Shorts Showcase - A LATE THAW / KAALCHAKRA / OCT 23RD

We cast a gaze over three more recent shorts.




Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)


A Late Thaw

Appropriate to a month of sunshine and fresh starts, we begin May’s shorts showcase with the fittingly titled A Late Thaw, writer/director Kim Barr’s spooky meditation on sorrow, memory and shaking off the weight of the past. The boyfriend of twenty-something Tara (Helene Marie) is urgent to move her into a new house, a beautiful modern residence of sweeping stairs and long corridors, and the perfect place for the couple to begin the rest of their life together. However, the potential change unsettles Tara, and gets her to thinking about the death of her ex-boyfriend Glen, who, it is implied, died in a climbing accident. Tara, a climber herself, blames herself for the tragedy, but has seemingly not processed her guilt and grief. As the realtor of the property states with unknowing gloom, ‘new homes always shake loose a few things’…

Barr’s short film is akin to a visual poem, one that evocatively uses arresting and well shot imagery to express its central ‘return of the repressed’ theme. We pointedly witness Tara slowly ascending stairs and carefully unpacking boxes: uncovering emotions and leading to a poignant encounter with the frozen, snow kissed ghost of her lover. The impact of the film is not just created by the cinematography, the acting is especially nuanced too, with Barr’s camera tightly focussed on the faces of the leads at key points, capturing each subtle shade of their performances (a rarity in the short film medium, where film makers seldom have such confidence in their cast). A mature ghost story that is more gothic than grand guignol, A Late Thaw’s beguiling imagery will haunt your heart.



Kaalchakra

There is more meditation on memory and the flexibility of time with Deeya Dey and Kshitij Sharma’s Kaalchakra, wherein a dying professor (Rohit Pareek) who has dedicated his life to the study of time-travel makes a last ditch attempt to prove his theories. Ingeniously, the professor, aided by his nurse (Dey), sets out to throw a party for chrononauts, a shindig that only timetravellers can attend as it is will occur in their past...

Despite the sundries Veena and the professor have laid on, the experiment looks doomed to failure. However, just as the two start packing away the party bags, a knock on the door reveals TA 229 (Sharma), who brings tales of the future; no cigarettes, and not any paper, even, hence the lack of attendees to the gathering. But is there more (or less) to this stranger than he claims?

To say too much more about Kaalchakra would be to spoil its many delights. Suffice to say that this is a clever, warm hearted film, one that does its ingenious concept justice, and remains consistently surprising right through to its enigmatic ending. Make time for it.



Oct 23rd

In an already quality month, we save the best for last. Supposedly based on the real life experiences of Karen Fernhill (who, soon after the events depicted in this short, fell into a coma where she remains to this day), Paul Santana’s Oct 23rd is a dark gem of a horror. Amanda Wyss (Tina from Nightmare on Elm Street, who must have some sort of portrait in her attic) plays Karen, a woman called to the home of her distressed pal Paige (Amanda Parsons) upon an ominously rainy night. Paige lives alone with her daughter Chelsea (Georgia McCorkle), her husband recently deceased from a mysterious traffic accident, one that Paige blames little Chelsea for. ‘I heard giggles from her room’, Paige maintains to Karen’s incredulity, as she insists that her own daughter not only has psychic abilities, but murderous intent to boot.

Oct 23rd impresses with its slick perfection of horror conventions; what is cliché in other shorts has devastating impact here. Pounding rain and oblique camera angles create exigent atmosphere, but it is the leads’ performances that truly sell the desperate horror of Paige’s situation, with Wyss caught between the utter absurdity of Paige’s fears, but also swayed by her friend’s anxious conviction. Children are an uncanny little bunch, as the crop of kiddie based threats in horror a couple of years ago attests, but, again, Oct 23rd explores the trope with fresh urgency, the dynamic ringing true because, as the film teasingly reminds us, even at the best of times kids can be manipulative and wilfully unaware of the consequences of their actions. McCorkle’s pint size Carrie is unnerving, playing both aspects of the role with devious, disturbing persuasion- yikes!

I watched Oct 23rd a week ago, and I haven’t stopped banging on about it since; the intensity, the creepiness, the imperious genre thrills. Watch it below...


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