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Jonathan Weichsel Written by Jonathan Weichsel
Jul. 19, 2012 | 4:26 PM

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2012 Viscera Film Festival Recap

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Viscera Festival Directors: Heidi Honeycutt, Shannon Lark, Stacy Pippi Hammon

By Jonathan Weichsel

2012 is my third year in a row reviewing The Viscera Film Festival, which showcases horror shorts directed by women, honoring the filmmakers and celebrating their achievements.

I review a lot of horror festivals, and Viscera is the best horror festival in Los Angeles, and possibly the world, not because women are better than men, although the argument can be made that they are, but because women filmmakers are ignored by other horror festivals, and Viscera has many overlooked gems to chose from when selecting their program. I wish that we lived in a world where Viscera wasn’t necessary, where women and men are judged equally, but we don’t live in a world like that, and Viscera proves this every year with an amazing selection of overlooked films. The Viscera Film Festival is beyond necessary. Viscera is a vital part of the independent horror community.

As is the tradition, Viscera opened the festival with trailers for feature films directed by women. The real standout trailer was Despite the Gods, directed by Penny Vozniak.

Despite the Gods is about a female filmmaker who travels to India in order to document a cultish ritual where women turn into snakes which turn into snake-women, but what really struck me about the trailer was the character of the filmmaker. Throughout the trailer she comes across as cynical, depressed, and not at all happy to be in India making this film. Even though she constantly and viscously berates those around her, she has a sense of humor about herself, and if she doesn’t exactly come across as likable, she definitely comes across as interesting. If Despite the Gods is a character study, which the trailer seems to imply, I am definitely in.

The trailers were all great, but the short films are the reason you come to the festival. This year the shorts ranged in style from comedic to atmospheric, and came from all over the world, from the United States, Hong Kong, France, Israel, and the UK. What follows are my personal favorites, in the order they were screened.

Sybling Rivalry, directed by Tara-Nicole Azarian, a thirteen year old, won the fresh-blood award for filmmakers under eighteen. If women have an interesting perspective when it comes to horror, teenage girls have an even more interesting perspective. Sybling Rivalry is about an overachieving teenage girl who is constantly overshadowed by her slacker brother. Her mother ignores her academic success, and instead heaps praise on her brother for winning the award for best class clown. Naturally, her only recourse is to kill her brother, cook him, and feed him to mom.

Sybling Rivalry is shot in the style of one of those Nickelodeon or Disney Chanel sitcoms, but it subverts the genre with a twisted sense of humor and clever use of gore. Directing a short film of any quality is a huge achievement for a thirteen year old, but Sybling Rivalry was one of the best films at the festival. Tara-Nicole Azarian is a filmmaker with a bright future ahead of her. 

Barbie Girls, directed by Vinciane Millereau, is a French language horror-comedy about a group of women who go to a house in the country to unwind. The girls ironically view themselves as Barbie dolls, and have nicknames for each other such as bad-luck Barbie and Suicide Barbie. The killing starts when Suicide Barbie reveals that she kills people for humorously petty reasons. Barbie Girls is a dark, ironic, and effective look at female friendship.

Jump, a British film directed by Louisa Fielden, is a very focused film that follows the setup-punch line formula that often works very well in ultra-shorts. There is no way to describe the plot of a film like this without giving away the ending, but if you are twisted like me and secretly smile at fat-person jokes, you will get a laugh out of this. 

Bloodtraffick is a woman-kicking-ass Hong Kong action film directed by Jen Thym. The film consists of an action sequence in which an angel who is also a proficient martial artist infiltrates a compound where her kind was slaughtered. Bloodtraffick is a stylish, professionally made film that looks like a slice out of something that Hollywood might produce.

Escape from Hellview is an amazing Israeli animated short by Hadas Brandes. A young boy steps through a door he draws on the wall of his bedroom and enters a fantasy world. But the carnival images soon become sinister and attack him. The animation was just stunning, and left the entire audience breath-taken. Hellview is a dark carnival ride of a film.

How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You is an American film directed by Nadia Litz. The horror comedy is about a woman who cuts her boyfriend’s negative emotions out by knocking him out with chlorophyll and performing an operation where she removes black stones from his abdomen. The blood and guts had experienced gore-hounds cringing, and the humor and intelligence of the script kept everybody engaged.

The Dump, directed by Rebeckah McKendry of Fangoria fame, was just about everybody’s favorite film. This horror comedy is about two serial killers who have an awkward chance meeting while dumping their respective dead bodies in the woods. After some grandstanding, they develop a mutual respect, and have a very interesting and hilarious conversation about the art of being a serial killer. The Dump is a hilarious and ultimately touching look at the psyche of serial killers. 

Beyond the movies, the festival itself was lots of fun. There was a woman on stilts welcoming guests, and an Egyptian zombie ballerina doing some kind of non-ballet modern dance. Tara Cardinal handled red carpet announcements with class, and festival directors Shannon Lark, Heidi Honeycutt, and Stacy Pippi Hammon kept things light and breezy. Mary Lambert, director of the much beloved Pet Sematary and winner of the Inspiration Award, opened the screenings with a very, well, inspirational speech about horror and what the genre means to her. After she spoke we were treated to a teaser trailer of her next movie, The Dark Path Chronicles, an erotic vampire film. 

If you love horror, want to celebrate strong female directors, and want to check out some of the best films the indie horror community has to offer, Viscera is the festival to attend. The programming is always smart, and every film is a winner. Check out my review of last year’s festival here:

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