FrightFest Shorts: A Short Selection
Bianca, parts 1 and 2
Federico Zampaglione wrote and directed a nine-minute short during the strictest period of lockdown in Italy, and filmed it all on his iPad and with his family. That in itself is an achievement, but even more so considering it was made in three days.
In Bianca Part 1, Zampaglione’s ten-year-old daughter Linda plays Bianca, a thoroughly modern premature teenager. She and her mother (played by Zampaglione’s partner, actress Giglia Marra) have clearly been driving each other mad while stuck in the same place for days on end. But that doesn’t stop Bianca’s mother from being absolutely protective when it appears that a stranger is in the house.
Surprisingly tense, the first film is stylish and makes exceptionally good use of the space available, as well as the home technology. A great example of what can be achieved with minimal resources.
Bianca Part 2, a little longer at sixteen minutes, is set outdoors in a park, and it seems tensions have lifted a little as the COVID-19 restrictions have. Bianca is with her mother again, enjoying fresh air this time, but not knowing they are being watched. There is tension again, mind you, as Bianca’s mother gets a phone call from her disgruntled partner about his relationship with the girl; and while she steps away to talk, Bianca is snatched away.
Having got to know Bianca a little in the earlier film, I knew her to be quite the minx, but again the writing was sharp enough that I was sucked right in and really believed everything I saw. Great use of the location again, this time several areas of a public park, with sinister shots of undergrowth and statues creating quite an atmosphere. Part 2 was again shot in three days, and though the scope and cast have widened, it was still made within the boundaries of the pandemic restrictions.
I miss horror festivals, conventions and events like those. I took my son to meet one of the actors from the 1990 It mini-series at a horror convention last year, and they both loved talking about the film from their own angles. I wondered then what it must be like to carry with you a role from your youth for thirty years… and thanks to Andrew Bowser’s Little Willy, now I know.
Bowser has written and directed this compact short film, as well as playing the now-grown former child star of a (fictitious) horror film. He sits at a convention table waiting for people to notice him and Willy, the doll from his film, and steadily the hole where his own identity should be drives him mad. Adrienne Barbeau and Zach Galligan are also attending the event, and playing themselves; thus adding some lovely realism to the short film, as well as a knowing meta nod to horror fans who would recognise both the scene and the types of films Little Willy represents. It’s not scary or bloody (well, a bit), but definitely entertaining and shrewdly written.
Why Wake A Sleeping Chinchilla?
It’s quite remarkable when a film can have clearly drawn characters, a succinct plot and a spooky atmosphere, all in five minutes. Simon Wilcox has done just that, directing Ruth, Sophie and Jessica Wilcox in a short, sharp tale about the power of grief… or possibly something more supernatural.
Sadie has a bad dream: she misses her departed sister, but this memory feels malicious, rubbing in the guilt she can’t escape. Her mother tries to be pragmatic (“it was only a dream”) and reminds Sadie of Charlie’s old nickname with a smile. The next day, Sadie looks over an old home video, looking for closure with some apologies. But it doesn’t work.
Deeply atmospheric, with strong shades of red and blue against dark backgrounds, Why Wake A Sleeping Chinchilla? seems to draw on a fear of not knowing what’s real, presented as a timeless horror. The screeching music, which withdraws for the abstract dream world, only serves to compound that: a good deal of the chill may seem a little exaggerated, but there is nothing camp or satirical.
Good show, family Wilcox! Please make more.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.