FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Fantastic Shorts

Feast your eyes and ears on this eclectic smorgasbord of the year’s finest fantastic shorts!

The Coupon (2021): Wendy (director Laura Seay) gave her husband (writer Micah Cohen) a silly coupon book for his birthday, including a get one oral favor free offer. You never cash in these coupons. But when he runs over a man (Adam J. Harrington) and doesn’t want to report it to insurance, he ends up giving him all the money in his wallet, as well as the coupon and a ride to the hospital. Now, the coupon has come back to be collected.

This is a movie that takes a simple idea and delivers it flawlessly. I had a blast with this one, as even though you can see the punchline coming, it’s still so well told.

The Diamond (2022): No matter what, Stefan can’t make friends. Perhaps it’s because he tries too hard. Or maybe he’s dangerous to everyone around him. One day, he finds a diamond in the woods and yet can’t reach it. Later at the doctor’s office, he meets a miniature man and actually becomes friends with him. However, he must use him to get what he really wants, that diamond. Or maybe he can actually make a friend this time.

Director Vedran Rupic and writer Gustav Sundström have created a world where a man tries to wear fake herpes sores to try to win people over to the embrace of his friendship. And the end of this movie, the moral and the choir and the…look, don’t let me ruin it. This short is beyond perfect.

Last Seen (2021): Nathan Ginter directed and star Chris Jensen wrote this story of Devon, whose sister has gone missing, his relationship with his mother has deteriorated and struggles have started with his lifeguard job. However, the only good thing in his life are the sea monkeys that his sister left behind. As you can tell from the description, this is a dark movie about those left behind when others disappear.

Ginter and Jensen may not have done much yet, but this short points at their ability to do so much. This made me think about the people in my life and what their loss would feel like. This isn’t a feel good movie, other than to feel great about the talent that made it.

A Man Trembles (2021): Directed and written by Mark Chua and Li Shuen Lam, A Man Trembles takes place in 1998 Singapore during the peak of the Asian Financial Crisis. A man and his family spend their final day on Earth at Sentosa island, a place where he comes to confront what is in-between salvation and terror.

In case you never heard of this island — I hadn’t — Sentosa is Asia’s leading leisure destination and Singapore’s premier island resort getaway, a 500-hectare island resort home to an exciting array of themed attractions, award-winning spa retreats, lush rainforests, golden sandy beaches, resort accommodations, world-renowned golf courses, a deep-water yachting marina and luxurious residences.

Let me tell you: the end of this is harrowing. Well done.

Phlegm (2021): Directed and written by Han-David Bolt, Phlegm reminds me of Jamie Thraves’ video for Radiohead’s “Just.” Pascal Ulli plays a man walking to work that ends up stepping on a snail, wiping off his shoe and then stepping directly onto another snail until the sticky material all over him just weighs him down and forces him into the ground. As the camera pulls back, it’s revealed that he is not the only person to have undergone this disgusting and horrible trial.

It feels as if this is every day when I had to walk to work, the feeling of not even wanting to enter the building, every step bringing me closer to a destructive experience that tore away at my soul, forced to be around fake faceless emotionless ciphers of not even human beings. No snails though.

Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee (2021): Directed and written by Jones, the filmmaking project of Michael Woodward and Max Barron, this black and white film finds itself in the small farming village of Dobre where the citizens are about to vote for a mythical creature. The film looks at the political and religious views of a town that is not in our country or even our world and yet shows us how ridiculous voting and the process of people trying to figure out how to do the best will of all is a fool’s mission. However, this film looks absolutely gorgeous as it tells its tale.

I liked the old religious figure most of everyone, as he is literally non-plussed at having to discuss religion with someone so below his caste.

Wild Card (2022): Daniel (Billy Flynn) and Toni (Tipper Newton, who directed and wrote this short) have been matched by a video dating service that feels inspired by the Found Footage Festival Videomate videos. The date is awkward, as every time Daniel seems to impress Toni or gain ground, she tears him down, builds him up and then cuts him down all again, sometimes in the same moment.

So how does he make it back to her place? And if he’s the first date from the service she’s been on, why are there so many videotapes everywhere? And who is that threatening her on the answering machine?

Wild Card gets exciting right when it ends, right at the moment that it has been teasing and it demands that you watch more. I loved it and it got me — so please, give us that second date.

I was struck by just how much it gets right from the neo-giallo erotic thriller look of the 90s and how much I want even more of this.

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