TAD review: shorts in Space and Myrna the Monster

When it comes to short films, I tend to favour comedy over other genres. It’s the perfect medium to tell a joke and deliver a punchline—short of stand-up comedy—and it often doesn’t require complicated or expensive special effects. Take Movies In Space, for example, which is my favourite in this year’s Toronto After Dark short film program, Shorts After Dark. It begins as a sci-fi adventure about Travis (writer-director Chris Smith), who is sent from Earth’s distant future to another planet to study the Corplox, a race of Dorito-skinned humanoids (all played by Jack De Sena), whose culture has evolved to the level of early 21st-century Western culture. In essence, Travis is an historian examining how we live today. But when he takes particular interest in their movies, which consist entirely of a series of beeps and coloured screens and last only a few seconds, it turns into a Hollywood satire as Travis becomes a successful, obnoxious Corploxian movie producer. It’s smart and funny and the special effects are remarkably polished.

Also remarkably polished is El Bosque Negro (aka Black Forest), a medieval fantasy from director Paul Urkijo Alijo that sees a knight on a white horse enter the titular woods to rescue a maiden, only to encounter bog monsters and the like. The production values on this one are what you’d expect on a feature length movie, and while the CG blood splatters annoy, the sword battles are solid and one particular CG creature transformation is quite effective.

It’s rare that a short film can deliver the goods when it comes to horror. There’s usually not enough time to build tension and suspense before delivering the spooks. But writer-director Oliver Park’s Vicious manages to do exactly that with the simple story of a woman home alone at night in the wake of the mysterious death of her sister. If only the tone matched the title, or vice versa.

The other short that has really stuck with me in the couple of days since I saw it is Myrna the Monster by Ian Samuels. Myrna is an aspiring actress whose only success has been an audition for Step Up Raw, a porn version of the popular dance movies. She’s sad and lonely and doesn’t really fit in. She’s a pixie dream girl Zooey Deschanel kind of character. She even sort of looks like Zooey Deschanel, if Zooey Deschanel looked like a platypus puppet. It’s strange and funny and, well, here I am still thinking about it.