Portland Horror Film Festival Review: Short Film Round Up 2

By Joan Amenn

Miss Blueberry Beauty Pageant

Year: 2019

Runtime: 12 minutes

Director/Writer: Sarah Kennedy

Actors: Hannah Perry, Joanna Clarke, Jericah Potvin, Thomas Ian Campbell

“Miss Blueberry Beauty Pageant” (2019) is such goofy, retro fun with a nice bit (or maybe bite) of horror thrown in to balance out the campiness. The lovely pageant contestants are decked out in their finest from the 1980’s (and ladies who remember that time, what were we thinking?) ready to knock the judges dead. However, the judges have other ideas about who should be dead and who is among the undead. The Master of Ceremonies (Thomas Ian Campbell) is just as smarmy and annoyingly coy as you would expect as he leads the contestants through various stages of the pageant. One clue that something is amiss is when he asks during the Q&A session, “What is your blood type?”

 Will our competitors be able to escape this macabre contest? And who will ultimately be named Miss Blueberry? Director Sarah Kennedy is obviously having a blast with the script she also wrote and bravo to Campbell for contributing the pageant theme song. If it’s any comfort to viewers, there is a disclaimer at the end of the film stating that no humans were harmed in its making. Hehe.

Faust

Year: 2019

Runtime: 7 minutes

Director/Writer: Marianna Atlas

Actors: Marianna Atlas, Tomasz Gorecki

English Literature majors in high school won’t recognize this version of “Faust” (2019). While it leaves Goethe in the dust, it is an utterly charming stop motion animated take on the classic story. The title character is an elderly and lonely scholar working late in his medieval study. When a demonic poodle shows up offering a “Pact,” Faust is a bit put off, cute as the pooch is. However, the deal is done with a more modern version of the consequences for our clay protagonist. A heavy metal soundtrack accompanies the mostly silent film, save for some emotional reactions from Faust and a few surprises curtesy of the poodle’s owner. Any fan of stop motion will appreciate the details included in the film, such as the clouds passing in front of the moon outside a window or the jazzy way a clock’s pendulum swings. Director Marianna Atlas and her fellow actor Tomasz Gorecki made this at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland. It’s a tiny gem of creative energy that should not be missed.

SMAHORROR

Year: 2021

Runtime: 17 minutes

Director/Writer: Masaki Nishiyama

This is a fascinating short film that takes the “found footage” genre of horror to another level. Shot in vertical format on a cellphone and meant to be viewed in the same way, it is a chilling little ghost story set in a Japanese school after hours. Three girls joke around and try to scare each other with a YouTube video that one insists is fake but was filmed at their school. As the teasing escalates to dares, they locate the girl’s restroom where the dubious video was shot.

Director Masaki Nishiyama captures the obsession some have of documenting every detail of their daily lives with a cellphone, particularly young people. The need to critique and disparage those who post videos of themselves, especially when they are in emotional crisis is poignantly called out in this film. Nishiyama clearly is making a statement about those who feel they can be judge and jury of others without knowing much about them because they can hide their identities behind the anonymity of chatrooms and avatars. Although the names of the three actresses in this film were listed only in Japanese in the end credits, they were outstanding in building up the tension that leads to a terrifying climax. You will be second guessing the wisdom of entering a public restroom alone after seeing “SMAHORROR” (2021).

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