Saint Frankenstein (2015)

Director and writer Scooter McCrae made this short in 2015 and it’s been the last film he’s put out. It makes you hungry for something else because it’s just so effective in this short form and McCrae needs to keep on making his incredibly vital and unique films.

W.A.V.E. starlet — and maker of the incredible Limbo — Tina Krause is Carla, a sex worker who has been invited into the room of Shelley, played by Melanie Gaydos, the Dark Angel from Insidious: The Last Key and Jug in Vesper; Gaydos was born with ectodermal dysplasia, a series of rare genetic disorders that affects the development of skin, hair and nails. Additionally, she is partially blind. Beyond acting, she has modeled and is in two videos for the band Rammstein. Her voice in this is by Archana Rajan.

As the two engage in wordplay that goes from foreplay to near combat, Shelley relates her origins and how she has come to be who and what she is, all while both women appear in states of undress. Her body is covered in scars no one should survive, like an autopsy slice through her chest and a head that’s barely stapled together. Yet as these two dance with words, it all builds to a dark conclusion.

As Russ Meyer once said, “While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains…sex.” McCrae’s films depict dead worlds on the very precipice of destruction, overstimulated characters dealing with too much death, too much pain and way too much desire. This is no different yet so much more assured.

Also: A Fabio Frizzi score!

This was originally intended to be in the film Betamax but it was turned into a short all on its lonesome. It’s near perfect, a staggering work that I can’t wait to see more of.

Possibly in Michigan (1983)

Made with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council, video artist Cecelia Condit’s nightmarish short has had many lives: as an art project to help her heal from her past, as a scare tactic shown on the 700 Club and a viral video that got shared with no context and was rumored to be a cursed film.

Starting with her film Beneath the Skin, Condit was using her video work to attempt to deal with the cycles of violence that she felt were all around her and so close to her. That’s because for a year she dated Ira Einhorn, the Unicorn Killer who also was one of the reasons why we have Earth Day. The entire time that they dated, the rotting body of his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux was in a trunk. A trunk that Condit constantly walked past, one assumes.

It made it onto religious television because beyond being about the self-destructive behaviors of men toward women, it also looks at female friendships and love. It’s lead characters, Sharon and Janice, may be a couple. Or they may just be supportive women. Or both, who are we to put any bounds on their relationship?

It’s now become a viral sensation several times, as teens try to copy its strange musical numbers and send it to one another as a curse straight out of The Ring.

Our ladies are just trying to shop for perfume — this was shot at Beachwood Place in Beachwood, Ohio, where Condit sat outside the building manager’s office until she was allowed to shoot there; she was given twenty-minute blocks of time which was a challenge — when Arthur begins to stalk them, a man whose face changes with a series of latex masks.

Arthur is the kind of Prince Charming that shows his love to women by hacking them to pieces, his always changing face is a way of showing the roles that abusive men have taken in their relationships. We also discover that Sharon is attracted to violent men, but also likes making them think the violence is their idea. Regardless, love should never cost an arm and a leg.

The songs, written and performed by Karen Skladany (who also plays Janice), are insidious in the way that they worm they way into your brain while this is the kind of weirdness that is completely authentic in a way that today’s manufactured social media creepypasta weirdness cannot even hope to be a faint echo of.

As frightening as this can be, it’s also a film about absorbing — eating a cannibal is one way, right? — and getting past the worst moments of life without being destroyed by them. This also lives up to so much of what I love about SOV in that while we’ve been taught that the 80s looked like neon and sounded like a Carpenter movie, the truth is that the entire decade was beige and sounded like the demo on a Casio keyboard. This doesn’t nail an aesthetic as much as document the actual 1983 that I lived within, you know, minus the shape-changing cannibal and singsong happy tale of a dog in the microwave.

Consider this absolutely essential and one of the most important SOV movies ever.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Blonde Death (1984)

Teenage Mother may have been 9 months of trouble, but Tammy the teenage timebomb is eighteen years of bottled-up frustration about to explode.

