FilmQuest 2016: Judge Them By Their Size Do You? - The Shorts


The saga continues in the fan film, "Star Wars Legends: Legacy of the Force".

STAR WARS LEGENDS: LEGACY OF THE FORCE

Director: Danny James

Starring: Jaci Twiss, Tye Nelson, Julia Fae, Thomas J. Post

Running Time: 20 minutes

***1/2

In regards to fan films, one of the greatest obstacles filmmakers must overcome, besides the lower budget, is getting the core audience invested in characters they likely have never heard of before. If the characters are engaging and the story is intriguing viewers will likely be able to overlook any perceptible budgetary limitations. In the end that is exactly what director Danny James and his cast and crew accomplished in their fan film, LEGACY OF THE FORCE, which drew inspiration from Troy Denning's Star Wars novel Invincible.

As the title crawl appeared on screen I immediately knew the film will be dealing with the Expanded Universe which I know very little about. When the story begins there is plenty of character and plot details that aren't addressed and the viewer is left to catch themselves up. Just remind yourself this won't be following canon. Fortunately, you find yourself in that familiar universe and it's not that difficult to fill in the gaps and get right into the story about Jaina and Jacen Solo, the Solo twins who are on opposite sides of the Force.

After getting past some necessary exposition the film moves along quite briskly to the thrilling confrontation between the two siblings. It's a well-paced, choreographed and filmed lightsaber duel filled with pathos and gravitas. Jaci Twiss and Tye Nelson are very good as the Solo siblings and they really shine during the duel. I haven't read the novel the film is based upon but it must be said that this has the makings of a solid adaptation that will have you wanting more when it ends. May the Force be with you.

EARWORM

Director: Tara Price

Starring: Ernest L. Thomas

Running Time: 5 minutes

****

Suddenly it hits you. You are awoken from a deep sleep by the most heinous, nauseating pain emanating from deep within your skull. A thunder-clap headache. A massive migraine. They are not something you want to experience nor would you want to wish them upon your worst enemy; okay perhaps you would. Now imagine if you will that instead of a brutal headache it's a loud noise that is reverberating deep within your skull. That is just what an elderly man must contend with in Tara Price's mysterious and at times amusing thriller, EARWORM.

The film stars Ernest L. Thomas, yes it's Raj from What's Happening, and he does a great job of conveying the confusion and horror as he tries to figure out just what the hell is going on. He is inexplicably hearing a very loud piece of music in his head and the film follows his attempts to stop it. What is it? What's causing it? Well, you'll just have to watch the film to find out.

Tara Price has written and directed a solid little thriller that will intrigue you, may make you cringe, could have you shouting WTF and in the end will leave you grinning once you piece it all together. By the way, be sure to stick around for the stinger.

Young Bree is about to learn a very valuable lesson that you should never lie to your mother.

KOOKIE

Director: Justin Harding

Starring: Ava Jamieson, Alana Elmer

Running Time: 13 minutes

***1/2

We've all been there. I'm sure we've all done it. I'm sure we've all witnessed it. Children telling little white lies to get out of trouble even though the evidence points to the contrary. In the film, young Bree, who likes to watch moody black and white horror films, has a sweet tooth for her mom's cookies. One day her mom takes extreme measures to keep Bree out of the cookie jar. A simple parenting lesson turns into a terrifying ordeal for the young girl who just wanted a cookie.

Justin Harding wrote and directed this twisted bedtime story that will amuse and entertain while scaring the crap out of anyone who harbors a particular phobia. Ava Jamieson gives a nice performance as Bree. Despite her actions you rather like her know-it-all attitude, her savviness and I suppose because she's a child in jeopardy you find yourself rooting for her. Alana Elmer is very good as a mother who gets her kid and knows what she has to do to get thru to her daughter; even though it's a bit twisted and sadistic.

Kookie is a simple horror/thriller that not only teaches the valuable lesson that honesty is the best policy but that lying can have lasting and unexpected repercussions. Does Bree learn her lesson? You'll have to find that out for yourself. Now pass me a cookie!

George is a recovering zombie who just wants to live a normal life.

ALREADY DEAD

Director: Michael James Dean

Starring: Darren Ruston, Luke Shaw, Shelley Davenport, Tony Cook, Andrew Newland

Running Time: 15 minutes

****1/2

It was only a few years ago that we were introduced to the day-to-day lives of a group of vampires in What We Do in the Shadows. The mockumentary, directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, was a hilarious, original and reverent satirization of the vampire film genre. Now, not to be ignored, zombies have their day in this hilarious, original and reverent satirization of the zombie film genre.

