BITS 2020: Our Review of the Pre-Feature Shorts

Posted in BITS 2020, Festival Coverage, What's Streaming? by - October 26, 2020
BITS 2020: Our Review of the Pre-Feature Shorts

Blood in the Snow has its share of great shorts, just like many good festivals do. These shorts sometimes show how technology brings us closer to the monsters scaring these characters’ pants off.

Purgamentum is the first short. Here, Julie Bruns works behind and in front of the camera, playing an oceanographer. She has to eventually rescue her colleague who dives into the harbor and is taking a while to come back up. There’s a simplicity here, where Bruns’ body language convey both the environment and her mental state.

Clout is another short where the person behind and in front of the camera are the same person. This time around, it’s Ariel Hansen, playing an influencer experiencing a downward spiral. As someone who dipped his toe into the influencer scene, Hansen depicts its meanness in a way that doesn’t reflect my experience. But she depicts the two way interaction between a person and the toxic comments competently.

We Came From The Sea is a smooth segue from this program that’s mostly about middle class problems. Here, director Jeremy Lutter depicts Einar (Chad Brook), who, while cleaning up at his modern lake house, gets a visit from a Stranger at night. It’s obvious who the Stranger is, but Brook performs well within the demands of his character and the twists that go with them.

Landgraves is next, where a presumably hungry journalist (Francois Ruel-Cote) drives into the middle of the wintry, Quebecois woods. He’s doing a profile on the titular metal head duo (Pierre-Luc Brillant and Souldia) who got out of jail three years ago. First of all, going north of the 407 is a no for me. But this is one of the instances where the risk is worth the reward. Plus, this is one of the shorts that break the show not tell rule beautifully. Brillant is great at monologues, taking us to the most horrific moment of his character’s life, making flashbacks seem unnecessary.

Sometimes, the monsters live within people, which is what A Dinner Party seems to be about. Michele Kaye directs and writes the story of a woman, Ruth (Alyssa Caprotti). She invites three guests (including Wayne Burns) to the titular dinner party. There’s something Texas Chainsaw about the guests’ macabre acting, but this time, the guests and the host have to watch their backs. It’s up to us then to discover who wins out.

Octavain Kaul’s Attack of the Killer Scarecrow shows us that character design doesn’t have to be complex. All a director has to do is to make something familiarly creepy and turn that to eleven. Credit is also due to the titular Scarecrow (Dallas McNeil) to do a night walk to be effectively creepy.

Sophie Wang’s Signal shows a man (John Ciancolo) studying the sounds hovering around another snowy cabin. This is one of the weaker shorts to play before a feature film, where the sound design and the visuals need improvement.

Camille Hollett-French’s Freya, at first, shows us a sci-fi utopia. Jade (Rhona Rees, also the short’s writer) is a woman living her best life in the future. A part of the titular AI program includes choosing a man in a interface where we see a head shot, a ‘private’ pic, and a rating. But a hookup turns into a nightmare scenario that’s reminiscent of what would happen if Amy Barrett Cooper became a Supreme Court Justice. Oh wait, that’s already a reality by the time this piece goes up. Either way, this is a timely critique of how programmers can build technology to oppress. The best short to play before a feature.

The last short to do so is Hannah Michielsen’s Ingredients. It’s about a film loving slacker writer (Daniel Maslany, Queen Tat’s brother, obviously), which feels like an attack. Anyway, his roommate goes to Niagara while his cousin Fred (Eileen Lee) is crashing in their house. They bond through film, cooking, and maybe a crime. Lee almost steals the short with her great monologue, showing that she can wear a hoodie and still be a femme fatale with a twist. But Maslany holds up his end of the short, able to express moral indignity and sadness through silence.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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