Vern (Dave Shuey) and Clorette (Linda Miller) have moved Tammy (Sara Lee Wade, who was a set dresser from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning and Return of the Living Dead and worked in props on Lady In White and was also in Darkroom) from Mississippi to California and now that she’s off the farm, she’s never going back.

But despite the Baptist veneer, maybe Vern’s a little turned on when he spanks Tammy and how he used to let her wear mommy’s high heels and walk all over his face. Mother isn’t much better, giving forced enemas to her daughter as punishment, so is it any wonder that when tammy meets Link (Jack Catalano) she goes all Mallory Knox and the two of them are in and out of bed when they’re not killing everyone in their way and oh yeah, staying away from one-eyed obsessed girlfriends and prison boyfriends and dead bodies stinking up the joint, but these two make anything a party.

After all, Tammy says, “By the fourth day Burt was starting to stink pretty bad. But we even turned disposal of his body into a fun-packed afternoon.”

References to Richard Gere being a coprophagy fantasy object, a last girlfriend who stood up on the rollercoaster and lost her head and an audacious final beat that was filmed — with no permit, come on, this is a $2000 SOV blast to your brain — inside the Magic Kingdom.

The James Dillinger who made this was really James Robert Baker, who left a “stifling, Republican Southern Californian household” to explore speed, booze, art and his hidden homosexuality as his father sent a private detective on his tail. He ended up going to UCLA for film and made two movies, the one we’re talking about and Mouse Klub Konfidential, which tells the story of a Mouseketeer who becomes a gay bondage pornographer and came so close to celebrating Nazism that the 1976 San Francisco LGBT Film Festival was scandalized and may have caused Michael Medved to abandon his dream of film making and instead become a film critic or whatever the fuck he is.

After five years of writing scripts, he was already burned out on Hollywood and started writing novels like Adrenaline, in which two lovers on the run battle homophobia and the oppression of gays in a Republican-dominated America; Fuel-Injected Dreams, which is about Phil Spector; Boy Wonder, the oral history of Shark Trager, who was born in the back seat at a drive-in movie and became a filmmaker and Tim and Pete, in which the lead characters deal with the AIDS crisis by planning to kill Reagan. That book was so controversial that he was labeled “The Last Angry Gay Man” and he couldn’t find anyone to publish his later books.

Baker ended up killing himself with carbon monoxide in his car, just like two of the characters in this movie, which is a tragedy. After his demise, he became better known and Testosterone became a movie in 2003.

This gets compared to John Waters a lot but I think that’s because it’s the easiest comparison to make. People really talk like this, this kind of filthy explosion of violent noise and you can hear the need to be heard in every word. Now, you may have to strain to hear it, as the video quality is, well, shot on video in 1984 but you should lean in as close as you can.

You can download this from the Internet Archive.

Down and Out in Vampire Hills (2022)

Vampire Penelope (Dawna Lee Helsing) and her thrall Harold (Ken May) are a good lesson for all would-be vampires out there in the world. That’s because despite getting eternal life, life itself keeps on happening, including the need to find a job, earn a living and pay for where your coffin rests. Living in a tent is rough when you expect a castle to be where you lure victims, you know?

Directed by Craig Railsback and written by Heather Joseph-Witham, this movie has Penelope having to take on jobs that are beneath the queen of the vampires, such as dog walker and car washer. As you can imagine, death follows and everyone that crosses her path has to pay, even if it’s just an accident that they get dispatched. Throw in a vampire hunter trying to take out Penelope and perhaps a rival for Harold’s devotion and you have plenty to savor in this almost-too-quick twenty-two minute short film.

I’ve been watching a ton of 80s and 90s shot on video films and wondering where the people who pushed to make their own movies in this format went to today and why people weren’t pushing for their own creative films, seeing as how the tools to shoot movies are easier to come by today. That’s why I’m glad I watched this, as it has a lot of fun inside it and sure, the effects aren’t perfect, but that’s so much of the charm.

JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: The Far Country (1965)

A couple becomes lost around the rubble, bricks and suddenly closing in maze of buildings in a place they have never been that becomes more confusing and also much more confining within just sixteen minutes of running time, but just like that idea of a second in the afterlife being thousands of years in our human experience, that sixteen minutes gives director and writer Jean Rollin time to stretch out and drug our your brain and create a rough pass at a movie that goes even further and gets so much more right, The Iron Rose.

