Final Girls Berlin: “Young Blood” Shorts Program

The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival is going on virtually from February 4th to the 7th. Please visit their website to see more about what films will be available for viewing in you area, as some will be Geolocked.

When I first saw the name of this shorts block, I assumed it was highlighting young, or perhaps first time directors. And while that’s mostly true, this series of films all are connected by featuring at their emotional spine young actors, all female. This revelation made this series my most anticipated set of shorts, as the world of horror from the perspective of young people is an evergreen concept that is always rich for new exploration. And this series did not disappoint, as it had a richness of storytelling diversity that reaffirmed what a promising viewpoint coming from younger eyes provides to the genre of horror.

The Rougarou
Dir. Lorraine Caffery

Gerty lives in what can only be described as an unstable environment. Her family is involved in some level of drug trade, to the point where they keep firearms in the oven. Her father is devoted to her, however, patiently answering all of the incessant questions of a child. When she asks about where he got his scars, he tells her they came from a fight with the Rougarou, a local werewolf. Initially skeptical of the monsters existence, Gerty soon becomes convinced he is real and attempts to trap the beast.

Rougarou is an experiment in perspective, as we are thrown into a volatile situation from the perspective of a little girl who is taking everything in, and not always processing it in the moment. The trauma of living in violent circumstances outside of your control, of having to survive and still eek out some sort of normal childhood is all played for maximum heartbreak, up until the films end, which can be read as either tragic or triumphant.

Dir. Fanny Overson

Ronja is a seemingly shy prepubescent girl who is on the outskirts of a birthday disco set at a pool. But when she suddenly finds herself the center of attention, she ratchets up more and more chaotic, anarchic energy. Her freedom soon circulates throughout the party and the titular she-pack increasingly pushes against social boundaries, with everything always threatening to spin out of control.

She-Pack is at its heart a coming-of-age short, depicting girls on the awkward cusp between childhood and adolescence, pushing against the boundaries of what they can still get away with. But as they push further and further along, the anxiety and tension of what they’ll do next constantly gain momentum until things boil over. Director Overson being able to get such vital, honest performance from a sizeable cast of young actors is a masterful feat, as is her ability to constantly keep you guessing where the moments are going next. A joyous and fearful exploration of the freedom and power youths innately realize they have, despite the world telling them differently.

The Little Demon
Dir. Carol Van Hemelrjick

Giles and Sean have a lovely home life, including a loving and sweet daughter. The only problem is at night, she seems to be taken over by some other force, causing her to scream and scratch along the hallways. The couple are unsure what to do about having a possessed daughter, especially as she starts to show signs of the “monster” inside her making itself known during the day.

Hemelrjick’s film definitely had horror elements to it, especially in her young star, Kaedi Atkins, really giving a full physical performance of her possession. But what Hemeljrick does expertly is take a specific premise that’s been done before (it’s basically a riff on the Exorcist, without an exorcist,) but recasts it as a low-key family drama. By approaching it the way you would any internal conflict within a family, the film is filled with warmth and humor that helps it charm in its limited run time, while also getting in some legitimately creepy elements.

The Curse
Dir. Ellie Stewart

When a girl’s younger brother put a tooth beneath his bed, he gets a visit from the tooth fairy; she decides to lure the period fairy to her home. But it turns out that the period fairy is much less sweet. And…that’s the whole short. Short, crude and playful, the Curse plays more like a skit rather than a full fledged piece of cinema. Still, it mostly works and doesn’t overstay its welcome to extend a relatively cute idea to any grander design.

Dir. Sumire Takamutsu and Jorge Lucas

February 3rd is the Japanese holiday Setsubun (which, hey, happy Setsubun everyone), which includes the tradition of throwing out soybeans to bring good luck and, more importantly, ward off evil spirits. Unfortunately, young and impulsive Ayumi isn’t interested in participating in the ritual, nor listening to her mother. When she learns that bakemono haunt people simply because they are hungry, she lays out food to bring them in. This goes, as you might imagine, poorly.

Takamutsu and Lucas’ script clearly has a mentality of the pressures of maintaining tradition when you are far from the origin of those traditions; the film is spoken half and half in English and Japanese, and Ayumi’s youthful disdain for her family’s expectations reads as earnest. The film more or less unfolds as you expect, but the technical craft of blending American and Japanese horror filmmaking creates an entertaining little tale of cultural tension.

Fish Whiskers
Dir. Roney

Hannah, Agnes and Grace are three young girls who are wandering around Agnes’ massive land, when they happen upon a fish far from any coastline, seemingly still alive. They ponder this discovery, while elsewhere, unintelligible violence occurs.

Fish Whiskers is the newest short from Roney, an experimental and absurdist filmmaker who mixes a stylish lens with rather barebones narratives. Summing up Fish Whiskers as a narrative or to explain what happens in the movie isn’t really helpful, as it’s much more interested in tone and setting, and really the interaction between its three main young actresses. And Roney clearly knows the strength she has here, because the three young girls playing the three friends are fantastic. Naturalistic, charming and a little silly, the way only kids can be, they play off each other as seemingly genuine friends. What exactly is going on in this short is hard to parse, but what is instantly winning is these young actors and their friendly chemistry.

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