Thursday, 16 October 2014


Shorts After Dark is a stellar lineup of international shorts of the genre-persuasion that make the majority of pieces in the ABCs of Death and VHS anthology features look like so much swill floating in sewage treatment plants. Here's a few reviews of the TADFF offering of bite-sized bloody treats.

Blue Pyramid Expunges Doorknobs
Everything & Everything & Everything (2014)
Dir. Alberto Roldán
Starring: Shane Carruth, Makeda Declet

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Morgan (Shane Carruth, director/actor Primer, Upstream Color) is a slacker. When a blue pyramid appears in his living room, his life morphs into one of ever-increasing corporate greed and adherence to the shackles of corruptible capitalism.

You see, it's all those damned doorknobs that the glowing, almost-monolithic tchochka keeps crapping out, which provide profits and work for a myriad of slackers that Morgan is forced to hire (and offer shares, profits and points to). Alas, corporate culture swallows the slackers whole with far more gluttony than a zombie seeking brains. This clever and funny American indie satire is a daring, deadpan delight.


A flaxen Frau offers a B-Day surprise
Happy B-Day (2013)
Dir. Holger Frick
Starring: Gabriel Raab, Isabel Thierauch

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The handsome young man (Gabriel Raab) taking a leisurely jog through a wintry German woodland is blissfully at peace. Fluffy blankets of snow adorn the flora of Der Fatherland on this, his hallowed day of birth. He's an easy-going fellow, but he absolutely hates surprises. Alas, he gets more than a few shockers he hadn't planned on when his babe-o-licious GF (Isabel Thierauch) appears out of nowhere.

Like some flaxen, winter-parka-adorned Kriemhild out of Die Nibelungen, the comely ice-queen inadvertently instigates a series of blood-soaked treats. Holger Frick's amusing shocker offers up more than its fair share of surprises and buckets of crimson nectar, but it also sneaks in a perversely dark layer of, uh, heart. It's a gutsy film, in more ways than one.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***1/2 3-and-a-half Stars

Swords Must Be Drawn
Is Virgin Deflowering an
art or craft? 
Swordfights! (2013)
Dir. Nasos Gatzoulis
Starring: Thanos Alexiou, Dimitris Liolios

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A gentleman visits his psychiatrist. During their session, one man reveals that he's professional deflowerer of virgins. The other admits he deflowers them for sport. The battle lines are clear. A duel is inevitable. Swords must be drawn. Swordfights! is an outrageously funny, gorgeously photographed (in monochrome) one-note joke, but it's a downright hilarious one.


Invaders (2014)
Dir. Jason Kupfer
Starring: Ricky Wayne, Jordan Woods-Robinson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A pair of bumbling home invaders argue about what masks will freak out their potential victims the most. They settle on identical masks that'd definitely instil major freak-outs once a homeowner opens the door - the humungous axes being quite an added adornment. A bloodbath ensues. A most unexpected and knee-slappingly funny expulsion of blood at that.


He Took His Skin Off For Me (2014)
Dir. Ben Aston Writer: Maria Hummer
Starring: Anna Maguire, Sebastian Armrest

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Having seen more short films than anyone in their right mind should (in addition to the ludicrous number of features I've seen in my life), it's especially gratifying to see a polished gem like this one - and not just polished, not just a gem, but a film that brilliantly contributes to expanding cinema's boundaries.

After spending 13 years as a senior creative consultant and teacher at Uncle Norman Jewison's film school the Canadian Film Centre and presiding over the mentorship of Jesus-H-Christ-Knows-How-Many short films, I'm relatively well versed in what it takes for young filmmakers to generate truly original and cutting-edge work in such a setting (often quite impossible given the pressure placed on them by - ugh - "industry stakeholders"). Since the mid-90s, far too many burgeoning filmmakers have squandered the opportunity (especially, though not exclusively in North America) to generate short films that work, quite simply, as good, if not great, films - period. Too many have been drawn to the "Look Ma, I can use a dolly, but have nothing to say" calling card nonsense which allows them a shot at camera jockeying series television (not too egregious in Jolly Old Blighty, though) or worse, making short-form versions of feature films they almost never end up making. It's enough to make a movie lover sick to the stomach. Once in awhile, though, once in a Blue Moon, once upon a mattress (as it were), a short film comes along - from a film student in an academic setting - that blows the living pants off everyone who sees it. He Took His Skin Off For Me is just such a film.

Based on a short story and screenplay by Maria Hummer, director Ben Aston has crafted a delectably creepy, darkly hilarious and jaw-droppingly perverse love story which traverses the mine fields of contemporary notions of sacrifice within the context of male-female relationships (though, frankly, any significant other coupling might well apply). Sacrifice in relationships has always been at the forefront of any deeply passionate and lasting union, but in recent decades, with the steady collapse of traditional family units and the rightful advance of women in modern societies, sacrifice, it seems can often take on the most ludicrous extremes. Here, Hummer and Aston, cleverly focus on the more traditional aspects of a relationship - one that seems to be a reflection of the kinds of traditions which can spell death for any relationship - where the rituals of what it means to be "traditional" settle into a kind of dull-as-dishwater existence of comfort and expectation.

Here, we have a couple who seek to put some pizzaz and pep back into their love. When the hubby makes an extreme sacrifice to literally remove his outer layer of flesh, things are clearly new and exciting, but once the relationship begins to settle back into familiar territory, it seems that the irreversible sacrifice is all for nought.

There are several elements which make the film work as well as it does. First and foremost is the simple approach it takes to rendering the tale. The filmmakers do not shy away from utilizing a borderline literary voiceover which is not only deftly scribed, but played with a delicate deadpan. The actions of the characters are also played straight and if there's any tongue-in-cheek at all, it seeps quite naturally from the proceedings due to the Buster-Keaton-like visages applied by both leads. The almost matter-of-fact acceptance of the inconvenience-factor in having no skin (trails and stains of blood that need to be endlessly cleaned) is what has us alternately laughing and grimacing. Aston's compositions and colour-schemes are also imbued with an aplomb that borders on muted - not unlike the approach David Lynch takes in his best work where the utterly insane proceedings are all the more insane because nobody on screen (or off, for that matter) is going out of their way to point a finger at it.

It's also gratifying to see that the special makeup effects are rendered without digital manipulations. This always adds a remarkably naturalistic touch to tales of the fantastical. This is especially important here given the fact that the film is often rooted in a kind of skewed realism that reflects the lives of so many (if not all).

This is a thesis film generated at the London Film School.

Bravo! It's a great short film no matter how, when or why it was generated. That it is the work of young talents, however, speaks volumes about their considerable talent, promise and yes, any powers-that-be that allowed them the freedom to create a work of singular and lasting value.


Shorts After Dark at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival includes the aforementioned delights in addition to four others. For further info, visit the TADFF website HERE.