There’s a lot of horror themed film events in Vancouver, especially around this time of year. Of course, there’s lots of horror stories happening around this year. A horrendous traffic story and a skytrain story for example, which I got involved in on the first night, but somehow I miraculously wasn’t too late. Vancouver Horror Show, or VHS for short is a short and simple showcase of short films and at least one (or maybe even two) features. Taking place at the York theatre which I barely see enough events at (seriously, the Rio is SO overused), the event also had a silent auction, shirts for sale, alcohol, and baskets full of those miniature candies. While it doesn’t have much to do with the ancient Video tapes that I can barely get to work anymore (my own VCR is shot) it is still a great showcase hosted by the amazing David Taylor and his associate Meghan Hemingway. Because despite the super short program and the super simple nature of the showcase, VHS is one of the finest events celebrating the genre of horror, which BTW isn’t always the same movie about the woman attacked by the masked assailant. So let’s get into these thrilling short films.
Shorts Program 1 – A good wide mix of interesting films, the first program features hilarious films such as O.I., a film about an original idea which is so cool it makes people’s heads explode, Make Me A Sandwich where a sexist old man unknowingly eats disgusting ingredients fed to him by his wife, and It Lives in the Closet which features a little boy confronting the monster in his closet and the two somehow make a bit of a connection together. Some of the more vague and questionable films included Hearth, a French Canadian film about a family living in a house where a murderer is on the loose, the misleading film Hoarder which is about a strange man who collects ancient figurines in a rather disturbing manner, and Bloodbreed, a short about a pug which turns against its owner in the most freaky fashion ever. The really good films in my opinion were The Banshee which was from Ireland and featured a freaky woman frightening a fair amount of locals, The Clapper which was good nightmare fuel for people in wheelchairs (Sorry, Darren) where a poor disabled woman gets haunted by an unknown source in her house, and Boo, a good creepy film about a girl, not a young one who learns of the monsters world, but one who somehow becomes something else from 7 years of sobriety. Actually it doesn’t help that I just watched a show where sobriety is one of the main plot points, now I fear it. The Q&A afterwards was pretty short because like most screenings, the Robbins twins came along and always had lots to say (they give and receive a lot of appraisal, even their interview articles on here are the most viewed) so the filmmakers only had time to explain inspiration, casting processes, and small problems. Everyone had to clear out afterwards for what was next.
Puppet Killer (Feature Film) – A year or so ago, some “proud” father of a little nuisance randomly asked me what I think about puppets. I never thought much because I spent more time analyzing them instead of enjoying them. Personally, I found them kind of freaky. Now they’re even more freaky for me. Why? Well, in this incredibly frightening feature, we start out with a young boy named Jamie who grows up with two things, b-movie horror films, and a fluffy pink puppet named Simon. Aside from being raised on ridiculous horror films like in some other film, other things impact his life like his biological mother dying (she gave him the puppet) and his stepmom trying to forbid him from his horror interests which consume him. So when the stepmom leaves, little does anyone know that somehow she got killed by the pink fuzzball who stabbed her repeatedly. Forward to a decade later when Jamie and his friends go to his old home for a Christmas, a cabin out in the sticks. But Jamie’s trauma makes things uncomfortable and when his girlfriend comes across Simon in the cellar only to throw him back in, then the nightmare muppet comes back to exact revenge on everyone who insulted him. Some twin sisters have their car break down miles nearby and they end up joining the remaining cast before things take a turn for the worst. Oh hey, nearly everyone died during the holiday season. Merry Christmas. The plot is filled with totally cheesy humour and makes horror elements laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a silly concept but overall enjoyable. Simon reminds me of one creepypasta I got freaked out over and it may also remind me of a nightmare someone once described to me. The crew said puppeteering, especially in the hard-to-reach places was a crazy time but an enjoyable experience, even the puppet itself was homemade. It was said that the director had a certain level of patience as during some shots after so many takes he got tired and said “Okay, we’re done”.
Shorts Program 2 – Much like the first program, it’s quite a mix of some freaky content and and some even a little bit crazy and over the top. Among the very good and freaky included #NOFILTER, a short story about a freaky blood app which somehow brings a traumatizing sensation out of your phone and into your home, along with Atomic Ed, a funny film about some youth who come across their twisted and deceased zombie companion and have to take him out somehow, and the ever ominous Dance with a Demon which focused on mental health as it chronicled a woman as she battled with her inner demon through interpretive dance inside her mind (nearly everyone in the Q&A panel was involved with this one). Some of the more gruesome and iffy content included The Third Hand, where a man discovers a magic copy machine behind a candy machine and intends to give himself a new hand with a full finger to replace his own missing finger, Ouroboros, where a man performs a satanic ritual in order to bring back his deceased wife who died in a car accident on the way to the hospital, and probably one of the most crazy as well as highly humourous films ever was Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, where a couple stay at a house for a while only to find all the guys are strictly anti-feminist and the woman have to use certain logical sense to fight their way out of there. This program certainly seemed more creepy than the last one. But the fun wasn’t over yet.
Shorts Program 3 – Now was the final show of shows showing short shows of the nights of the event. Some of these films like Consomme and Fever Dream didn’t consist of a whole lot, but some of these others were super intense and had a mix within them. To name some personal favourites with a mix, Let’s Go Down was the story as told by a rape victim which was pretty unsettling and then things take a turn for the better as she gets even without getting super gruesome like something else I watched, Thirst Trap which was entirely a one-man selfie film had quite a humorous storytelling and even an interesting twist itself, El Ayuwoki, the strange but funny tale based on either a meme or an urban myth, and #YouToo where several men in costumes fight for their survival as they duck into an old house, that one got intense and then strange but in a good way. The Q&A mostly consisted of discussing difficulties and challenges, but still this one was quite a blend worth watching.
Awards Ceremony – Now to get to the awards of which was the best of the event. To match up to the name and not look like a rip-off of the Haunted Saloon awards, VHS gave out – you guessed it- VHS tapes as awards. They were painted gold, and I have no idea what was on any of them, but playing them probably would just break one’s VCR and those devices are becoming endangered like my family’s last name. Unlike last year (which I didn’t attend), there were a few more categories added. Awards consisted of Emerging Filmmaker, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, visual Effects, Best Director, and so many more that it’s quite a list. To name some of the greatest that won the most awards, Dance with a Demon got awarded for Best Music, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Performance. Another top contender was O.I. which won Best Editing, Best Lead, Best Writing, and The Third Hand despite being super strange for some people, got awarded Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Director, and even Best Film. I guess if it freaks one out good enough, the short film is good enough to win a healthy plethora of awards. Oh well, it’s called Vancouver Horror Show for a reason. All in all, VHS was good this year and it’s certainly to hopefully increase next year as David said it’s certainly getting bigger and receiving more entries as it grows. I enjoyed every moment of this event and can’t wait to attend again next year.