There’s a burgeoning market out there for movie lovers that has been left relatively untapped – short films. The ability to spin a coherent story that leaves an impact in a fraction of the time afforded to a full-length feature is a very particular skill, and we’ve scoured the internet to find the best short films to include in our very own little awards ceremony – The FatalDose Short Film Awards.
So we can cater for everyone our 20 nominations have been split into 10 easily digestible categories, and so we don’t take up too much of your time we’ve kept the entries, in most cases, down to a few minutes in length. So grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the 20 films we’ve decided are worthy of a position at this prestigious event.
Entry Criteria: Drama films typically deal with emotional themes and realistic characters, so a degree of poignancy and reflection is required to kick things off. Here we’ve got two great shorts that will make you think and perhaps even bring a tear to the eye – grab a tissue and get clicking.
Grandma in the Rain
One of the things you lose when you outgrow the warm embrace of childhood is a blissful innocence and ability to break seemingly complicated situations down to their bare parts. It’s important to be reminded about what really matters every now and then and Grandma in the Rain, directed by Neil Horner and actually based on a true story illustrates this in spades. A beautiful short that shows how no matter how hectic our lives are and how insurmountable the various troubles we may face may seem, you should always find time to “run in the rain”.
Message: Don’t sweat the small stuff
For most people school days were a mish-mash of discovery, excitement, consternation, trepidation – all thrown together into a confusing hotpot of experiences that, good or bad, are supposed to start setting the mould for who we will become in later life.
Donkey is a short film that should take you back to those days – most can at least remember people who associate with the characters in this tale, even if they weren’t one themselves. It’s a touching short that was nominated at the Tribeca Film Festival, and a great example of how films can be simple if they have a strong enough message that an audience can relate to.
Message: Treat people how you’d like to be treated yourself
Entry Criteria: If drama’s not your cup of tea perhaps you’re more inclined to get your kicks from something a little more edgy. Horror films don’t need to be an hour and a half long to make you jump or leave you with an impending sense of dread. And as all true horror film fans know to get the full effect you need to cut out any distractions, switch off the lights and enjoy them in the dark –which brings us nicely to our first nomination.
Few would admit to being afraid of the dark, especially after reaching adulthood. But if you’ve always been tough enough to brave the empty blackness of the unknown you might change your tune after watching this excellent two minute flick, directed by award-winning short film maker David F Sandberg. It won ‘Best Short’ at FANT Bilbao 2014 and was the winner of ‘Best Director’ in the ‘Who’s There Film Challenge. Not one for the faint of heart.
Message: Hiding under the covers is always the worst plan ever
Charged with using just four lines of dialogue, this entry into the “Interpretations” short film contest is an excellent example of what can be done with no budget and a bit of imagination. It’s the kind of thing you could see being the climax of a feature-length film but here you’re simply treated to a bite-sized “twist” all wrapped up in a three minute package. Two people take part in a dangerous experiment to see if there really is life after death, and the results are… somewhat unexpected.
Message: Be careful what you wish for
Entry Criteria: Let’s lighten the mood now with a bit of comedy – perhaps the one genre where it’s most difficult to please everybody. In a tricky category we’ve found a couple of gems that may not leave you clutching your sides and wiping away tears, but they’re clever, apt and you may even be able to force out a chuckle.
The Black Hole
According to those who know a thing or two about short films The Black Hole is widely regarded in film schools as the ‘perfect short film.’ Obviously this is based on a series of criteria that only pretentious film student sorts are privy too, but as laymen we can attest to enjoying it all the same. It is silently and effectively portrayed by actor Napoleon Ryan, who does a great job of expressing the sort of emotional rollercoaster we’d imagine everyone would be riding after discovering they’d inadvertently created a miniature black hole.
Message: Always think things through
He said she said
Ah, the old gender stereotypes – rarely is there a safer bet for comedy that everyone can enjoy. If you can get over the “how the hell did he get that girl” question you’ll have fun with this effective if a little predictable “Men are from Mars…” style short that spawned a sequel (available through the link in the description) that’s sadly not quite as good as the original.