Michael James Dean's film documents the day-to-day lives of zombies fifteen years after the Zombie Outbreak (ZE Day.) Zombies live among us and they are trying to get back to living normal lives despite the fact that they're dead. We are introduced to every day folk who are now one of the living dead and their tragic tales are both humorous, sweet and heartbreaking. Did I mention funny?

From the moment we meet George and he begins to speak this film had me grinning ear-to-ear all the way to the end. I laughed and laughed often. Dean lightheartedly throws in relevant social commentary and you may find yourself empathizing for these sad beings because their struggles are our struggles. There are many memorable moments to be found but to share any of them would be too much of a spoiler. In the end it almost makes you wanna hug a zombie...almost.

Kaylie and Stuart settle in for an idyllic dinner date; that is until Stuart says he has a confession to make.

FUTURE BOYFRIEND

Director: Ben Rock

Starring: Emily Bell, Ron Morehouse, French Stewart, Pat McNeely, Dominic Mora

Running Time: 12 minutes

****

Reviewing Ben Rock's film Future Boyfriend appears to be a challenge. I'm not saying it's a bad film and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings; no, far from it. The rub is that by breaking down what I really enjoyed about it would result in revealing plot points that are best discovered while watching the film. Let's just say two people are on a dinner date and when one makes a confession comedy ensues.

The film stars Emily Bell as Kaylie and Ron Morehouse as Stuart. They have a natural chemistry that makes the film's conceit plausible and engaging. If they didn't buy into it the audience wouldn't buy into it and the film is hinged upon how they interact with one another. They give solid performances that deliver comedy and sentiment in equal measure.

Rock's film is an entertaining, funny, thought-provoking romantic-comedy that looks at dating in the 21st century. Saying anything more would spoil the film so I'll just say see it.

Hirohawa the Sun Devil and Princess Kyoko are on the run from the evil forces of the Evil Queen.

THE SUN DEVIL AND THE PRINCESS

Director: Steven Ayromlooi

Starring: Evan Parke, Mandy Amano, Dragon Dronet, Tony Todd

Running Time: 30 minutes

****1/2

Swords. Demons. Magical creatures. Damsel in distress. Samurai. Flying fortresses. What's there not to like about Steven Ayromlooi's The Sun Devil and the Princess? For this genre fan there's very little. I knew nothing about this film other than seeing the poster which evokes a little film from a galaxy far, far away. My interest was piqued and the film did not disappoint. Well, a minor quibble about some of the visual effects early in the film but other than that this one's a winner.

As the film begins we are told that Princess Kyoko was taken by the Evil Queen. However, the Princess was rescued and now she and her rescuer, Hirohawa the Sun Devil, are making their way back to her kingdom. Their journey is perilous as they are being hunted by evil forces including The Baron and his henchmen.

Ayromlooi introduces us to a new world and characters and they are quite memorable and enjoyable. The film features fantastic costumes, fine make up and some really cool fight choreography. Above all else, there is Hirohawa. He's like a samurai version of Hellboy and is equally endearing, bad-ass and lovable thanks to Evan Parke's performance. Ayromlooi's film is a fun ride that delivers what fans crave and in the end has you clamoring for Hirohawa's further adventures.

William Tokarsky stars as a just released ex-con looking for a good time in GWILLIAM.

GWILLIAM

Director: Brian Lonano

Starring: William Tokarsky, Wanda Morganstern, Paul Painter

Running Time: 6 minutes

***1/2

When attending a genre film festival it's pretty much a given that you may see a feature film or short film that will have you screaming 'what the fuck?!' Now what are the odds that two years in a row the same director, Brian Lonano, would unleash two memorable WTF films? Lonano wrote and directed a short called Crow Hand which was a gory, over the top and insanely funny film. Now he returns with Gwilliam.

The film follows a just released ex-con who's looking for a good time. His cellmate suggested a place he should visit and so he does. Going any further into the simple plot could rob the film of its impact and trust me it will leave an impression. What that impression is will vary from viewer to viewer.