Things would get better, as well as more obtuse and at the same time more layered. That said, the discordant jazz, black and white cinematography and idea that language doesn’t work any longer are powerful and sets us up for something that will grow and fester.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: A Visit To Santa (1963)

This is a combination Pittsburgh and holiday movie at the same time, as it was made by Clem Williams Films, an industrial films company that rented cartoons, popular movies and industrial films to high schools and colleges. They also made money distributing highlight films from the Steelers, Pirates and other Pittsburgh-based sports teams and sold all of their inventory to Kit Parker Films in 1985 with Clem himself retiring to Florida.

It’s also without a doubt the most yinzer yuletide movie ever made, as we first start in the home of Dick and Ann as their mom prepares them for bed and her quiet calm down speaking voice crackles with the patois of Pittsburgh, our local tongue one created from trying to yell over the blast furnace. “Yinz kids better go to bed before Santy comes dahn here tonight and not leave yinz no gifts,” she intones before refusing Dick’s request for water and acquiescing to his wish to tell his father good night. Dad’s in 1963 Pittsburgh did not put their kids to bed or even speak to them because they were either in the mill or drinking afterward.

Ann then wonders, “Did Santa get the letter we sent him?” We then see the letter, which is inside the mittens of Kris Kringle himself. Santa sits in a mid-century bachelor pad with a large leather La-Z-Boy which seems nothing like anything you’ve ever seen in any Christmas story, much less a Santa who has a magic helicopter or elves like Toby, who responds to the commands of Santa by saying, “Your words are my command, Santa.”

I mean, is it any wonder that Santa lives in a capitalist society where he himself rules over the proletariat eternal children, commanding them on a whim to fly to the Steel City to pick up two strangers and brag about his toy empire?

Santa’s location is actually a store called The Famous — thanks to the amazing Tube City Online web site — at the corner of Fifth and Market in McKeesport, once the center of industry and shopping and today what can charitably be called a ghost town. The holiday village is the ground floor of the also now gone Penn-McKee Hotel.

The magical McKeesport of a better time.

The crazy thing is I recognized this parade route because when I first started my life as a pro wrestler, the rookies all had to participate as part of the Pro Wrestling eXpress float and walk the parade route. An early Saturday morning, before the show, carrying a banner, throwing candy to kids who whipped it back at us and laughed. You pay your dues when you’re green.

There’s also a scene with Santa arriving on the Gateway Clipper and also him arriving — via rocket ship! — at what was the then one-year-old Olympia Shopping Center, a gleaming vision of the future up on Walnut Street.

This film is filled with terror, beyond the wonderful visions of holiday McKeesport, such as finding out that dolls are “fun to wash, to dress, to spank,” that little boys are bored by dolls and that when little girls play house they “cook and scrub the whole day long then serve a TV dinner.”

Dick may also be a budding hollow-eyed monster, as he watches a train set, he asks Santa, “Santa, do these trains ever wreck?” Santa nods and Dick can barely contain himself in reply, intoning “Garsh, that’s fun. Oh, no wrecks today.”

As Dick and Ann prepare to leave, Santa suddenly realizes the reason for the season, as the war on Christmas had not yet been fought and the man who coincidentally was given the dignitary title of Saint Nick says, “So glad you came. The entire Christmas celebration is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ hundreds of years and the wonderful spirit of Christmas.” This ensured that Catholic schools throughout Allegheny County would come back over and over to rent this from Clem Williams.

Then, the film descends into Lynchian-madness decades before that was a thing, as the kind of Hammond organ that used to blare through malls trying to get you to come in and buy an organ kicks into full holiday hysteria and the man playing Santa stares coldly at the screen and just keeps saying, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to all! Merry Christmas!” even after the audio stops playing.

There’s also an aside that Santa is too large to fit into some chimneys now, as a movie for kids about Santa, one to make them happy, fat shames the man who gives of himself to help make the season special.

