a much more complicated story with a punch to the gut ending. David Lewis wrote and stars in this and has a perfect expression as the story comes to a close. Lam has released The Curse of Willow Song this year and is working on the anthology Thomas Tessier’s World of Hurt and I will definitely be tracking both of those down.
Finally, Victoria Angell’s Summoned, the abuse Amanda suffers leads her to call a demon for help. David Lewis, who was also in Stalled, plays the father. This is a very quick burst of a story with strong visuals and would truly make a great longer movie.
Thanks to The Horror Collective for sending us this entire series early. Make sure to check out every Etheria season on Amazon Prime with the links above.