Etheria Film Night 2022 Review

It’s June at Shudder which means the Etheria Film Festival is back!  For the past three years, Shudder has showcased a collection of horror/sci-fi short films (all directed by women).  So here are our mini-reviews of each of the seven short films.  If you haven’t already, definitely check them out on Shudder!

This is Our Home
Written and Directed by A.K. Espada
We all see mice as pests to be dealt with, but this surreal and stylistically shot short film forces us to confront the absolute horrors we put them through.  Sure it’s a little preachy and definitely has a bit of a vegan agenda.  But it very effectively and creatively puts its characters through absolute horror and terror that are all ordinary ways in which we dispose of pests.

Here it uses the runtime to its advantage and it goes in quickly, boldly makes it point and then ends before exhausting its audience.  Plus the mouse POV inside the walls was a particularly interesting visual choice.

Inheritance
Written and Directed by Annalise Lockhart
Passing down property from one generation to the next is supposed to be part of the American Dream.  But in this very creepy supernatural short, that dream comes with something truly creepy and terrifying.  It has all the makings of a great haunted house film but seems to end very abruptly.

Out of all the short films here, this is the one that seems hurt the most by its limited runtime.  It’s frustrating not because the film was bad, but quite the opposite.  It starts getting really interesting and just sort of ends.  Hopefully it eventually gets made into a feature where its ideas and themes can be fully explored.

Dana
Written and Directed by Lucía Ferner Segarra
We all love a good revenge story, and this brutal action thriller holds nothing back when it comes to that.  Our titular character Dana fights back against an attacker and after feeling vindicated, she goes on a mission to hunt down and kill as many violent sex offenders as she can.

The kills are gory, brutal, and incredibly satisfying in a way that’s meant to make us question ourselves.  The morality of what she’s doing as a vigilante is really only brought up briefly, and it’s all the more reason why this short would probably work better as feature length.  It does go a little far in its portrayal of violence against women, but it’s all “justified” by the revenge that follows

Lucid
Directed by Deanna Milligan, Screenplay by Claire E. Robertson, Story by Deanna Milligan and Claire E. Robertson
For a short film about an art student trying to find her place and express herself, this short film is exactly as surreal and arthouse as you’d expect, but it works to the movie’s advantage.  Opening with an impressive long take, the visual style is enhanced by some superb stylistic directing, which is helped further by the fact that it was shot on film and just has a more organic look to it.

As we all attempt to find ourselves, the search may take us to some very dark and disturbing places, and this short film perfectly exemplifies that.  The narrative itself becomes the main character’s own artistic expression in a movie that’s definitely artsy, but without any pretentiousness which is so common with that.

Freya
Directed by Camille Hollett-French, Written by Rhona Rees
Black Mirror may be over, but much like Twilight Zone before, it opened up the floodgates to a myriad of creative speculative fiction.  This short film is one such example.  In a world in which an Alexa/Siri style AI controls every aspect of our lives, and is tied to the government, the possibilities are terrifying.

A woman gets pregnant and her AI (at the state’s behest) judgmentally tells her what she can and can’t eat, and the second she even looks up “alternate” ways to deal with her pregnancy, she’s given a formal warning by the government.  In a not so subtle manner, the film very much represents an extrapolation of current political agendas when it comes to reproductive rights.

Cinema as a form of political/social expression is nothing new, and this is a short film that very easily could have felt preachy and forced.  But to its credit, it handles its subject matter very well and shows us the tragedy of the no-win scenario for everyone when people lose freedoms.  And that’s a decent takeaway, no matter the viewer’s own personal politics.

The Familiars
Directed by Millie Malcolm, Screenplay by Octavia B. Martin, Story by Octavia B. Martin and Alexis Talbot-Smith
In a sort of cross between The Witch and Hereditary, this horror drama feels like it could be the first act of a larger witch’s origin story.  A family has a supernatural “curse” passed down generation after generation and a young girl copes with its legacy in her own family and what it means for her.

There’s a fascinating discussion about fate and destiny to be had around this movie.  The idea that a curse could pass down seems unreal and admittedly unfair if we are to be the masters of our own fates.  However, we are very much the product of whatever general benefit or trauma set us up to live the lives we did.

Here, that general effect takes a more literal and potent form with a supernatural ability.  This is a great example of a short film whose premise could easily be fleshed out in a feature length movie, with this just being the first act.

Come F*ck My Robot
Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan, Screenplay by Reuben Guberek, Katrina Kudlick, Mercedes Bryce Morgan, and Hunter Peterson,  Story by Reuben Gubereck and Hunter Peterson
Based on the very real Craigslist post, this sci-fi comedy short is about as absurd and ridiculous as you’d think, but it surprisingly has a lot of heart to it as well.  A young man attempts to lose his virginity to the aforementioned robot, but as he starts talking with it, he realizes that it’s a vastly complicated AI with thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

On the surface it seems like a metaphor for consent, with the film begging the question as to whether a robot is entitled to said consent.  But ultimately, it’s more about the way we objectify people and treat them like robots or other inanimate objects.  At least that was my takeaway.

It’s bizarre with a warped sense of humor but also something to say, and without a doubt the most memorable of these seven short films based on the premise alone.

As always these are a lot of fun to watch.  It’s always great to see a platform like Shudder give voices to lesser known, independent filmmakers and help bring their work to a much larger audience!

Which short film was your favorite?  Let us know in the comments!

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