Dozens of short films played at FilmQuest 2016, Salt Lake City’s very own genre film festival. While I could not watch even half of the shorts I wanted, I did see quite a few good ones. Here are a half dozen, building to my favorite:

Prince from "Strange Brood"6. “Strange Brood”

An entrant in the FilmQuest Express competition, meaning that it was conceived and shot in just a week, “Strange Brood” is proof that a solid (and funny) central concept can take you far. Given the title, one can probably guess where this story of a girl and her greenish lover is going, but director Jared Clark Gay tells the joke well.

UGeek Rating: 6/10

Gwilliam poster5. “Gwilliam”

Speaking of jokes, “Gwilliam” also has just one, but it is awful and funny. A convict is feeling a little, ahem, lonely after being released from prison, and he will never forget what he finds in a back alley. William Tokarsky is hilarious as the con.

UGeek Rating: 6/10

Claire from "The Stylist"4. “The Stylist”

Beautifully-shot tale of a hairstylist and her last client of the night. Director Jill Gevargizian and cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern give this a studio look, and there is a great FX sequence in the middle that knows when to linger. The ending is perhaps not quite fully formed, all the more reason to wish Gevargizian luck with her plans for a feature adaptation.

UGeek Rating: 7/10

Kookie poster3. “Kookie”

A mom finally has enough of her 9-year-old’s cookie-thieving ways, but the horrifying clown-faced cookie jar intended to scare the kid straight is not the best parenting choice in retrospect. The plot does not make a whole lot of sense here, but Ava Jamieson and Alana Harding hit their marks as the daughter and mom, and director Justin Harding pulls it all off with panache. Plus, the jar is really creepy.

UGeek Rating: 7/10

 

When Susurrus Stirs title2. “When Susurrus Stirs”

The really gross story of a man and the ancient creature destroying his body from the inside. Impressively realized FX by Ryan Schaddelee are the star here, upping the body horror ante to a local high. There’s also more than a bit of a Lovecraftian feel to the proceedings, particularly at the bleak ending.

UGeek Rating: 7/10

Pinata from "A King's Betrayal"1. “A King’s Betrayal”

This tale of a piƱata being granted its dream of leaving the party store, and the dream taking its inevitable nightmarish turn, was somehow both the funniest and the saddest film I saw at the festival. A great calling card for director David Bornstein and writer Ari Grabb, and a reminder that short films are the perfect medium for some stories.

UGeek Rating: 9/10