Since its inception in 2018, the Vancouver Horror Show film festival (VHS) has been bringing scary cinema to west coast audiences. On November 5, 6, and 8, the festival returned with three days of horror and genre films from local and international filmmakers.
In addition to the full-length feature films, we got a chance to check out a handful of the short films that screened at this year’s festival.
Written and directed by Vancouver-based Stephanie Izsak, Consumer is a gross, funny, and poignant exploration of the horrors of teenage girlhood. Surrounded by toxic messaging about her appearance, a young girl (Eden Summer Gilmore) goes to extreme lengths to lose weight.
This is a tale of female adolescence that will take a bite out of you! Izsak manages to pack complex themes, disturbing imagery, and nuanced characterization into a small package that packs a big punch.
The Mages of Rage and the Desecration of the House of Mimicry
The Mages of Rage just want to make a music video — too bad the house they’ve rented for the shoot is home to a deranged mime that keeps trying to kill them.
Rough-around-the-edges punk band? Check. Demonic mime? Check. Genre-savvy satire? Check. Director and co-writer Jason Sheedy’s The Mages of Rage and the Desecration of the House of Mimicry includes many elements that I love to see in a horror-comedy. The editing and effects are slick and polished too, even if the protagonists aren’t.
Horror films are often filled with monsters and the supernatural, but sometimes true events are far more terrifying than fiction.
That’s certainly the case for Nisga’a writer/director Dustin McGladrey’s haunting House After. Set during the second world war on Canada’s west coast, the film follows a young Indigenous woman (Nakuset Gould) in the days leading up to her daughter’s return to school.
This isn’t your typical scary movie. Instead of jump scares and thrills, House After offers penetrating heartbreak and the terror of grief. It’s an affective approach, and there are moments that are as difficult to watch as anything in a splatter-gore slasher. McGladrey is clearly an emerging filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.
Niyebe is a master class in scary. Writer/director Kevin Ang’s visual effects are impressive, and the script is rich in character and story.
Telling the story of a pregnant Filipino woman and her housekeeper, Niyebe is as much about diaspora, longing, class, and family as it is about monsters and demons. During the Q and A followed the screening, Ang mentioned that he originally envisioned this film as a feature, and I hope he gets the chance to fulfil that vision. While it works as a short, I wanted to know more about these two women and the complexities of their relationship.
Love you, Mama
Deeply raw and affective, Love you, Mama is a story that lingers. Director Alexandra Magistro puts a fresh spin on ghosts and haunting, managing to take the audience to unexpected places.
Horror is a fantastic vehicle for exploring both collective and personal grief. Focusing on a young woman reeling from the sudden death of her father, Love you, Mama shows how loss can change how we understand and relate to the world.
In many ways, this film is as much a tragedy as it is a horror — with a twist that’s as inevitable as it is terrifying.
Black Zombie Movie
Director Choni Francis’ horror-comedy is a nod to classic satires like 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, but it also claps back at the genre. Francis takes a straight-forward zombie apocalypse scenario and flips the script, centering Black characters and Black community. In doing so, he highlights how zombie movies, and horror in general, has traditionally excluded and sidelined Black actors, filmmakers, and stories.
Funny as hell and thought-provoking? I’m sold. Hopefully Francis decides to expand on this idea. Like Niyebe, Black Zombie Movie has enough character and heart for a feature-length film.