One of the things I look forward to the most about film festivals is the horror shorts. They’re always fun, goofy, gross, sometimes gory, sometimes genuinely scary. A scary story can sometimes be told best when it’s kept brief and not concerned with character development or a long narrative plot. The SXSW 2021 Midnight Shorts competition featured 13 new short films promising plenty of gore, sex, and laughs.
Flick is a hilarious horror short about a guy who unsuspectingly picks his nose, only to find he is unable to flick the booger away. It’s completely attached to his finger, and he jumps around his gross, dingy apartment, trying to get it the booger off. Equal parts gross, ridiculous, and funny, this is a great little body horror short that had me cringing and laughing simultaneously. It’s one of my personal favorites of the Midnight Shorts, though, because much like the booger, this one will definitely be sticking with me.
Okay, so this one’s a musical. I was not expecting to see a musical short in the Midnight Shorts competition. It’s about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human, and so naturally, she looks to the internet for a volunteer. It’s absolutely hilarious, weird, grotesque, and perfect. Stuffed won the Special Jury Recognition for Bold Vision award at SXSW ’21.
THE THING THAT ATE THE BIRDS
The Thing That Ate The Birds is about a man named Abel who’s determined to find out what’s eating his grouse. The score is full of sharp violin music, and it’s an expertly tense film. This one will have you hooked in suspense right up until it’s creepy conclusion.
The Moogai is an aboriginal horror short about a family haunted by a child-stealing spirit. It’s unnerving, thanks to the excellent performances from the two leads and the striking visuals and cinematography. The Moogai won the Midnight Shorts competition.
Reklaw is the kind of short that would make for a good feature. It’s about a group of “altruistic vigilantes” who work to clean up crimes to keep people out of prison. It’s dark and stylish, with great sets, costumes, and camerawork.
A TALE BEST FORGOTTEN
Short, sweet, and creepy, this 5 minute short is quiet and unsettling. There’s no dialogue, just a folk song telling a bit of the plot, and it’s all filmed in one shot. While it’s interesting and unique, it was also one of the least exciting films of the Midnight Shorts offerings.
JOANNE IS DEAD
The horror shorts are some of the funniest films premiering at SXSW, and Joanne is Dead is hilarious. Two friends working at a nursing home dismiss the ramblings of their elderly patient as simply crazy musings from an old lady, much to their detriment.
A PUFF BEFORE DYING
A Puff Before Dying is a hilarious short film about a teenage girl, Angela, going out for a night with her friends. Using marionette puppets, this short story is adorable, but also a little unsettling. As Angela succumbs to peer pressure to smoke weed with her friends, things start to go downhill. This unique short basically becomes a PSA for driving sober, and it’s hilarious.
A young woman just wants to play Animal Crossing in peace, but there’s something creepy going on in her room. Told with no dialogue beyond the text on her video game screen, Don’t Peek is cute and creepy, with a few good jump scares too.
Flex is a creepy and funny look into the thoughts of a body builder as he tries to give himself positive affirmations and stay away from self-loathing. It’s definitely one of the weirder and more uncomfortable offerings of the Midnight Shorts, and I’m glad it was only 5 minutes long.
Puss is comedic short about a woman who’s alone during the pandemic, on day 99 of isolation, and just wanting to get laid. As she texts with men she’s hooked up with before, her cat looks at her quizzically. It all climaxes in a super bizarre fever dream in which her cat, Potato, turns into a human. While this film is certainly weird and uncomfortable, it’s also hilarious and entertaining.
RUN THAT S--T
Run That S--t is about a no-name rapper who’s really tired of giving out his free mix tapes outside of a gas station, so he employs some magic to make it big. The magic item that will help him make it big? An enchanted chamber pot that he’s got to somehow get from his former friend, now big-time rapper, Big Tobacco. Run That S--t is full of fart jokes, but for the most part, it’s actually pretty funny. And also gross. It’s completely over-the-top, and one of the funniest shorts in the Midnight Shorts competition.
This was the short I was looking forward to the most at SXSW, due to it’s intriguing and mysterious presence, and my love for weird science-fiction-esque films. Visually captivating right from the start, Significant Other is about a couple who aren’t seeing eye to eye when one of them starts seeing a mysterious red orb in their home. This might be the creepiest short of the Midnight Shorts Competition; at just 8 minutes long, it had me wanting more, and I would love to see this concept made into a feature.
Out of these shorts, Flick, Reklaw, and Stuffed were my personal favorites, but I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed watching just about all of them. I look forward to seeing what these creators do next!
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