The best way to describe Lonano's latest film is it's an over the top comedy that some viewers may find repulsive, irresponsible, disgusting and depraved. For this viewer it was just a funny film about a ridiculous, WTF situation and the cast and crew has to be admired for being willing to push the envelope to deliver some cringe-worthy laughs.

Maggie is all smiles when she first meets, Richard, her blind date in Brentwood Strangler.

BRENTWOOD STRANGLER

Director: John Fitzpatrick

Starring: Jordan Ladd, Adam J. Yeend, Maximillian Osinski

Running Time: 18 minutes

****

The dating scene in Los Angeles can really suck sometimes. Online dating can be a particular challenge. Is the person you met online going to be the person you meet that evening? How much of their profile is true? Are their pictures real? Yikes, what if they turn out to be a serial killer! John Fitzpatrick's latest thriller, Brentwood Strangler, answers those questions and more.

It's the holidays in L.A. and Maggie is off to meet Richard, a guy she met on an online dating site. Unbeknownst to her is that the man she will be spending time with is not Richard but the notorious Brentwood Strangler. That's the set up for this smart, effective, humorous and taught thriller.

The film is anchored by two solid performances by Jordan Ladd and Adam J. Yeend; as Maggie and the Strangler, respectively. Fitzpatrick, who also wrote the screenplay, sprinkles in the humor and winds up the tension as the film builds to a great fun-filled and thrilling finale. You know you wanna swipe left.

The crew of the Tantalus discover they need to make some essential repairs to their vessel.

THEY WILL ALL DIE IN SPACE

Director: Javier Chillon

Starring: Francesc Garrido, Julio Perillan, Ben Temple

Running Time: 15 minutes

****

It's very cold in space. Space the final frontier. In space no one can hear you scream. Yup, over the last century plus of cinema we have been shown that space can be a very unforgiving place yet we still find ourselves wanting to travel beyond the stars. Space travel is a subject that has been oft told by many filmmakers. With his film They Will Die in Space, Javier Chillon joins those ranks with a compelling, fascinating and sobering look at deep space travel.

In the film, the crew of the Tantalus, a deep space vessel transporting hibernating passengers, awakens a tech to help make some repairs to communications. However, something seems a bit off and Alexander, the recently awoken tech, decides to investigate.

Chillon's film features some great production design that gives the ship a very lived in look that is more akin to the Nostromo from Alien as opposed to the Enterprise from Star Trek. It features strong performances from the three leads and an engrossing mystery which leads you to a rather somber conclusion about deep space travel that you may have never before considered. Chillon's dark, space drama doesn't glamorize space travel but instead presents yet another danger we may face as we endeavor to travel to new worlds. At times space sucks, we get it.

A psychopathic killer confronts his latest victim in A Color Green's Mute.

MUTE

Director: A Color Green

Starring: Albert Bendix, Catherine Beckett, Joseph Talluto, Lauren Culp, Tripp Jakovich

Running Time: 5 minutes

****

Easily one of the greatest challenges a short filmmaker can face is having a feature film in mind but not having the time or budget to do it all justice. A simple compromise would be to present a moment from the overall work that would properly convey the big picture. I'm not saying that's the case with A Color Green's Mute but it does feel like this is just part of a larger film and he literally cuts to the chase and right to the cuts within the first minute.

As the film opens a woman is running from a madman who is pursuing her in the forest. He eventually captures her and cuts her; as I'm sure most madmen do. Over the next few minutes, A Color Green, yes that's the director's pseudonym, unexpectedly delves into the killer's psychology. In one brief exchange between killer and prey you are suddenly intrigued by this killer. Who is he? Why does he do it? How did he get that way? And then something happens. No, I'm not telling you. You just have to see it.

If not for that aforementioned exchange it would have felt rather like a generic, been there done that kind of horror film. Albert Bendix gives a solid performance as the killer. In that one scene you really get a sense of his disturbed and angst ridden psyche. A Color Green makes an auspicious directorial debut with this well paced, engaging and unexpectedly humourous horror short that features a new villain and a zinger of a conclusion.

ELLIE

Director: Morgana McKenzie

Starring: Sebastian Labissiere, Jeff Lawson, Grace Zanichkowsky

Running Time: 7 minutes

****1/2

One of the joys about film festivals is being able to see films from the next generation of filmmakers. Fests often have blocks of shorts that feature student films or films from burgeoning directors and I've seen quite a few that were pretty impressive. Morgana McKenzie is proving that she should no longer be relegated to the kids' table with her assured, engaging and award winning film, Best Youth Film - FilmQuest 2016, Ellie.