Message: Women are unpredictable and terrifying
Entry Criteria: Fantasy and Sci-fi are often intertwined, but we’ve giving each a separate category here due to the wealth of excellent examples from each genre. Two very different short clips showcase an imaginative and original tale with a creepy twist and a trip to Middle Earth, with both offering impressive levels of production that would rival those of feature-length films.
Room 8 is a bit of a showcase of great special effects and an authentic looking set, telling a tale set in the 1970s of two prison inmates and a mysterious box. This is original, imaginative, and will keep you guessing until the end – in other words everything a short film should be. Director James W Griffiths got a BAFTA nomination for it and was also one of five winners of the Bombay Sapphire Imagination series, a challenge for aspiring students of film.
Message: Curiosity killed the…
Shadow of Mordor
If you’re struggling with the wait for your next Lord of the Rings fix you’ll do far worse than check out this excellent short film, which somehow manages to reach a level of production, make-up, and choreography that pays fitting tribute to the high values of the films. A trio of puny humans are no match for a small band of Orcs, but when a Ranger with strange glowing blue hands turns up the tide shifts somewhat dramatically in favour of the forces of good.
Message: Beware of strange hooded people with blue hands
Entry Criteria: Animation is one of the most popular categories for short films, and therefore one of the most difficult to choose from. Since it often involves both comedy and an important subtext we’ve chosen two that we think deliver strongly in both of these areas, as well as showcasing some pretty cool and very different artistic styles.
Tolerantia was the first 3D animated film to be produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2008, was nominated for best European short film that year and has gathered no less than eight additional awards in the meantime. A humorous short with a clear message, it showcases both the ingenuity and creativity of “human” spirit and the sad inevitably of trivial conflict.
Message: There are no winners in war
This category is usually a pretty safe bet for heart-warming stories and you’re in good company with Baggage – a Pixar-style short that follows a guy called Sam and his traumatising experience trying to board a plane, which is largely blamed on his troublesome bag. Anyone who’s spent a bit of time travelling can attest to the fact that it is, in fact, quite possible to become attached to a bit of luggage. It took four months to complete but has won multiple awards, including best animation at both St.Albans film festival and The Limelight awards.
Message: A bad workman blames his tools
Entry Criteria: Though technically not a prerequisite for science fiction, common themes for the genre are future civilizations and outer space; often a combination of the two. Here we’ve got one of each and both offer extremely high production values that are on-par with most feature length blockbusters.
R’ha is a short sci-fi gem and no mistake – created and directed by German director Kaleb Lechowski it tells the tale of an alien civilisation under threat from robotic overloads (where have we heard that before) and the subsequent interrogation of a member of said race who is reluctant to give up the location of his species. Thankfully both the robot and strange lizard thing speak English. And if, like us, you really want to know what happens next then you’re in luck, because the concept is apparently being developed into a feature length film with none other than Rick McCallum, former head of Lucasfilm, on board as producer.
Message: Giving machines advanced artificial intelligence is a bad idea
Many short films are made on quite a limited budget. Others rival multi-million pound blockbusters for production and this is definitely one of the latter. It took more than 20 full CGI shorts to create, including vehicle and character design, and even squeezes in a couple of shout-outs to the Half Life video game series for fan boys. A splendid showcase for a dystopian future based in Russia that’ll leave you all wondering what the hell a “unicorn” actually is.
Message: Seriously, what the hell is a unicorn?
Entry Criteria: War is often glamorised in cinema but the reality is about as far from a “kick arse and take names” testosterone-fest as you can get, so it’s no real surprise to see that the most effective tales also spend time exploring the emotional side of conflict. We’re continuing that theme here, so if you’re expecting senseless violence you’ll be disappointed (though we have other categories for that).
One of the longest shorts on this list is still well worthy of inclusion – 10 minutes takes place in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Rome, Italy and tells two very different stories of what can happen to one person in the time it takes a roll of film to get developed (10 minutes, apparently). One man’s rather sedentary cigarette break is mirrored quite dramatically with the tale of young boy battling to retrieve bread and water in war-torn Sarajevo.
