Six days watching horror films at MotelX, Lisbon’s International Horror Film Festival, is not for the faint of heart. The trick is to stick to two or three feature films and go for the short films’ sessions (in this case, it was every day at lunch).
I won’t compare it with previous editions of other festivals I’ve written about because they’re not competing against one another. There is a place for both of them, given that the core of the festivals goes beyond making them just about the horror genre. I feel it’s important to say it. For the horror film enthusiasts, such as myself, you don’t choose one over the other; you visit both if you can. They’re worth the trip.
The Talent in Short Films
In independent film festivals like these, I like to seek new talent. The best way to do it is by watching the short films. Don’t be mistaken by the low-budget premise of a short film; the dedication of the young filmmakers to these films is just as great as with a feature. Besides, this is the time in their careers when they are the freest, creatively (and hopefully they’ll be able to continue to be so even after they “make it”).
On last week’s blog post, I listed the 12 shorts that made my, well, short list. Five of them made the cut for me, including the winner of the MotelX competition for Best Portuguese Horror Short Film (I was on to something, wasn’t I?).
I do wish I had seen women directors competing in this category.
“When Demons Die”, Daniel Ruebesam, Germany, 2016
It’s a short with a big twist and somehow it reminded me of a cross between John Carpenter’s “The Fog” (the unseen enemy that you fear and run from) and “Room” (the reality is merely what the young character is manipulated to perceive).
Synopsis: 8-year old Joshua has never left his home for dangerous creatures live outside their isolated farmhouse – the Gorgers. But when his father Aaron mysteriously disappears Joshua is forced to go outside. A decision that will change his life forever for something is closing in on the little boy. Fast.
“Ink, Cocks & Rock’n’Roll”, Matt Harlock, UK, 2017
A documentary twisted into a mockumentary about Steve Martin’s alter ego Krent Able. If a documentary short film might strike you as odd in the middle of a horror film festival, it’s because it is so. But go with your guts, it is where it’s supposed to be.
The movie brilliantly shifts from regular documentary footage to the rise of the alter ego Krent Able as the real artist, not Steve Martin. In fact, Steve Martin is the alter ego of Krent Able (the darkest of the darkness in one’s mind).
Synopsis: Controversial comic artist Steve Martin is being interviewed about his artistic alter ego – the perverted monster that is Krent Able. But where does Krent stop and Steve start…and just who is in control?
“The Corpse Series”, James Button, Kristaps Kazaks, UK, 2016
If Monty Python and Shaun of the Dead had a kid, this movie would be it. It’s humorous in such a dark and twisted way that you can’t stop laughing. Extra credit points to the performance of James Button who plays James (there are times when his facial expressions remind me of a young Michael Palin), the roommate from hell that you hate to love (yes, I do mean it like this). He’s genuinely likeable and, well, that’s the reason why everything goes to sh*t on a daily basis with his roommate Dan cleaning up his mess (literally).
Synopsis: Dan’s life is turned upside-down when his innocently idiotic housemate, James, kills a burglar and the two have to dispose of the evidence. But things escalate quickly when they start getting more and more visitors, including a prostitute, a pair of Mormons and Dan’s curious girlfriend, Annie.
“Depois do Silêncio”, Guilherme Daniel, Portugal, 2017
A woman struggles with her zombie-like husband who keeps returning to life. There’s a stark resemblance with some parts of the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection and I noticed some other devotional references (not necessarily religious) throughout the movie (this is a short I wouldn’t mind seeing develop into a feature film). In the end, the need for closure surpasses grief and the desire for the dead to return.
Guilherme Daniel’s promising short film granted him an honorable mention from the jury for accomplishments in direction, photography, and writing.
Synopsis: A desolate woman struggles to accept her husband’s unexpected death, but is confronted with his recurrent return to the waking world.
“Thursday Night”, Gonçalo Almeida, Portugal, 2017
Do dogs see death? Does the death angel come in the form of a dog as well? Brilliant take on dying, the after life, and leaving this Earth starring two dogs and where humans are secondary characters.
The plot may not be original but how it was spun is, and that’s one of the reasons why this short won the MotelX Portuguese Horror Short Films competition.
Synopsis: An elusive stranger pays Bimbo a visit in the middle of the night to deliver a vital message.
The Conferences: Roger Corman and Alejandro Jodorowsky
I got to Roger Corman because of Vincent Price. At the time, circa 1997, I wasn’t that intrigued by B-Movies of any gender, not just horror. But do you know when things are so bad that they are so good? That’s kind of what his film career has become. Well, I’m sure he must hold some sort of record for producing movies (I’ve lost count).
I couldn’t stay for the whole of the live interview (brilliantly led by Portuguese podcasters Spoiler Alert) but I managed to hear him share what it was like to work with Vincent Price (because let’s face it, that was the question most of us there wanted to know the answer to).
Dear Alejandro Jodorowsky, the world wouldn’t be the same without you (and you didn’t even have to make your own version of “Dune” for us to love your work).
We could listen to Alejandro for hours, talking about art, his life, love, happiness, industrial cinema vs. author cinema, the tyranny of Hollywood producers (and how the giant studios produce content people want to see, not content that makes people think).
This conference, unfortunately, was slightly tainted by a mishap in the organization which led to a late start and which led to an abrupt shortening of the autograph session. The interview was rushed due to schedule constraints which is a shame. Not cool to see different people go on stage to whisper on Ken Newman’s ear he had to wrap it up. MotelX did, however, make up for this unfortunate event the next day with a second opportunity for an autograph session.