PHFF 2022: Day 4 Short Films

For day 4 of the Portland Horror Film Festival, audiences were shown another great collection of short films. These ranged quite a bit in the sub-genres they covered, some being more fun and light-hearted, while others tackled fairly somber topics. With a little something for everyone, here are my thoughts on the day 4 short horror films at this year’s festival.

Festival director Gwen Callahan conducts a virtual Q&A with Day 4 shorts filmmakers.

THE BODY (Bumper) – Directed by Lora and Theo Friess

This bumper contest winner asks the audience this question: what’s really in that communion wafer? The Body is a black and white short film that plays like an infomercial. It’s loud, in your face, and includes some gorier bits. While the premise is comical, the over-the-top, campy approach is a bit grating. I appreciate the nod to John Waters type filmmaking, but it’s also hard to capture that style if you’re not Waters. Overall rating: 1.5/5

THE BOY WHO WOKE UP DEAD – Written and directed by Sean Keller

A young boy wakes up dead and returns home where is family do their best to love him in his undead state. This is the directorial debut of Sean Keller, known for writing such horror films as All That We Destroy. Adapted from a spooky children’s poem written by Keller, the short film is a stunning nursery rhyme told in a visually unique style. Paper cut-outs and cardboard dioramas help bring this tale of death and grief to life. With the gorgeous art and Keller’s narration of the poem, the resulting short film is a gorgeous gateway horror that appeals to younger audiences and adults alike. Overall rating: 5/5

SPAGHETTI FACE – Written by Chris Orza and Peter Raber, Directed by Peter Raber

Three young boys tell scary stories in their clubhouse until one of the stories becomes all too real. Spaghetti Face is quite a feat because it manages to feel like a horror anthology, including multiple tales of horror, while only having a 9-minute runtime. While it works quite well as is, it definitely left me wanting more. The three young leads are incredibly endearing and deliver fantastic performances. This is another short film at the festival that can serve as a gateway horror for younger audiences. Throw in some great laughs and fun effects, and the end-result is a fun short film with a little something for everyone. Overall rating: 4/5

I’LL NEVER BE ALIVE AGAIN – Written and directed by Anisha Savan

A cured zombie attempts to live a normal life while being haunted by her past. Anisha Savan created a very different type of zombie tale as the zombies in this short are “reformed” and able to live mostly human lives with the help of drugs. It seems to be a metaphor for people living with mental illness, and how the drugs can have side effects almost as bad as the illness itself. The plot and performances are wonderful, and the concept is quite compelling. The one drawback is the makeup effects for the zombies take away from the overall appeal of the short film. Overall rating: 3.5/5

A CONVERSATION WITH E – Written and directed by Esabella Strickland and Tamira Mitchell

A girl comes across a note and decides to write a response, only to become trapped in an increasingly sinister conversation. A Conversation With E is fairly simplistic, yet effective. So many of us have written a response to a random sticky note or bathroom stall graffiti never expecting a response. It adds a healthy dose of horror to have the original note writer respond, often in a frightening manner, and never stop responding. One thing is for sure, A Conversation With E will make audiences second guess ever responding to notes of unknown origin. Overall rating: 4/5

THE COOKIE CRUMBLES – Written and directed by Daniel Hickey

A woman tries to avoid temptation as the local Chipmunk girls start their annual cookie-selling season. What makes The Cookie Crumbles such a funny short horror film is that it starts out addressing something many of us have experienced, then turns it upside down. Many people know the struggle of trying to stay healthy and avoid eating Girl Scout Cookies, but this character’s craving is something on an entirely different level. The plot is great at subverting expectations and delivering the laughs, and it incorporates practical effects that add to the humor. Overall rating: 3.5/5

THE STRONG BOX – Written and directed by Hassan El-Amin

A man finds a mysterious box with a treasure inside, but all things come at a cost. This horror comedy short film takes the phrase “be careful what you wish for” to a new level. There are so many layers to the comedy that it will keep audiences laughing from start to finish. While the effects are well done, the coloration and overall look of the short gives it a somewhat unappealing appearance. The two leads are great not only in their performances, but the opposing qualities of their characters also add some great laughs. Overall rating: 3/5

THE LAST CHRISTMAS – Written and directed by Ryan Port

A little girl’s plan to capture Santa and prove his existence goes horribly awry. This delightful little holiday horror has plenty of humor, surprises, and even a bit of gore. The Last Christmas has a small cast, but they all deliver great performances with a sassy edge to them. Probably the highlight of this short film is that it incorporates familiar holiday themes and then gives them a horror twist, creating a mythos all its own. At least two scenes are sure to surprise audiences, as well as bringing the laughter. It’s a holiday horror short that delivers its own twisted brand of Christmas cheer. Overall rating: 4/5

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