We now arrive at that time of year where, usually, the horrific becomes the normal. Except in a year such as this one, October feels deceptively regular as the world wrestles with a global horror that has persisted its way throughout most of the calendar and, what’ll probably be, many months to come. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. As we’ve repeatedly mentioned on DN this year, artists and filmmakers have shone a light in these dark times, still managing to create inspiring work which we’re honoured to be championing. When I’m not speaking to filmmakers for DN, I run horror site Twelve Cabins which specialises in the best of independent horror shorts. Thus, our Editor MarBelle has kindly asked me to curate a collection of the best genre offerings that have arrived online since last Halloween. So, let’s continue the aforementioned celebration and channel that artistic focus into some scary movies. For, ’tis the season to be spooky.
Rob Savage’s Viral Twitter Short
It’s hard not to talk about the best horror of this last year or so and not mention the obvious name of Director Rob Savage. A multi-DN alum, whose work we’ve showcased since he was a humble 18 years of age. Savage has finally achieved the wide success he’s been long due for. With the immense popularity of his Zoom-based horror feature Host (which we spoke to him about, here), Savage is now on track to be producing projects with Shudder, Blumhouse and even horror icon, Sam Raimi. So, we thought we’d begin our list of best horror with the project that kicked it all off for Savage, the viral short he made at the beginning of lockdown which has snowballed its way into one of independent filmmaking’s most exciting stories of 2020.
I’ve been hearing strange noises from my attic, so I called a few friends and went to investigate… pic.twitter.com/CxmJAf44ob
— Rob Savage (@DirRobSavage) April 21, 2020
Catcalls – Kate Dolan
Cats are often construed as one of the more villainous creatures from the animal kingdom in the horror genre, manifesting themselves from representations of the ‘other’ in Val Lewton’s Cat People or as the sign of foreboding threat in Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu. Kate Dolan, however, repurposes that representation for contemporary social commentary. When a disturbed man pulls alongside two women and pervertedly exposes himself, the pair seek revenge on him in feline form. A revenge-slasher of sorts, Dolan’s film is striking and poignant example of genre filmmaking in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.
Bill – Dan Gitsham & Sophie Mair
I spoke with Bristolian filmmakers Sophie Mair and Dan Gitsham for two of my first interviews at Twelve Cabins. Since first arriving on DN’s radar back in 2007, the pair have consistently turned out dynamic work which has its feet firmly planted in the uncanny. Their latest short Bill was inspired when their first-born son would unsettlingly focus on a certain part of their living-room ceiling and repeatedly mutter the word “Bill”. A behaviour made even stranger when their second-born did exactly the same thing, in the same part of the house, at roughly the same age. Whilst most parents would be terrified, Gisham and Mair utilised this strange coincidence to make a short film about a widow who seeks to reanimate her deceased husband. Certainly an interesting story to tell the kids when they grow up.
Sports Day – Lin Tu
Horror has always been fertile soil for the taboo. A place where societal norms can be challenged and explored with viscerally entertaining results. Lin Tu’s Sports Day applies this to representations of burgeoning sexuality. Highlighting the key difference between men and women in our perception of early sexual encounters. It’s difficult territory to tackle but Tu approaches her subject with grace and understanding, and without letting up on the frights. After watching, you can read an interview I did with Tu over at Twelve Cabins about the conversation she hopes to generate with the film.
Malacostraca – Charles Pieper
Last, but certainly not least, we have Charles Pieper’s Malacostraca. One of the most bizarre short films to have been released in the past year, Pieper’s short follows the unravelling insanity of a writer who’s twisted narcissism leads him to believe his newborn son is a strange lobster-esque creature. In his DN interview Pieper explained how he worked with legendary effects artist Gabe Bartalos to create the monster central to his disturbing story, avoiding computer generated imagery in favour of using entirely practical effects. The result of which is a hilarious, gripping and wonderfully perplexing tale of masochism, fear and reality-altering bafflement. Perfect for 2020.
If you have a film that you’d like us to consider for future DN collections submit it here.