SIFF 2024 Once Upon A Nightmare Review

SIFF 2024 Once Upon A Nightmare Review

SIFF's Once Upon A Nightmare presentation included eight horror short films by eight different directors. Each of these films will be available to stream May 20-27th here. Here are our quick thoughts about each film included in this amazing lineup.

Carnívora, Directed by Felipe Vargas

Synopsis: Two estranged sisters become caretakers for their catatonic grandma but soon suspect she might not be their loving Yaya after all.

Review: Vargas is a horror master in the making. You're instantly pulled in and transported to this small family home, desperate to uncover the truth of what's happening to Yaya. Beautiful shots and relatable storytelling, Carnivora is beautifully creepy and entertaining.

Dark Mommmy

Dark Mommy, Directed by Courtney Eck

Synopsis: Ben is the only night shift 911 operator in a small town, his lonely routine punctuated by drunks or prank calls. But tonight, Dark Mommy reveals her evil intentions.

Review: There are no clues of where this story was going in the beginning. You could only strap in and enjoy the ride. With an unnerving 911 call from a child who's mom isn't acting like herself, we find the answer to the question what if? Dark Mommy is full of twists and turns in its 14 minute runtime well worth sticking around for its ending.

Who's There? Directed by Ryan Doris

Synopsis: Woken up by strange sounds, a father begins to question if the voice he’s hearing is really his daughter.

Review: Primarily shot in the entryway of a house, this film hones in on the fear of the unknown and deception. Doris settles a feeling of insanity over us and we can't look away as we watch this father in a wildly, unnerving standoff. Beautiful cinematography and strong performances make this well worth the watch. The ending is quite literally icing on the cake.

Callus, Directed by Ciarán Hickey  

Synopsis: When his daughter is born with an affliction warned of in fable, a widowed father struggles to defy the violent superstitions of their rural community.

Review: At 18 minutes, this felt like a full length movie with everything that we were able to glean from beginning to end. Set in Ireland, the overall atmosphere and feel of the film vibrated off screen. The storytelling, practical effects, performances and the atmosphere were extremely well crafted.

Room Tone

Room Tone, Directed by Michael Gabriele

Synopsis: A sound guy's attempt to capture “room tone" is constantly thwarted by the noisy antics of his coworkers, forcing him to take extreme measures.

Review: One of the few true horror comedies in this lineup, it is truly a gem. Gabriele does well at taking a seemingly normal situation and injecting it with horrifying humor and gore. The main character, portrayed by Mickey O'Sullivan, was a standout but the entire cast was charismatic and enjoyable to watch on screen. I have to point out just how true to character the Black character, LaShon Barton was. I always appreciate to see Black women in horror that show up authentically and well written.

One Date, Directed by Andrew 'King Bach' Bachelor

Synopsis: One date could lead to love or disaster…or something even worse.

Review: The Canadian comedian and actor King Bach is behind the short film, One Date. Unfortunately, the writing and what we were watching play out on screen didn't mesh. We really wanted to love this one but we were confused by much of the story and what it was trying to say, if it was trying to say anything at all. While not the strongest entry in this lineup, there were some good elements such as the dialogue and banter between the characters and overall look of the film itself.

Detox, Directed by Alex Hanno

Synopsis: An impressionable social media addict retreats to rural Maine for a technology detox, only to become the target of unexpected visitors.

Review: Another horror with comedic elements coupled with sci-fi aspects, Detox takes no time at all to connect with its viewers. Tapping into the relatability of social media addiction and the desire to share every detail of our lives, even in the times that don't warrant it, you can't help but be enthralled with this short.

The Rising of the Sap

The Rising of the Sap, Directed by Susie Jones

Synopsis: When her daughter Bea abruptly arrives home, Elizabeth struggles to keep her from being unwittingly drawn into the power of The Rising.

Review: This was The New Daughter meets Lord of Misrule. With the elements of folk horror coupled with the countryside setting, it was eerie and unsettling. Jones did a great job of worldbuilding and character development that makes viewers invested and anticipating how things will end, which isn't easy to do with a short film. Jones is definitely a filmmaker to watch for in the future.

SIFF's Once Upon a Nightmare presentation has us excited about what is to come in the horror genre. Being able to witness passion and care for what these filmmakers have created was inspiring.

We also had a chance to watch In A Violent Nature during SIFF. You can check out that review here.

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