SciFi London 2020 had a selection of 41 excellent short films this year. Check out my reviews for shorts 21-30.
I’LL BE BACK TOMORROW
Directed by The Summers Brothers, this short was a late edition to SciFi London 2020. A woman wakes from a nightmare about someone called Karen using witchcraft where she is told “I’ll be back tomorrow”. She tells her guy who confirms he had talked to Karen earlier that day and that everything she is saying she saw in her dream had been said, word for word. They then hear a strange noise downstairs. He goes down to check it out and sees an eerie shadowed presence which disappears. He returns to the room and says everything is fine, OR IS IT?!?!? Creepy scratchy horror sounds throughout, making this a very tense film and making me question why I decided to watch this in the damn dark! Oh my gosh the ending made me yell. So very creepy. Thanks a lot Summers Bros, I’m not gonna sleep again ever and I’m pretty sure it’s your fault (haha just kidding… OR AM I)
Directed by Silvia Conesa, this short is set in a futuristic time. The protagonist Charly regularly sleeps in a run down booth called POLVOTRON 500 (apparently it’s cheaper to sleep there than his home). He accidentally activates an intelligent sex hologram called Nicky and a 10 minute timer begins. They strike up a conversation making a connection and she tells him that she hates it there and that she needs to get out. I enjoyed this short. I loved for once that despite the hologram being intended for sexual purposes, the protagonist had no interest in that and seemed to want to save her, or at least that’s what was implied by the ending. Would be interested to see where this story goes. How does he save her?! There has to be a way!
Directed by James Button, this short follows Jess who is experiencing a quarter life crisis. After she opens the window in a state of despair about her life, a stranger who “fancied a chat” pops in her first-floor window(!) and starts talking to her, telling her that she needs a “tour guide”. She pulls him into her window (I mean who does that with a complete stranger?!) and he reveals that he is a vegan alien who tells her she is lost. “I chose white male on the settings, apparently the easiest setting in this world” he says, which made me snarf. The alien asks her if she’s faulty and that she seems a bit lost also, giving her some advice before running off into the night. Cute, kind of random story about connecting but it wasn’t really my thing. If this was really an alien and Jess was the only human he met, it would be a pretty mediocre meeting to take back to his homeworld, which is probably what’s charming about it. Gotta say though, if it were me and someone popped in my window, I would not pull him in and have chats. I would probably have cracked him in the face with a solid item… Maybe that’s why I’m not allowed to meet aliens.
Directed by Dries Vergauwe, this short is about a pandemic. It’s the winter and the rich are inside; the not so rich or lucky are forced to collect the dead wearing hasmat suits. From the looks of it, the pandemic has ravaged humanity. Whilst on site, bagging a dead body, an employee listens to a message from a loved one saying that maybe they will see each other when this is all over. There’s this bleak malaise that is smeared over everything in this world. There’s snow, no one is walking in the streets, everything looks dull and mainly monochrome to match the mood; humans are barely living. It’s funny that the title is ‘Popular Tropes’ because what happens on screen is a popular trope for pandemic/crisis/zombie films (though this film is obviously not the latter). Yeah, HELLA bleak. I think the lack of any sound really adds to that. There wasn’t much to the acting; there was one bit where the protagonist was trying to bag this person and it was probably long to show how awful and difficult it was but it seemed clunky almost. When there’s not a lot to see, I think those sorts of things really stick out, you know?
