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Dead All Day Horror Film Festival 2021 review

Independent film fest Dead All Day Horror Film Festival return after having to re-arrange its lineup last year due to the pandemic.

Below is our reviews of the micro shorts and shorts played on the day at The Studio in Widnes.

The micro shorts were a selection of films that cost less than £500 to make, whereas the budgets of the regular shorts varied no doubt.

Micro Shorts

Toe Claw – An inventive flipping expectations film, with a girl seemingly coming home after a rough night, but it turns out she is actually hunting for her next kill. Impressive gore and a gnarly toe claw as a weapon.

Night Feed – An offbeat comedy about how babies and parents perceive themselves plus a bit of social commentary on the exhaustion of being a new parent.

Hangnail – You know what I hate a raggy nail. This short focuses in on this pet hate and turns it into a gruesome body horror that just escalates into crazy territory. Impressive, especially given the limited budget.

The Beholder – An animated adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe, which although inventive didn’t really cause much reaction amongst viewers.

The Drawing – An extremely short where an artist struggling for inspiration believes he may have brought his own drawing to life. Loaded with tension and a recurring nightmare quality that made it a highlight of the festival.

Browsing History – The blackest of comedies about how we try to switch off from the outside world when we have earphones on. The unexpected twist caused plenty of laughs all round.

Milk – Another body horror exercise that just got darker and darker. We see a woman trying to coax milk from her breast to feed her baby but there is more to this story. Certainly left a bit of an after current.

Misconception – This short does what it says on the tin, with a woman and her husband getting their wires crossed when she believes she is pregnant. Another serviceable and offbeat black comedy.

Blind Spot – A fairly simple concept where a woman hears a noise whilst watching TV and is attacked by an unseen force.

Stalker – Extremely stylish giallo-esque short where a stalker obsesses over a girl he may or may not have killed in the past. With its slick synth score and cinematography, Stalker is a phenomenal achievement given the budget.

Hollie – This layered tale focuses on a helpline caller who is threatened by a man whose wife committed suicide after not getting help when she needed it. There is a lot of social commentary here and it certainly doesn’t pull its punches. Not for the faint hearted.

Shorts

The Thinning Veil – This Halloween-themed short focuses on a seance where a woman looks to get answers from her deceased husband. Dripping with fall vibes and loaded with one killer scare, this was my favourite short of the festival.

Payback – When a man wakes up, tied to a chair with a masked man navigating him, we find out that maybe not everything is as it seems. Extremely gruesome in parts, Payback has a real edge to it and with a surprising twist it is certainly memorable.

Elevaterror – A 2D animated effort where an office elevator may lead to the gates of some sort of hell. A truly bonkers concept that doubles down on its absurdity and is all the better for it.

Where There’s Smoke – A melancholic short that feels a tad rushed. Deals with the grieving process, which can be a raw experience. The conclusion does feel abrupt and it sometimes lacks direction, but at the same time isn’t that sometimes what grief does to us?

Cassette – When a teenager looking for work takes up a job at the local video store he gets more than he bargains for in this original and bonkers short. Riddled with dark humour and the nostalgia of the Blockbuster days Cassette is one short that has the legs to become a feature under the right care.

Dead End – Another stylish short which does a lot with very little. A man waiting for a meeting in the middle of nowhere runs afoul of a werewolf. Dead End does well hiding its limitations, keeping the wolf mainly in the shadows. A stylish orchestral score with decent practical FX help to elevate this short which could have easily slipped into mediocrity.

Where Still Water Lies – This folk horror drips with dread and takes its time to unravel its coils as a couple look to enjoy a rural retreat but have they gone to the right cabin?

Genuinely chilling at times with a mood that recalls Don’t Look Now.

Shared Document – A brother and sister attempt to the write the eulogy of their recently deceased father using a shared document but is there a third party aiming to get in on the act?

Definitely a film for fans of Host, Shared Document builds up its tension to very intense levels using every trick in the book and carries a real atmosphere. A highly accomplished film.

Council House and Violent – A girl gets more than bargains for after not checking her tenancy agreement. A mix of black comedy and the occult, Council House and Violent is also loaded with social commentary. Fun but quite disposable.

Devil’s Play – Mixing the world’s of demonic possession and VR, Devil’s Play attempts to ground its rather fantastical elements in the guise of a single parent family and an estranged father trying to please his daughter. Devil’s Play is ambitious and is loaded with nightmarish imagery, crafting a wholly dark and at times scary tale.

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