At one point, the parade goes past what is now a Dollar General, the same place where last year there was a Santa display that had him carrying a gun and a baseball bat. Times have certainly changed, even if McKeesport still puts on a Salute to Santa parade every year.

You can watch this on YouTube.


Here are some more shorts from the Another Hole In the Head Film Festival.

Ringworms (2022): A sinister cult looks to gain occult power through cursed worms and find the perfect host within Abbie, a young woman with commitment issues hours away from receiving a marriage proposal from the boyfriend she doesn’t even think she likes. Faye Nightingale, who plays the lead, is absolutely supercharged awesomeness; so is the direction by Will Lee. A splatter relationship movie that ends with a double blast of garbage disposal and black vomit mania, then topped by a head graphically splitting open to reveal a hand? Oh man — I loved every moment. I want more. So much more.

The Sound (2022): Two years ago, Lily (Sabrina Stull) experienced an incident that caused her to spontaneously start bleeding and lose her hearing. Now, two years later, she attempts to relax with her sister Alison (Emree Franklin, War of the Worlds: Annihilation) but worries that the strange phenomena that impacted has come back.

The Sound is a quick film that has some really well-done camera work and builds suspense nicely, even if it doesn’t let you in all that much on what’s happening. That said, the ending is definitely something and I’d like to know even more of what’s going on.

Directed by Jason-Christopher Mayer (who edited the films American ExorcismThe Doll and Coven; he also did “The Devil You Know” video for L.A. Guns) and written by Mayer and Emree Franklin (she was also in War of the Worlds: Annihilation) from a story by Gage Golightly, this short makes the most of its locations, runtime and budget, leaving you begging for just a little bit more.

Spell on You (2021): Salomé is ten years old and has a wart on her nose. This — and the way her father treats her — leads to her being disgusted by her own reflection. At night, she spies on her parents through the keyhole. And there’s weirdness all around her. I was surprised — I should have studied that English title as this was originally called La Verrue which means the wart and doesn’t spell it out — to discover that Salomé is destined to be a witch and escape the pain of her childhood, the ways that her father treats her — shoving her from his embrace and screaming that she’s infectious with her wart — and embracing who she is truly meant to be. Director Sarah Lasry has created a gorgeous looking film that stands between our real world and the world of the occult.

While Mortals Sleep (2022): Susan’s (Carie Kawa) has had her career as a cold case writer fall apart, so she’s hiding out at a friend’s remote vacation house. When she gets there, she meets Eddy (Will Brill) and Abby (Grace Morrison). He’s digging sludge out of the backyard; she makes a spot of tea a strange and not altogether pleasant affair. They’re the caretakers of the home, or so they say, but then Susan hears a baby cry a room away.

Trust me, that’s no normal baby.

Director and writer Alex Fofonoff may only have two other sorts on his resume, but this tense and well-acted piece points to him as a person of interest. If this was longer — it totally could be — it would be a movie plenty of people were talking about.

Alchemy (2016): Director Brandon Polanco said of this film, “The title, Alchemy symbolizes a cinematic concept designed to give a person who watches this film his or her own experiential transformation. We want our audience to ask themselves how they see the world and their own reality. There is a magical aspect to our film that reflects the viewer’s own personal experiences as they engage with our narrative journey. The film is not meant to be a piece of realism. Through sound and emphasizing color in the production design, we’ve created a visceral and symbolic film to help broaden the audience’s interpretation about the reality of life around us.”

Ian Kevin Scott plays a man who starts with a job interview and ends up discovering a place between multiple worlds, both familiar and otherworldly, exciting and terrifying. It’s really gorgeous and actually quite mind expanding.


Here are some more shorts from the Another Hole In the Head Film Festival.

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.

Kickstart My Heart (2022): Director and writer Kelsey Bollig survived a near-death experience to tell this story of, well, a near-death experience. Lilly (Emma Pasarow) must survive three levels of living hell to return from the near-dead which ends up looking like scenes from horror movies and Mortal Kombat, which I can totally endorse.