CN: rape / Directed by Justin Daering, the short is in a world where an alien has saved humanity from the brink of extinction, and the ‘price of admission’ for doing so is that human males need to receive alien parasites from hosts.. It seems that many couples accept this with consent (exclaiming “we’re gonna be hosts!”) but it is clear that is not always the case. The main male protagonist (I didn’t catch his name) works as an operative at a metal mill and is invited to a duck shooting gathering with the boss Mr Walton (an alien). His wife Anna who is a nurse at a local hospital is excited that this might be a promotion opportunity but when he gets there, as soon as he is alone, the boss attacks and rapes him implanting the parasite in his neck. He’s obviously feels violated by this and when he explains what happens, his wife at first doesn’t believe him (asking how did you get approved/ did you even go hunting/did you say something to him about us wanting to be hosts). He’s also warned by a colleague that this is the price of being promoted and that he should be thankful. He attempts to remove the parasite himself, which is an illegal act and extremely dangerous, almost dying in the process but Anna saves him and they go onto have a physical altercation later with Mr Walton… So this story is so harrowing but it’s almost the perfect metaphor for rape… Hear me out. Honestly I feel like for any people (specifically cis and conservative men) who genuinely don’t understand abortions and don’t even think that women should be permitted them in the instances of rape, they should take one look at this film and I’m certain they would change their mind. It really just comes down to having autonomy over one’s body. Even the language that they use in the film is tantamount to what a woman hears from ignorant people if they have been raped by someone prominent in her/their community, e.g. “This is how guys like us get ahead in life… no one’s going to believe you”. Yeah simply amazing work. Really difficult to watch and very intense. I would recommend watching it when you have people in your life who can support you afterwards because me watching it as a sexual assault survivor, it made me feel pretty ill but Jesus fucking Christ man, this honestly should be shown as a teaching point. Lastly, the title was the name of a film where a woman was pregnant with an alien baby so this is probably a homage I bet. Standout film
Directed by Keren Chernizon, this short follows Samantha who is having a bad day when she gets a call from Josh from ‘Conscious Buy’ about a dress she was going to purchase. He talks her into buying the dress and after doing so, he disappears. It turns out it was an AI!! This is only a three minute story but shows how difficult it might be in the future to distinguish real humans from AI. Enjoyable watch but a bit basic.
SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE
Directed by Robert Summers, this short is about Anna Morgan who is visited by Homeland Security following a temporal incident which poses a massive threat. Anna denies knowing anything about this, but it appears she has been dreaming about this for some time. “It’s not one thing, it’s a what and a where” she is told, by a version of herself. With this information she finds coordinates to a tree and digs to find a case with a triangular symbol on it. It’s a time machine which she has apparently invented in another timeline… “Time is a knife… it’s a cut, slice away piece by piece until one day it’s all gone…” As a character, she seems to be like an ouroboros, the snake eating it’s own tail into infinity; maybe she always existed. An enjoyable little film.
Directed by Colin Levy, this short is about a futuristic world with delivery drones run by a massive corporation called NEX Port and some teenage hackers who are tampering with food delivery services in their building block by swapping them with other orders in the locality. However, the drone they try to do this to has an error and falls out of the sky. They check it out and find out it’s part of a project called Osprey, and it is an experimental and dangerous weapon. Excellent CGI but looking at the team that made it happen (hint it it massive) I’m not surprised. Simple but interesting concept. It’s nice to have a story that fights THE MAN. Wish there was more diversity in the lead protagonists though, because it appears both the leads are white boys as per normal, though the two people that save him are a woman and a Person Of Colour so that’s cool. Very surprising cameo from a famous actor who is THE BADDIE!! Think this would make an excellent feature film and it’s probably already in the process of being made; I think this short was crowdfunded looking at the credits so we’ll see where this goes!
Directed by Faye Jackson this short centres around an immigration centre in the UK. A woman is told she is being taken forcibly taken ‘home’ to Jamaica on a plane. Another woman who has been in the UK for 40 years since she was a child and has indefinite leave to remain is also being taken away. She does not know anyone in Jamaica. The management are all white men – classic – with one exception, and the head guy instructs the latter of the women to be sedated for the trip. It seems that the nurse makes a mistake and gives the woman a vial of a virus rather than the sedative (that’s my theory, anyway, or it could be coincidental timing), which causes all the white people to spontaneously explode into dust. It’s firstly a good social commentary about how fucked the immigration system is in the UK. Excellent reggae soundtrack, from what I heard in the short. This is such an original and weird film, I would love to see it made. Though I have questions: what if you’re part black part white/asian like me? I don’t want part of me to be dust! haha Please make this into a feature.
Directed by Tim Rush, this short begins at a frozen wasteland. Pilot Robin seeks her co-pilot Jay and her ship and is haunted by creepy dreamlike scenes of a strange red, horned creature. She manages to find some of her equipment and hears message from base saying Jay is gone and that she should forget her, that recovery will be there soon but she doesn’t want to leave her behind. Soon she is chased by the creature she saw in her dream, who looks a mix between Alien, Predator, a deer and a giant. To be honest, I didn’t really like this one. I found it so so difficult to see what was happening during the snowstorm which I guess was the point but probably a touch less would have gone a lone way. The landscaping CGI was beautiful, i.e. the red mountains, the swarming birds and so on. I dunno, I wasn’t into it.
Thanks to all the creators for making and bringing these shorts to SciFi London 2020. I believe these shorts are no longer available to watch on their website, but do seek them out if you like how they sound. My particular faves from this lot were: Progeny and Snowflake. I’ll be adding reviews for the remaining shorts shortly!