As part of Dead By Dawn Festival.

As everyone knows, horror fans can stomach any amount of carnage inflicted on the human body.  Shooting, stabbing, hacking, hanging, decapitating, immolating or disembowelling; all is fine.  When it comes to brutality inflicted on animals; that’s another story, and one that retains its power to shock.  Fans of The Incredible Journey look away now, It’s Over, Rover.

The Man Who Caught A Mermaid

Kaitlin Tinker/ Australia/ 2016/ 15 mins

In truth, The Man Who Caught A Mermaid is the only short of this programme that gets particularly twisted, as a man’s obsession with catching a mermaid escalates from the merely eccentric to the utterly deranged.  Skilled direction (and very impressive mermaid makeup) does an excellent job of wrong-footing the viewer.  It may even be a cheat including it in this lineup, but this is a highly accomplished, dark piece of work.

The Dog

Hallvard Holmen, Aleksander Nordaas/ Norway/ 2016/ 11 mins

The violence towards the furry friend of the title is entirely emptied, friends of Lassie will be pleased to hear.  A little girl sees a dog being put down, and goes to tell the owner, initiating a macabre turns of events.  As with the previous short, the focus is more on human frailty and masculine bravado than animal cruelty. And just who is the little girl? An agent of chaos; or pint-size Iago? Blackly funny in the rich Nordic vein we’ve seen in several shorts throughout Dead By Dawn.

Pickle

Amy Nicholson/ USA/ 2016/ 16 mins

In which there is more death and heartbreak than in all the other movies showing in the festival put together.  Tom and Debbie are a loving late middle-age couple who can’t help but take in every poor animal they encounter; even a poor fish with buoyancy problems that they had to stand up in a sponge.  There are definite hints of mockumentaries like Best In Show as the couple are interviewed about all the pets they’ve loved and buried.  Pickle is a wry and warm tragicomedy made even funnier by the simple animations that depict the demise of their menagerie.  Again, it doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the horror category, but it’s a treat for any audience.

Madam Black

Ivan Barge/ New Zealand/ 2015/ 12 mins

Fans of Crap Taxidermy on Twitter will take to this Kiwi effort like a badly stuffed, bong-eyed duck to water.  When a glamour photographer accidentally runs over a young girl’s pet cat, he instinctively tells her a lie that spirals out of control.  Madam Black is a cautionary tale about the lies we tell them to spare their feelings.  The posthumous adventures of Madam Black are hilarious, sweet and slightly disturbing at the same time.

It’s Over, Rover doesn’t fulfill the promise of mass animal slaughter it implies.  However, the last of the short film programmes is packed full of dark humour and was hugely enjoyable, even if the horror genre was approached only tangentially throughout.  The standard of the films shown throughout is of an incredibly high calibre and have been an integral element of Dead By Dawn’s success.