You have to love when someone tells an incredibly personal story and does it with fight scenes involving ninjas and demons. More people should follow the model that this film has set, but then again, this is so original and well-done, they’ll find themselves wanting in comparison.

Meat Friend (2022): When Billie (Marnie McKendry) — sorry, I mean children — microwaves raw hamburger meat, it needs no old top hat to come to life. Instead, Meat Friend (Steve Johanson, who co-wrote this with director Izzy Lee) is alive and real and wants to teach her some valuable life lessons rooted in hatred and violence, no matter what her mother (Megan Duffy) does.

“More beef! Less cheese!” goes the refrain and the faithful demand the reanimation of the meat homunculus.

This was an absolute blast of strange and exactly what I needed during the fest, something that started odd and didn’t let up.

Izzy Lee has also directed the Lovecraft film Innsmouth, the “For a Good Time, Call…” segment in Shevenge and several shorts like Consider the TitanticDisco Graveyard and Memento Mori. You can learn more about this movie — the kind of magic that has a pile of sentient 80% lean ground beef do rails of coke — right here.

Prom Car ’91 (2022): Let me fast forward this review and just say that this short is more than 100% everything I look for in movies. It’s so well shot and creative that even though you may have seen its story told before, you’ve never seen it told so well.

Carrie (McKenna Marmolejo, who owns every second she’s on screeen) and Don (Max Jablow) plan to have sex for the first time in the back of Don’s dad’s minivan on prom night. They’re invisible kids in 1991 but are the kind of geeks that rule the world today. He writes Rush-like science fiction songs about her; she watches Shaw Brothers movies. But just as they prepare to change their lives with some underage sex, they watch prom queen get slashed by two of their teachers, Mr. Little (Yuri Lowenthal, the video game voice of Spider-Man) and Ms. Cox (Jayne McLendon).

I can’t even emphasize how perfect every moment of this short is. It’s so charming, so filled with absolute joy. It made my day so much better watching it and I’m still smiling about it.

Reel Trouble (2022): Arnaut Subotica (Sam Vanivray with director and co-writer — with Attiba Royster — Brian Asman as the voice) tried to make cartoons for Whitt Dabney (Kevin Allen) and the theft of his ideas and the way Dabney treated him caused him to make a cartoon that took a decade of his life. Then he committed suicide and the cursed film was kept from the public until the Internet released every bit of lost media from their prisons. Jason (Lyndon Hoffman-Lew) and Kyle (Baker Chase Powell) are trading videos — I see the snuck in WNUF Halloween Special blu ray — and this might just be one that they should have never watched.

This was an absolute joy to watch and felt like it could have been part of the true dark lore of Disney. It’s got just the right mix of humor and horror and knows when to switch into moments of sheer terror, even if they feature giant cartoon hands.

You can learn more about Brian Asman at his official site.

This movie was part of the Another Hole in the Head film festival, which provides a unique vehicle for independent cinema. This year’s festival takes place from December 1st – December 18th, 2022. Screenings and performances will take place at the historic Roxie Cinema, 4 Star Theatre and Stage Werks in San Francisco, CA. It will also take place On Demand on Eventive and live on Zoom for those who can not attend the live screenings. You can learn more about how to attend or watch the festival live on their Eventlive site. You can also keep up with all of my AHITH film watches with this Letterboxd list.


Here’s the first take on shorts at Another Hole In the Head that you should seek out:

7 Minutes In Hell (2022): Justin Reager and Shane Spiegel have worked on a lot of kid-friendly projects like Sci-Fi Test Lab and Junk Drawer Magic. They had to have done all of that to get to this, because this feels like a very passionate short film.

It’s a really basic story — a bunch of teenagers breaks into a vacant house just to play seven minutes in heaven — but the telling and the look of every scene — particularly the sound mixing by Katie Harbin and Carli Plute — just makes this work just right.

This feels like it is inspired by Creepshow while at the same time being way better than the recent reinvention of that show. That’s high praise.

You can learn about 7 Minutes In Hell on its official Facebook page.