Message: Be grateful for what you take for granted
A Walk with Death
When it comes to a more meaningful exposition of conflict A Walk with Death delivers in spades. A hugely underappreciated short scores as highly on production as it does on emotion. The narrative is a poem called The Blue and the Gray, by Francis Miles Finch, written in the 19th century, and together with an effective score perfectly captures a poignant message about the tragedy of war.
Message: It’s worth dipping into a bit of poetry, every now and then
8. Action/Martial arts
Entry Criteria: Action/martial arts is pretty straightforward – we want to see lots of fighting and ideally guns, fast cars and explosions. There are enough short film makers out there with a decent sized budget to help deliver but it’s not all about pyrotechnics – you can’t make a decent fight scene without decent choreography, despite what Steven Seagal might have to say. We’ve battled our way through a whole series of crazy clips to bring you these two beauts.
Given that full length martial arts features are essentially a series of set pieces, short films should be an ideal opportunity to showcase some expert skills. Here’s a good one – Dogfight is classically cheesy but delivers via some fine fisticuffs. It’s not clear why these people are fighting, and you’re not even sure who to root for. But none of this is really important – what matters is that they’re damn good at it.
Message: If it’s two against one, don’t stand back and wait patiently for your partner to be floored
If you haven’t played Sleeping Dogs the video game then you should; it’s really good. If you have you might wonder exactly why this is supposedly a live action “Sleeping Dogs” fight film – sure, there are elements from the game, but really this is just an excuse for a good old slugfest, and damn it delivers, with a series of satisfyingly brutal sequences strung together tightly enough to keep you hooked for the duration.
Message: Never bring a knife to a motorcycle fight
Entry Criteria: What do you mean “Zombies” isn’t a proper category? Of course it is – and a burgeoning one at that. As one of the most popular fan-boy sub-genres for movies and TV shows, there are reams of zombie-related shorts out there. Some are decent, some are great and unfortunately a lot are terrible. Here are two of the best.
How to survive a Zombie Apocalypse
We’re cheating a little here because How to survive a Zombie Apocalypse is best seen as a series of short films, and this is just part one. Inspired by The Walking Dead, Resident Evil and most prudently Zombieland, it’s an amusing and well produced take on the rules and regulations you should adhere to if (or when) the zombies decide to invade. Be sure to check out the subsequent films in this series to get your full dose of zombie goodness.
Message: Zombies are stupid, so be smart
Cargo is a great example of exactly why the zombie genre has become so successful. There are poignant undertones to any successful apocalypse film, which should be just as capable of delivering tales of triumph over adversity as it is at showcasing the horror of the walking undead. Cargo follows a man who devises a quite ingenious plan to help protect his daughter after being bitten. A finalist of Tropfest Australia 2013, Cargo features genuinely effective use of handheld cinematography in a short but powerful tale that’ll keep you guessing until the end.
Message: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
10. Outstanding achievement in WTF!?
Entry Criteria: Not a conventional film category we admit, but here are two shorts we just couldn’t leave out, but also couldn’t find a suitable place to put them.
First up on the “WTF” list is a French short, because as we all know very few countries are capable of capturing the bizarre better than the French. Next Floor is equal parts confusing and enthralling – for some reason you can’t quite take your eyes off these glorious gluttons as they delve ever deeper into a curious concoction of culinary chaos, and plunge ever further into the midst of a construction designed solely to maintain their wanton greed. There’s probably a deep-lying message here but we’re not going to speculate as to what it is.
The Brick Thief
This is a Lego short film. It’s not an official advert for Lego, at least as far as we can tell, but it’s so utterly random that we’re giving it a slot in our WTF list. Part of the reason why is because it’s so mesmerising – those little bricks assembling themselves on their own, strange moustache guy struggling to deal with whatever it is he’s trying to accomplish – there must have been some serious drugs involved in the creation of this particular masterpiece.