CENTRAL DENTAL (from Canada, directed by Lindsay Thomas Robinson, this film was paired with Slaxx at the Fantasia Film Festival).
Man, I really hate the dentist. So when I heard about this short film Central Dental (pictured in the featured image) about a man named Lewis (Adam Drory) finding a 24-hour dental clinic after being mugged and seeing that main shot of the film, I was intrigued. There are a lot of things done right in this film by first-time director Lindsay Thomas Robinson. I loved the detail of Lewis sitting in the alley and then the Central Dental sign just flashing on.
Robinson also taps into the anxiety of going to the dentist well, with the sounds of the drill and the dentist numbing Lewis’ gums with a needle. The dental office is creepy and him having to wait in the office despite this being in the middle of the night is funny. Some scenes are uncomfortable.
However, I wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I wanted to be because of the last three minutes. Everything the short works for with its strange atmosphere and strange situation works so well, but then a bizarre twist makes it feel silly. Sure, it’s unexpected and I sincerely don’t believe it’s been done before, but I think in this specific case a manic dentist would have been just fine.
DARLING PET MONKEY (from USA, directed by Jim McDonough, this film was paired with Class Action Park at Fantasia Film Festival).
Tim Tate has a great radio voice as he tells a story about a pet monkey he and his brother ordered from Monster Magazine when they were children in 1969. The story originally gained fame on the NPR podcast and the story is amazing.
I didn’t click so much with the visuals by director Jim McDonough. It’s animated and surreal with a lot of green screen and Photoshop, with paper-style animation and real people in a style that looks less like South Park and more like obscure Canadian-American children’s show Angela Anaconda. I don’t think the visuals did Pepe the Monkey justice and Tate’s story is so visual that I’d just rather listen to it.
It’s a super unique vision that I could never think of, and some of it does work. The monkey looks funny but creepy at the same time and made me laugh as a guy in a costume with red eyes. The “woman” with the beehive hair and the line where the Dad just wants to go golfing are both damn funny.
EYES OF EIDOLON (from USA, directed by David Pena, this film was paired with Sleep at the Fantasia Film Festival).
A hauntingly beautiful and eerie, David Pena’s Eyes of Eidolon got under my skin and stayed there. It follows a man who feels responsible for his late wife’s overdose and isolates himself at his cabin. With an emphasis on sound and mood, this is made creepier by being a silent short.
It’s a fascinating allegory for addiction I think I understood (I never know if I get the full gist with these heavy arthouse films). Mood, character, visuals and sounds are the most important thing here for a silent short and they’re all precise in Eyes of Eidolon.
The cinematography is gorgeous, too, shot in 1.19:1 (I’m guessing) by Kai Dickson. It added to a film that just made me so uncomfortable that I’ll never want to experience it again. I think that’s the point, though, so it’s a great job all around.
NIGHT SHIFTS (Canada, directed by Finn Wolfhard, this film was paired with The Oak Room at Fantasia Film Festival).
A four-minute short written and directed by Finn Wolfhard in his directorial debut, a pair of old high school friends (Artoun Nazareth and Billy Bryk) reunite at a convenience store. There are surprises packed into these four minutes, made memorable by sharp dialogue and a couple of clever jokes, as they chat about escape rooms and being environmentally friendly.
I can say with some confidence that this is the shortest review I’ve written in some time, but to say anymore would ruin it.
SMILEY DEATH FACE (USA, directed by Andrew Torrez, this film was paired with Lucky at Fantasia Film Festival).
Analyzing the communication of today by bringing us into a world where everyone communicates solely by emojis – except for the news, who are allowed to speak in order to give this exposition – Smiley Death Face also gives us a slice of home invasion thriller at the same time.
I really wanted the invader to be a giant smiley face. For the home invasion, a couple of the scares hit and some didn’t, but it was consistently tense. It’s legitimately funny too with the emojis. The main character hears the shower turn on and texts him the shower emoji. He simply replies with the bullseye emoji. It’s brilliant, and it’s a fun little spin on home invasion, too.