Blood of the Dinosaurs (2021): Once, we went to a Mystery Spot and after we walked toward the center of the room, it kept pushing us into the walls and I was young and trying to hold my mother’s hand and it made me cry. Then, we all got on a train and it went through a forest and animatronic dinosaurs appeared and the driver told us to reach under our chairs for guns to kill the rampaging lizards and I yelled and ran up and down the length of the train begging for people to stop and that we needed to study the dinosaurs and not kill them. This was not a dream.

Another story. I was obsessed with dinosaurs and planned on studying them, combining my love of stories of dragons like the Lamprey Worm with real zoology, but then nine-year-old me learned that they were all dead and I had to face mortality at a very young age which meant I laid in bed and contemplated eternity all night and screamed and cried so much I puked. This is also a true story.

The Blood of DInosaurs has Uncle Bobbo (Vincent Stalba) and his assistant Purity (Stella Creel) explain how we got the oil in our cars that choke the planet but first, rubber dinosaurs being bombarded by fireworks and if you think the movie gets boring from here, you’re so wrong.

Can The Beverly Hillbillies become ecstatic religion? Should kids have sex education? Would the children like to learn about body horror and giallo? Is there a show within a show within an interview and which reality is real and why are none of them and all of them both the answer? Did a woman just give birth to the Antichrist on a PBS kids show?

This is all a preview of Joe Badon’s full film The Wheel of Heaven and when I read that he was influenced by the Unarius Cult, my brain climbs out of my nose and dances around before I slowly strain to open my mouth and beg for it to come back inside where it’s wet and safe.

Badon co-wrote this film’s score and screenplay with Jason Kruppa and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next. Also: this was the Christmas episode of Uncle Bobbo so I can only imagine that this was him being toned down.

Buzzkill (2022): Let me tell you, when you start your animated short off with a logo that says Canon Pictures and looks like Cannon Films, I’m going to love what comes next.

That said, it’s easy to love this movie, which is the story of Becky (Kelly McCormack, who is Jess McCready in the A League of Their Own Series) and Rick (Peter Ahern, also the director and writer), who return to her house after a date and their moment of romance is interrupted by an insect crawling out of her eyeball.

The animation is gorgeous, the story is amusing and I just loved the way that it all pays off. Buzzkill gets in more gross-out and laugh-out-loud moments in its short running time than most movies get in two hours.

Checkpoint (2022): Man, what a ride! I loved this and it made me consider all of the many, many video game characters that I’ve led to grisly deaths over the years.

A man — that’s his name and he’s played by Brett Brooks — must navigate a hostile alien world, learning with each death — which moves him back to the beginning and later to the titular checkpoint — what he needs to do to get to the next level. And then the next. At the end, he realizes that it’s all for Victoria (Erin Ownbey), who he pushed away with his greed. Yet perhaps he’s not the only person — or sin — that has done so.

Directed by Jason Sheedy, who also did the sound, editing, effects and wrote and produced the film with director of photography Matthew Noonan, Checkpoint is filled with tons of gory deaths, as well as a message and heart within. I had an absolute blast watching it — the production design is also incredible — and you should check it out too!

Cruise (2022): I worked in a survey research telemarketing place before I got into advertising and it’s the kind of job that still gives me nightmares. We had a set script that we had to follow, a mysterious room had people listening to us and you didn’t even get to call the number. It would just ring, you’d ask someone if they got their sample of laundry detergent, then they would call you an asshole for ten seconds, then you’d start all over again for ten hours at a time. Often, one of those mystery people would tell you that you were off script and take over and show you how. The worst was if you made a human connection at any point, they would terminate your call. I still wake up thinking that I’m late for my job there, a room of cubicles and no windows and people plugged into headsets as blood for the machine.

Cruise, directed and written by Samuel Rudykoff, finds telemarketer after telemarketer trying to sell a cruise and failure means death.

These days, when scam likely comes up on my phone, I don’t get mad or rude to the people on the other line. I was once them. It was not fun. And, as this movie will show you, you may end up getting them shot right in the head.

