The Blood in the Snow Film Festival has returned to offer us a respite from the cold. Unfortunately, this year’s short film picks are disheartening – viewers may be better off wandering the streets and suffering from frostbite. I appreciate this festival for its attention to Canadian cinema, I really do, but this year’s batch of short films feature the sort of films that make Canadians badmouth their own cinema.
The majority of these films can be placed into three categories of “bad”. A handful of them confuse by inserting a twist at the end, straying away from their formally compelling filmmaking. This explains why Aestas takes an interesting premise and somehow immediately starts rolling downhill or why Chiral or A Tale of the Bonesetter even exist.
Then, there are the shorts that try to be political without quite understanding what their own politics are. Such as the problematic ideas on spousal abuse present in Crazy Love or the contradictory and confused ideas on capital punishment present in And They Watched.
And finally, there was that third category of films which were doing so well, until they were hindered by glaring details. With a short film, a small mistake can ultimately end up being a large part of the final product. Return was a beautifully creepy film until the acting during the climactic scene took me from horrified to laughing on the floor. Similarly, Marty had my attention until it overstayed its welcome (it would have been almost perfect at exactly half the length). And, let’s not even get into the excessive elements of the never-better-than-okay Deathbox and the Japanese-for-some-reason Kurayami no Wa. The latter is very out of touch and adolescently driven.
If you’ve made it this far in my review, you probably have no more hope for the BITS shorts. Well, there is some hope. Four shorts will still be worth your time in this year’s festival.
Preceding Night Cries is Grace, a well-made post-apocalyptic short that looks at how the weakest in society can still manage to survive through the use of trickery over sheer brawn. Meanwhile, Save Yourself will be preceded by Never Tear Us Apart, a silly little short full of low-budget gore and a lesson on the importance of family: yes, it’s every bit as fun as it sounds. And, right before Secret Santa is O Christmas Tree, which includes one of the creepiest villains you have ever seen in cinema – a kindly old woman!
Finally, I have saved the best for last: an absolutely fantastic short which deserves to win the top prize at this fest. Kat Threlkeld’s Seirēn is an innovative take on the lycanthrope mythos, except attached to a mermaid. After the film’s heroine is bitten by something at the beach, she begins to crave seawater and fish, before other changes start occurring. The special effects are unhindered by the low budget, the story is expertly told and the eventual appearance of the mermaid is equal parts exquisite and horrifying. You’ll have to suffer through the other shorts featured in the horrendous showcase, but Seirēn’s Canadian premiere will be worth the price of admission alone.
The Short Film Showcase screens at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on:
Saturday, November 28 at 7:00 p.m. @ Carlton Cinema
For more information on the festival, visit the official BITS webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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