The film's plot revolves around desperate measures being taken to escape a violent world concealed within an isolated cottage. Out of respect for the plot and the filmmaker that is all I will divulge. Ellie is a well paced mystery/thriller that gradually reveals plot details as the film progresses. With each new detail the story grows and the tension builds and continues to build until it's finally released at the conclusion.

The film features great performances by Sebastian Labissiere, Jeff Lawson and Grace Zanichkowsky. Each of them flesh out their characters with nuance and depth which adds a level of realism to the drama. Ellie is an engrossing and suspenseful little thriller that delivers more bang than its brief seven minute running time could contain. Both the film and its director are ones to watch.

Young Hawa looks upon the forest she and her father calls home.

LA LISIERE (THE EDGE)

Director: Simon Saulnier

Starring: Ouidad Elma, Saïd Amadis

Running Time: 17 minutes

***1/2

As Simon Saulnier's film opens we are told of a world riddled by warfare which people of all walks of life seek to escape. When the borders fell a great forest in the North was designated a region of hope but in truth it is a haven for anarchy. Refugees do all they can to survive not only the environment but the other refugees who have the same goal in mind, survive at all costs. This is where we find Young Hawa and her father Selim.

Films about surviving in a dystopian future almost seem a bit passé thanks to the likes of The Hunger Games or Divergent. Saulnier's film does have its fair share of familiar beats but it has more in common with a film like Z for Zachariah as opposed to say Doomsday. It's not really about the apocalypse itself but is more interested in exploring the human relationships that unfold in an environment such as this. It raises questions such as how far will one go, what's most important above all else and how can one maintain their morale in such a bleak existence.

The film stars Ouidad Elma as Hawa and Said Madis as Selim, her father. Elma is particular good as she potrays a teenager who slowly finds herself becoming like other people. Saulnier weaves a compelling tale that appears to be going down one path, which would seem to be the popular route, but instead takes you on another which leads you to a very heartfelt and somber conclusion.

While out on a hike, Taryn and Steve come across something rather peculiar.

MOVE ME

Director: Gabe Crate

Starring: Catherine Parker, Danny Jacobs, Aidan Bristow

Running Time: 23 minutes

****

While hiking in a forest, a couple find an inexplicably immobile stranger with an antique plaque chained around his neck that reads “Human Contact Moves Me.” Upon touching him they discover that he is only able to move while in physical contact with another person. Though initially skeptical, the couple accept him into their lives, soon realizing that they may have found him for a reason.

There's no denying that the way events unfold in the film are probably just how you would handle a similar situation and many of those moments may have you chuckling or laughing out loud. Crate has written engaging characters that despite the fact that they are living in a fairy tale they are quite relatable. The performances of Catherine Parker, Danny Jacobs and Aidan Bristow help you effortlessly buy into their story and relationships. Bristow in particular is great as Joshua, the 'Human Tree,' who must frequently change gears every time he's touched or not. Parker does a fine job of conveying the curiosity and attraction Taryn has for Joshua. Jacobs is very good as poor Steve, the boyfriend who at first wants nothing to do with this intrusion but gradually comes around.

Gabe Crate's directorial debut is an original, whimsical and funny fairy tale that starts out peculiar but wins you over with its charm, heart and wit. It's a sugary confection about human interaction that will go down easy, leave you smiling and may perhaps have you reflecting.

The camera rolls on Chris Zylka who stars in the psychological thriller about Man vs Machine.

ANIMAL

Director: Ramez Silyan

Starring: Chris Zylka

Running Time: 11 minutes

***1/2

The plot of director Ramez Silyan's film is as follows 'A man wakes up trapped in a white room with a machine that gives him everything it thinks he needs to survive, but is that enough?' His film opens with a quote from poet and artist Kahill Gibson which tells us that we are all prisoners in some fashion. Forewarned with that knowledge probably isn't enough to prepare you for what Silyan unleashes on your senses.

All film is subjective and often times what you think you may be seeing may not be what's intended. Trying to describe the scenes found within the film would serve no purpose as it will all be out of context. You need to watch the film, I mean really watch it and take away from it what you may. As I watched the film, for every time I thought 'what the hell is going on here' Silyan throws out a clue that may bring some clarity not to what I was currently seeing but something I saw earlier. Each new piece adds a layer and provides answers and raises more questions.

