By James Lindorf
The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival in Berlin’s premier showcase of horror films directed and produced by women and non-binary filmmakers. The women aren’t just behind the camera either. There is a woman or girl at the center of each and every story and they have a lot more going on than worrying about what boy likes them. The festival is back for its 6th edition, but its first time going virtual. Running from February 4th – 7th, 2021, the festival includes features, short blocks, and a slate of talks and special events. While feature films are unfortunately geo-locked to Germany, several short blocks and all non-film programming will be available worldwide. Suppose you can’t make time this weekend. In that case, it is ok you will have another shot because the event planners have scheduled a second in-person event to take place over Halloween weekend, October 29-31, in Berlin. Tickets for the virtual event can be purchased from their website, Final Girls Berlin.
I was lucky enough to be able to watch some of the short blocks. There are five blocks in all, with projects grouped by theme. The five themes are cyber terror, revenge, comedic, child-centric, and isolation. I watch the blocks centered on humor, technology, and kids, which totals 24 films ranging from under two minutes to 23 minutes in length. Tickets are purchased per block, and there is plenty of quality to make the purchase worthwhile. Even if you strongly dislike one or two films, there could be 4, 5, or more that you enjoy. Keep reading for what I felt were the standouts from the three blocks I watched. Comment below or join us on Twitter and let me (@JVL007), @RedCarpetCrash, and @FinalGirlsFeast which ones you liked the most.
IT’S COMING FROM INSIDE THE SCREEN: CYBER HORROR
As our world becomes more reliant on technology, it is only natural for it to shape our art. From hit films like “Her” to the Unfriended series, technology can be used to tell all kinds of stories.
The clear stand out from this group and possibly the best of all 24 films is “Swipe Up, Vivian!” This movie from the US was directed by Hannah Weaver and told the tale of two agoraphobic women finding love via a virtual dating app. Emily Marso and Mary Williamson star as the two women desperate to make a connection in Addison Heimann’s screenplay. “Swipe Up, Vivian!” constructs an excellent world for our characters to inhabit. There has been another major terrorist attack in the US, resulting in curfews and restrictions on travel. Many citizens have chosen not to leave their homes in nearly five years. Visiting friends and family through holograms and having everything delivered via drone. This is a world somewhere between now and what we see in Wall-E. Most people are still trying, but others have given up on anything resembling an everyday life. With the help of a new dating app, Vivian (Marso) might get a second chance at love and happiness. Not only is the premise great, the advancement of technology feels natural, and Marso gives the best performance of all 24 films. “Swipe Up, Vivian!” is worth the price of the block on its own, but make sure you don’t skip “Spyglass” from director Javi Prada. This Spanish film tackles obsession with gaining followers and commenting on the performance of police and emergency services.
BUSTING A GUT – COMEDY HORROR
Comedy and horror have gone together since “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” made money back in 1948. Since then, there have been classics like “Young Frankenstein,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Tucker and Dale vs Evil.” As evidenced by this block, the subgenre is only growing in popularity, making up half of the total movies I saw.
The leader of the pack this time around is director Carlyn Hudson’s “Waffle.” Based on a script from its two stars Katie Marovich, Kerry Barker “Waffle” exists in a world where even friendship is part of the gig economy. Looking to make a dent in her $300,000 in student loan debt, Kerry (Baker) takes a job on a find a friend app. It is going pretty well until Katie (Marovich) requests some time with her. Katie is lonely and desperate for a connection and is trying to force it on anyone she connects with on the app. What initially seems like two girlfriends catching up begins to spiral violently out of control when demands are not met. “Waffle” has a strong premise, great dialogue, and good use of its location. What keeps it from challenging “Swipe Up, Vivian!” for best in show is acting. Baker is above average for what appears in most low budget shorts, but Marovitch’s feels forced and unnatural at times. She is probably an amiable and stable person in real life and lacks the dark side you have to tap into to play a psychopath. Coming up right behind “Waffle” in this category is Ding-Dong from director Director Suki-Rose. Ding-Dong is a peek at how one woman handles being stuck in the dark side of “Groundhog Day.”
The final block is all about families or, more specifically, children. Kids have been a part of the genre for decades and can range from victims, a target needing protection, or even the hero. Some of the most memorable kid-centric movies involve them not as the victim or the hero but as the face of evil. From Omen, to Village of the Damned, to The Good Son, there isn’t much more unsettling than a creepy child.
This group was the best from top to bottom, making it much harder to select a favorite. It could have gone to one of three movies, but I think I will say my favorite was “Bakemono.” Directed by Sumire Takamatsu and starring Claudia Fabella, Shio Muramatsu, and Dice Suzuki, “Bakemono” was inspired by the Japanese Setsubun tradition. Families typically celebrate by casting out evil spirits from their homes by throwing beans. This year young Ayumi (Fabella) isn’t convinced that the spirits exist or are evil if they do. To prove she is right, she invites one known as the Bakemono in for a midnight snack. I chose this one because it had the best atmosphere and is the one that creeped me out the most, not to mention some decent makeup effects. In a sea of young actors, Fabella may not be the best to everyone, but she is probably in everyone’s top three. Also in the top three is Victoria Dellamea, star of “The Rougarou.” 10-year old Gerty (Dellamea) is excited to have her gang member father back from prison. His return coincides with her being tormented by the idea of the Rougarou, a folkloric Louisiana werewolf. She is determined to put an end to its violence, becoming the MacGyver of home monster protection. Gerty will learn that not every monster is what you imagine it to be in director Lorraine Caffery’s gut-wrenching take on inner-city brutality.
I hope you will find the time to check out some of these blocks and more before the end of the festival. Just make sure you let us know which one was your favorite.
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