In collaboration with feminist horror film collective Final Girls Berlin, SQIFF has put together a selection of queer short horror films for this year’s festival (thankfully back in person at the CCA). The hour comprises representation from various countries, perspectives, and aesthetics.
Opening film, The Elephant Joke (dir. Rim Kang, Korea, 2020), operates on two levels. On the one hand, it’s a Jumanji-meets-Se7en horror story featuring an ominous locked freezer in the middle of a field. On the other, it’s a drama that eavesdrops on a failed relationship and its fallout. It manages to blend humour into its building sense of dread and culminates in a bizarre, slightly unresolved finish.
The Nailing of an Older Woman (dir. Holly Anstey, UK, 2021) is a different type of horror dealing more with psychological fear. The film is built around the clever hook of a nail technician, Maria, working on an elderly client’s hand through a letterbox during the pandemic (the barrier acting as a subtle metaphor for emotional blockage). While becoming close to this new friend, Maria is simultaneously dealing with her own prejudiced grandmother and the film explores this terror of the psyche succinctly and effectively.
The shortest of the collection is You Are a Lesbian Vampire (dir. Thirza Cuthand, Canada, 2008). The production values are fairly low, although it does have the feel of a lost B-movie VHS. It’s more of a comedic monologue than a complete story but it’s impactful as a humorous sketch, parodying queer female relationships via the analogy of an 852-year-old vampire.
Lone Wolf (dir. January Jones, Australia, 2019) is another excellent choice – a short episode that neatly captures a teenage coming-of-age experience. The extended metaphor here is that of a werewolf transformation and it represents various ideas: puberty, victimhood, and coming out. There’s a well-tuned mix of comedy, body horror, teen dynamics, and even sentimentality and features a winning end-credits epilogue.
Finale Skin (dir. Audrey Rosenberg, USA, 2019) acts as the centrepiece of the evening with the longest runtime and production feel of a feature film. It’s a captivating delve into the life of Charlie, a trans teenager who experiences discrimination and constant feelings of isolation. The film takes the trans experience and amplifies it, portraying it through a supernatural lens. A fantastical, haunting transformation scene seems inspired by Guillermo Del Toro or perhaps Jordan Peele, and the film balances horror with touching family drama.
Short film collections can often be uneven but this is a solid collection of five successful pieces. Narrative metaphors are employed throughout and a variety of filmmaking styles keep the audience engaged and entertained.