I could tell you my interpretation of the film but not only would it be spoilerish but would serve as an undo influence on your viewing experience. Either you're going to like it or you won't. Either it'll make sense to you or it won't. Regardless Silyan has created something engrossing and captivating that can be equally frustrating because when it ends it doesn't provide any answers but instead raises more questions. Enjoy!

A woman, played by Nicole Magdalena, emerges into a strange world full of mystery and fear.

WASTEWORLD

Director: Andrea Niada

Starring: Nicole Magdalena, Tommie Grabiec, Jeremy Hill

Running Time: 12 minutes

***

Andrea NIada's experimental sci-fi/horror/mystery is at once arresting, engaging and mysterious. We are introduced to two people who find themselves trapped in a strange environment. The pair are obsessed with finding the key that will open a container at the center of the room. This room lined with garbage bags, which contain various, familiar, everyday objects, has a giant hole in one wall. What lies beyond the hole is just part of the mystery.

The film's leads, Nicold Magdalena and Tommie Grabiec, are very good in telling the film's story non-verbally. Outside of a few grunts and groans this film is bereft of dialogue. As viewers we are lost in this environment but have a sense of place when these characters find familiar objects but will likely be perplexed by the fact that they do not seem to recognize these common things. Their unusual behavior and reactions will likely peak curiosity and confusion.

Often times it can be said that the ending of a film can make or break it. Without revealing where this all leads Niada's film will probably leave you scratching your head and wondering just what the hell was that all about. I rather liked everything about it but the ending left me so flummoxed that it nearly made forget what happened prior to its final minutes. The film is well photographed, has a cool sound track, is well performed and directed but that ending sure was a buzzkill.

Accepting a simple babysitting job turns into a unrelenting nightmare in Die! Sitter! Die!: Rupert.

DIE! SITTER! DIE! : RUPERT

Director: Lee Boxleitner

Starring: Caitlin Reilly, Lee Boxleitner, Damille Cole-Heard

Running Time: 26 minutes

****

Sam and Lee Boxleitner's latest film is just one segment in a horror anthology named Die! Sitter! Die! In this chapter, Rupert, a young woman desperate for cash accepts a high paying babysitting job on short notice. Alison believes it'll be an easy gig, watching an infant for seven hours, but it turns out to be a truly disturbing and terrifying nightmare.

As slasher films go this one hits all the right notes. A formidable and memorable killer. A strong and smart heroine. It features some uncomfortable and terrifying situations. About the only thing it lacks is the obligatory T&A but this film isn't about kowtowing to cliche. The Boxleitner's wild ride features some great performances from Caitlin Reilly and Lee Boxleitner in a role which, try as you may, you may not soon forget.

From the writing to the directing to the performances this one is a very effective slasher film that will have you grinning from ear to ear because it's just so damn fun. The film would certain feel right at home as an episode of Tales from the Crypt or even a segment in Creepshow. If Rupert is any indication, Die! Sitter! Die! can't get here soon enough.

Looks can be deceiving in the latest episode of Scary Endings...Yummy Meat: A Halloween Carol.

YUMMY MEAT: A HALLOWEEN CAROL

Director: John Fitzpatrick

Starring: Miracle Laurie, Luke Albright, Lucas Jaye, Lou Ferrigno, Jr.

Running Time: 5 minutes

***1/2

It's easy to understand why Halloween is the favorite holiday for some people. People, young and old, dressing up in costume. The parties. Trick or treating. Spooky stories. Scaring each other silly. Fun times to be had for sure. This episode in the web film series, Scary Endings, embraces the spirit of Halloween and presents a dark and funny tale about trick or treaters.

In Yummy Meat, Amber encounters a rather peculiar yet creepy trick or treater, a young boy dressed as a wolf asking for yummy meat to eat. When she sends the little guy on his way, empty handed, mischief ensues.

Director John Fitzpatrick and writer Sean Decker have made a simple but entertaining Halloween tale that features some great practical effects, make up effects and a sly sense of humor. Like your favorite Halloween candy, it's quick, sweet, goes down easy and will have you digging through your bag for another piece. Yummy Meat is part of the Scary Endings web series which features equally entertaining horror shorts.

Rating Scale:

***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average

*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal

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