The highlights of this year’s festival are, as usual, a varied lot. Here are some of the films that stood out, due to substance, style or story:
Beer by Charles Bukowski – Nerdo Studio, 2016
From Italy’s Nerdo Studio, a visual representation of the poet’s “Beer”, which was first published in 1977. Evocative of the sleazy neon feel of fuzzy alcoholic dreams, its limited palette and maudlin narration echo Bukowski’s existential despair with sorrowful grace.
Chainsaw Maid – Takena Nagao, 2007
In what is perhaps the perfect Japanese horror short, a family braves the zombie apocalypse in a bright, cheerfully hued Plasticine reality. The sheer expressiveness of its stark stop-motion makes it one of the most creative shorts in the collection.
Dji Death Sails – Dmitri Voloshin, 2014
Sometimes, even the Grim Reaper has difficulty staying on task when he’s at work. This Moldavian short delightfully introduces us to Simpals studio serial character, Dji, a very human version of the esoteric concept of Death. Collecting the soul of a pirate lost at sea, Dji lets his own spirit wander just a little bit – giving us this charming lark of a short film.
Cthupid – Giovanni Braggio, 2016
This Flash and Photoshop film takes a sweet Valentine’s scene and transforms it into something a bit more surreal. It’s short, stylized and an unexpected delight.
Grandma’s Hero – Ben Ozeri and Corentin Monnier, 2016
This 2d short feels almost like a subtle spiritual homage to Richard Condie’s L’Apprenti, as its two questing characters and their unspoken devotion to one another build an adventure in microcosm. A newly appointed knight must sojourn on his first duty, but finds that he can’t shed his protective grandmother – or, it turns out, her lessons in chivalrous conflict resolution.
The Hangnail – Shane Acker, 1999
This bizarre and hilariously grotesque short was made by Shane Acker, who created the CGI world of 9, and is the only film he has yet made using traditionally drawn animation. When a young boy abuses a stray dog who is begging for him to share his snacks, it gets its karma in a typically brutal fashion. Acker’s animation here is so ugly, it just adds to the amusement.
Slug Invasion – Morten Helgeland, Casper Wermuth, 2012
There is something reminiscent of Pixar films in the way this unusual short pits a group of garden slugs against an old lady, styling them as an army platoon and shifting between their dramatic universe and her ordinary day pottering about, doing yardwork. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for with distinctive characters and excellent pacing.
Submarine Sandwich – PES Film, 2014
A brief and very silly film, this is the third installment of a series focused on food and loaded with visual puns. Just shy of two minutes, it puts its premise through the deli slicer in a twisted – but not altogether un-appetizing – way.
Pigeon Impossible - Lucas Martell, 2009
When an unusually snarky pigeon overtakes a relatively inexperienced secret agent’s briefcase to get at his bagel, hilarity ensues. This debut film from Lucas Martell spawned into a podcast with more than twenty episodes.
When Chickens Attack – David Phillips, 2002
This fifty-seven seconds of stop-motion is precisely the essence of the Sick and Twisted festival, as it relishes in its plot-free pool of poultry-incited homicide with unmitigated glee. If one didn’t know better, one might believe it inspired Robot Chicken on [adult swim], with its plastic clucking killers turning a woman into a puddle of goo before abruptly ending.
Among the pieces returning this year were Captain Awesome, the Dethklok Batman music video, and one of Alan Becker’s Animator vs. Animation installments. Sick and Twisted festival favorite No Neck Joe also made his appearances, as did Weenis the Elf and his raunchy cronies in the second segment of 24 Days of Elves.
The Spike and Mike’s franchise continues to bring the best in short animation to its festivals, showcasing even the most deeply underground, bizarre, and grotesque in films from animation students and well-established studios alike. The Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation lingers in the darker side of the medium, relishing the strange poignancy of even the most perverse animation and bringing it out of the shadows for a raunchy and riotous romp.
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