Blood in the Snow, a film festival dedicated exclusively to Canadian horror, returns for another year of fresh terrors.
Billed as “the darkest and creepiest films to play the fest,” ‘Dark Visions’ is a 103 minute shorts block, filled with a variety of types of horror films.
This relatively brief 8 minute short from Zachary Bennett stands out in large part because it features Canadian icons Julian Richings and Jean Yoon as a married couple, reminiscing as they sit in their car. While the film does have a tragic ending, T-Bone is mostly a sentimental, nostalgic film about two people who have been through so much that even their mundane moments can inspire laughter and tears. It’s not particularly horrific, but that’s fine.
The Monster Inside My Head
Writer/director Maude Michaud‘s ~7.5 minute short is a pretty basic metaphor movie. A woman (Karine Kerr) tries to prepare a meal while the physical manifestation of her mental illness (played by my friend Shelagh Rowan-Legg) harasses, annoys, and ultimately controls her actions.
Despite being narratively straightforward, there’s some solid body horror and the black oil costume design of the monster is understated, but effective.
I Can’t Go On
This darkly humourous short by writer/director Brenna Goodwin-McCabe focuses on Cassandra (Gabrielle Jacinto), an apartment resident who is startled to discover the body of a dead man in the elevator. Her reaction quickly changes to shock, and even outrage, when the other denizens of the building fail to empathize or care about the man, simply stepping over him – or even on him – to get on with their lives.
At 12 minutes, it’s one of the longer shorts in the block, but the runtime passes in a flash of condemnation and peer pressure that feels incredibly relevant to anyone living in a high-rise.
Twig and Twine
The longest short in the ‘Dark Visions’ block has a compelling premise that ultimately feels too rushed for its 15 minute runtime. Following a cold-open in which Esther’s younger brother Lawrence is abducted on a family vacation, the narrative jumps ahead to a weekend camping trip with twenty-something Esther (Sherine Menes), melodramatic Leanna (Ziyana Vasaya) and a third friend (Martina Vos). After staying behind at camp while the other two hike, Leanna discovers a book on human sacrifice and violence ensues.
There’s some intriguing ideas here, the short is well-shot (aside from a too dark finale) and all three performers are solid, but shifting the focal character (from Esther to Leanna, then back to Esther) overcomplicates the plot, which also feels like it needs another 5 minutes or so to build.
Twig and Twine feels more like a proof of concept for a feature and less of a successful standalone short.
At ~5 minutes, Shelby Adams‘ short is one of the briefest films in the block. It’s about a group of teens who are warned by an Indigenous Elder not to venture to a nearby haunted island. While the scenery is beautiful, the violence that results as the group is attacked is challenging to follow and the stinger could have hit harder.
Overall this one just feels a bit too slight: not quite enough narrative, not quite enough characterization, not quite enough lore (it’s very intriguing!), and so-so action.
The shortest film is the block is co-directors Julie Bruns and Steven Kammerer‘s Blink, which tackles the thorny subject of domestic abuse from the perspective of Lucy (Bruns), a female murderer.
I quite liked this one, which uses voice over to shed light on the survivor’s perspective, then adds in a little wrinkle at the last moment for a big impact. Short, but sweet!
BITS runs Nov 20-25, 2023. Click here for tickets and info