This movie was part of the Another Hole in the Head film festival, which provides a unique vehicle for independent cinema. This year’s festival takes place from December 1st – December 18th, 2022. Screenings and performances will take place at the historic Roxie Cinema, 4 Star Theatre and Stage Werks in San Francisco, CA. It will also take place On Demand on Eventive and live on Zoom for those who can not attend the live screenings. You can learn more about how to attend or watch the festival live on their Eventlive site. You can also keep up with all of my AHITH film watches with this Letterboxd list.


SLASH Filmfestival is Austria’s largest event dedicated to fantastic cinema. Founded in 2010, it quickly grew in size and scope, attracting close to 15.000 visitors over its 11-day run. Each year’s program is comprised of 50+ Austrian, European or international premieres of highlights from the field of fantastic cinema, ranging from crowd-pleasers to hot docs, from fiercely independent films to heritage revivals.

FANTASTIC SHORTS COMPETITION – CHAPTER II: For all of mankind’s greatest achievements, humanity has also excelled at being complicit in some of history’s worst atrocities—quite often while denying culpability. SLASH takes you on a trip down the seedier corridors of memory lane to shed light on faded or hushed historical horrors and to unearth personal traumas or sinister secrets repressed from the conscious mind. On this inward journey that blurs the lines between humans and animals, unacknowledged grief and unresolved guilt, you’ll meet overworked dream censors fed up with disguising the truth and snail-like or headless office drones who have fallen prey to the mindlessness of modern society and the senseless violence it breeds. As our clock continues to wind down, we look up for answers and may discover a cure-all where we least expect it. Is the future written in the stars, and will life find a new way forward?

Letter to a Pig (2022): Directed and written by Tal Kantor, this incredibly animated film tells the story of Holocaust survivor writing a thank-you letter to a pig that saved his life. Then, after listening to the man discuss his life in a classroom, a young student dreams about what he has heard, but it comes to him as a nightmare. Remember when someone would come to your school and blow your mind with the tragedy they had endured and you were surrounded by your fellow classmates and you couldn’t believe they’d have kids listening to this? This film reminded me of those days and my sense memory kicked in, thinking of the smells and textures of the seats in my old high school auditorium.

Swept Under (2022): Ethan Soo has directed a film that yes, is about a cursed carpet given to a young Cambodian man by his sister that ends up murdering him, but I loved that this movie efficiently and effectively contains a message about the way America’s policing the world has a dark history that is never discussed. There are some horrific real and manufactured moments in this film that really could be an entire anthology, as long as it keeps the perfect closing shot that this has.

There’s a shot in here of all the faces trapped within the carpet that is just plain sinister. There are so many layers to this story, even down to the disappearance of the Cambodian man at the end, that tie so perfectly into the sad story we have written. A near-perfect analogy well-told. Soo is one to keep an eye on.

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.

Censor of Dreams (2021): Night after night, the dream team — literally — of The Censor and his assistants turn Yoko’s memories into fantastical dreams. On one night, nothing happens as planned. This movie has the look of prime Michel Gondry, as co-director and writer Leo Berne and Raphaël Rodriguez take a story by author Yasutaka Tsutsui — which also was made as the anime Paprika — to show us the lengths that the censor within our head fights to protect us from moments in our subconscious that we must face or continue not understanding why we’re dreaming such strange dreams.

Headless (2022): A Korean short directed and written by Bason Baek, this takes place in a world where most people are headless. There’s one man with a head, a police officer named DuSeong. His latest case is a sexual assault in which the suspect and the victim both lost their heads. Then, his daughter loses her head. This feels like a music video and I have no issues with that. An interesting and surreal blast of cinema.

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.

From.Beyond (2022):  Through the use of found footage and genre mixing, From.Beyond documents several of mankind’s first encounters with life from other planets. Directed by Fredrik S. Hana, who wrote this movie with Jamie Turville — and directed one of my favorite videos for Kvelertak’s “Månelyst” which references tons of horror movies — this is one odd short.

Hana creates a fake reality within this movie, a series of moments of various lives as they come to realization with the fact that we are no longer alone and never were. This is more art than commerce and I mean that with the greatest of meanings; I also believe that it’s the closest I’ve seen a movie get to what actual Disclosure will be like. This short feels occult; it is the hidden made true.