Last weekend my wife was lucky enough to win a pair of weekend tickets to the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) held in York. Obviously I was the glaring choice to take with her and we spent three days watching a variety of short films from all around the globe. Whilst there was no specific “horror” category, after rigorous reading of the programme we managed to squeeze in most of the horror themed shorts. Most of the relevant shorts were in the thriller showings but we also managed to see a couple in both experimental sections (some of these were really weird) and in the animation section.
Obviously with a festival showing 300 films in 15 venues over 4 days it is likely that I will have missed some of the gems but here are some of the films that stuck in my mind. I wasn’t sure how to group them so I’ve stuck with the original screening groupings.
The Stomach – Examines brotherly relationships through Frank, a medium and his brother and manager. Frank channels the dead through his stomach which bulges when he touches something belonging to the deceased person in question. Things start to go wrong when a gangster seeks his services.
Gently Gently – This is an excellent example in building suspense, however annoyingly it is never fulfilled and nothing actually happens. Anna lives alone and is terrified that someone is prowling around her house, the only person who believes her is her friend James. Is it her imagination or not?
Newborn – Newborn was one of my favourite films I saw over the weekend. It follows two security guards in an apartment building in which a hideous infant starts attacking the residents. It was an entertaining, fun quarter of an hour that sucks you right in. It uses the CCTV cameras to great effect.
Naïve – Another one of my favourites this French film sees Emma find that her boyfriend and friends have been paid to surround her by her mother. The film follows Emma’s struggle to discern between paranoia and the truth.
Infringe – When Naomi bumps into a blind lady she inexplicably follows her back to her empty apartment where she starts to torment her. There is no motive and just left me questioning why would anyone do this?
The Birthday Gift – I’m not sure The Birthday Gift is a horror film in a traditional sense rather a psychological thriller. A couple are out celebrating his fortieth birthday when it transpires that the babysitter is his snubbed ex he was having an affair with. This is the classic spurned other woman story.
Dawn – Dawn follows vampire Leroy as he comes home late to his wife, Becca. I thought this short showcased what happens in these relationships when one person ages but can lead a ‘normal’ life and the other is perpetually young but must live nocturnally.
Status – Another good film, Status is set in the near future where people are connected to the ubiquitous social media via chips in their wrist and head. However, these chips ‘evolve’, turning users into killing machines bringing about the end of humanity.
The North Side – Filmed in a deserted London all credit has to be given to the filmmakers for managing to orchestrate that. Harry is the only survivor in the city and finds himself hunted by a man in a suit.
Purification – The acting in this short is wooden, I’m pretty sure Purification was only included because it was made by the local university. The story was an interesting idea involving a cult and purification pills, although they did strongly resemble Tic Tacs.
Black and White – Set on the balcony of an ultra-hip house during a sex party. It is pretty predictable, hinting at rape with the victims in white and the perpetrators in black with huge black eye make-up.
Trajectories – This French film is similar to the ozploitation film The Loved Ones. Three petty thieves plan on holding up a café in a deserted town but unfortunately for them the owners get to them first and they become toys for their naïve adult children.
Responsibly Sourced – At just under five minutes long, Responsibly Sourced is again set in the near future, this time the impending food crisis and the possible use of humans as a food source.
Former Things – This was a very confusing film, if it wasn’t for the blurb in the booklet I wouldn’t of known the main character was returning to his childhood home rather than a stranger. On returning home he finds the corpse of a recently deceased man (his father?).
Killer – Another psychological thriller, a detective’s son gets kidnapped by a teenager who saw the detective shoot dead his father. Set in Scotland it is fast paced and the parallels between the two boys is cleverly done.
Leviathan Ages – More of an animated poem than a film as such it features the most amazing steampunk octopus emperor and nine giant stone kings rising from the Earth.
Lady and the Tooth – I’m not sure if this counts as a horror but it certainly disturbed me and stuck with me. Done in pink and red and set in a land where people worship teeth that fall from a face in the sky. There is one poor unfortunate man who doesn’t possess any teeth and so ‘steals’ them from an unfortunate man.
Experimental (2 and 4)
Tigeritera – Originally filmed as an exhibition piece, Tigeritera features a cat-like Egyptian looking creature as it realises that the audience exists. The actor portraying the creature has a felines mannerisms down to a tee.
Perpetuum Immobile – Heavily influenced by silent black and white films, a sleeping couple are haunted by a horror of death. Very short at only three minutes and forty seconds I wonder what would have happened if it was longer.
Rather than rate each film I’m rating the whole festival overall. It was very much worth going however you have to pick your venues carefully (some were much better than others). There was also too much for us to fit in which meant careful planning to squeeze in as much as possible. I would be very impressed if someone managed to see all 300 films!
Overall Rating – 4/5
Fun Fact: If you went to ASFF (or even if you didn’t), what short film did you enjoy the most? Was it one I’ve mentioned or one I’ve sadly missed?