O Christmas Tree
Spreading the Christmas cheer through the gift of song, four carolers find themselves in for the night of their lives when they stop at the home of sweet old Mabel (Bonnie McCrae). After being invited in for milk and cookies, Holly (Ashley Awde) soon realizes that Mabel may not be the wholesome individual she appears to be. Trapped in the clutches of the deranged retiree, Holly must find a way out before becoming a permanent part of Mabel’s chilling Christmas traditions. Filled with a strong dose of black humour, Greg Kovacs’ short film is a treat. Bonnie McCrae is absolutely delightful as the sweet, but sinister, Mabel. Hitting every comedic beat, while still managing to sell the dark and bloody moments, McCrae ensures that the audience fears, and secretly roots for, her character every step of the way. A bloody good time in every sense of the word, O Christmas Tree is a flat out crowd-pleaser.
Screens with Secret Santa
Saturday, November 28, 11:59 PM, Carlton Cinemas
In Karen Neilsen’s wonderful short film Grace, a young girl is left to fend for herself in a hostile post-apocalyptic landscape. With her trusty dog Maverick by her side, Grace (Jena Skodje) has spent the last year roaming about in a world where chaos runs wild. Abandoning the volatile city for the safety of the woods, Grace’s peaceful existence is interrupted by the presence of William (Daniel Arnold). The seemingly meek man instantly finds comfort in the generosity of the young girl, and even tries to convince her to join him on his journey. However, when Grace refuses the offer, William intends to show her that, in the wild, only the strong survive. Avoiding many of the clichés associated with the dystopian genre, Neilsen crafts an engaging film that is far smarter than its premise lets on. Anchored by great performances by Skodje and Arnold, the former in particular skillfully displays equal measures vulnerability and strength, Grace packs quite a punch in its brief running time. It also helps that the cinematography work by Tony Mirza really emphasizes the bleakness of the world Neilsen’s characters inhabit. The opening shot alone, of a desolate shipyard, is worth the price of admission. Flawlessly executed and featuring an ending that will leave audiences buzzing, Grace is a film not to be missed.
Screens with Night Cries
Friday, November 27, 9:30 PM, Carlton Cinemas
I have a general rule of not engaging sales people when they come to my door hawking their wares. Thanks to Gregory Fox’s Marty, I will not be changing that stance anytime soon. Fox’s twisted tale involves a door-to-door salesman, Marty (Danny Ghantous), who comes across The Wilkins household during his travels. Promising Beth (Sheila Cording) and John Wilkins (John Fielding) that he holds the key to changing their life in his briefcase, the cheerful Marty only asks that the couple allows him to take a quick before and after photo to document their excitement. Taken by the couple’s hospitality, Marty shows that his true intentions having nothing to do with making a quick sale. Offering a disturbing look at a the ways in which we unknowingly let psychopaths into our homes, Fox’s film moves at a brisk pace thanks in part to the solid work of Ghantous in the lead role. While the film is a bit too obvious at times, take the use of Jefferson Airplanes’ “Somebody to Love” for example, there is enough in Marty to maintain the viewers interest through.
Screens as part of BITS Short Film Showcase
Saturday, November 28, 7 PM, Carlton Cinemas
Tickets can be purchased at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival website.