One of the annual short programs I look forward to is the Slayed block out of Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which is composed of LGBTQ+ Horror Shorts. Here is a selection of my favourites…
The Things We Do When We’re Alone (dir: Matthew Lynn)
This is an intriguing short because it is unclear whether Lynn will subvert or fulfill our expectations.
There’s a very brief cold open of a father Paul (Corey Page) on his hands and knees, fastidiously scrubbing at the kitchen grout with a toothbrush as his young son watches Looney Tunes cartoons. Following the smash cut to title card, it’s clear that Paul is a number of things: an amateur/professional taxidermist, a clean freak, and a husband and father who is prone to soliciting sex from men. As his wife (a disembodied figure whose face is never seen) and son depart for a night away, Paul sets up his kill room with plastic sheeting and prepares for his hook-up with Alex (Anthony Nannini).
Writer/director Matthew Lynn adopts a clean aesthetic for the short: everything in Paul’s life – which is entirely confined to the house – is perfectly in place. In a telling moment, Paul spots a drop of paint (or is it blood?) on his immaculately pressed white shirt, then Lynn cuts to the shirt burning up on the outdoor fireplace.
At 10 minutes, the short is quick and effective, with an ending that feels like a knife to the gut. It practically begs for a longer, more nuanced examination of such a complex subject. 4/5
Forgive Us (dir: D.W. Hodges)
D.W. Hodges’ Forgive Us is a religious-themed short. Its protagonist is David (Sandy Reed), a deeply angry gay man returning to his religious childhood home for the first time after his mother Anna (Melissa Lowe) kicked him out. What he discovers is that not only has his sister Chelsea (Kayla Gibson) become deeply indoctrinated in the Church, but they’ve invited a Deacon (Simon Boughey) to dinner in an effort to convince David to repent. Needless to say, this is confronting to both David and his boyfriend of two years, Paul (Nick Maka), who knew none of this.
Co-written by Jono Mitchell and Hodges, Forgive Us has some interesting ideas about the rage that queer people face against their unsupportive families surrounding the coming out process, as well as those who get left behind if/when we leave. Alas these themes are cast aside in favour of a bloody climax which finds catharsis in violence, but doesn’t ultimately satisfy because it resolves everything too quickly and neatly. This 14 minute short has some genuinely intriguing ideas, but it would have benefitted from a few more to do them justice. 3/5
The Cost of Living (dir. Alice Trueman)
This UK short is quite fun. Lily (Lily Loveless) is sleepwalking through her bland, controlled life: she can’t get herself off and her daily existence followed a pre-determined dull routine of exercise, pre-prepared food, and piano VR practice.
Then one day at work, a man dies and she meets Death (Genesis Lynea), a glamourous Black woman with a miniature scythe, blood red lips and penchant for close talking and come-ons.
After a brief panic attack, Lily commits herself to living more fully: she abandons her job and smart watch for a choreographed all-female “Dance of Death” at the Petit Mort club, which Trueman films like a sexy music video, complete with pulsing neon lights and techno beats.
While the short’s resolution is mildly anti-climactic and wobbles with the pacing and comedy of the rest of the short, it is both sweet and apt. Loveless imbues Lily with a kind of wide-eyed innocence that is reminiscent of Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive, while Lynea is sultry and seductive. Finally, a special shout-out is owed to costume designer Louisa Thomas for outfitting both leads in such a way that it is immediately evident exactly who the characters are. Small touches, but vital at communicating key details in very little time. 4/5
Slayed is an annual shorts program at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival