HORROR: SKIN CRAWL
Written by Freddie Johnson for Encounters Film Festival.
Animation, comedy, surrealism and the supernatural come together in this package of global horror filmmaking to make your heart freeze. Skin Crawl's strongest card is its variation in tone, aesthetic and meaning with every film finding different combinations of buttons to push to elicit emotional response, from the bizarre with Lippy to the sombre tragedy of The Feather Pillow to the twisting plot of Makr.
The relentless pace of a short film programme barely gives time for the audience to catch its breath before being catapulted into the next experience. For horror, this is particularly challenging as nerves, still shaken by the last monstrous entity, are thrown into a new grove in this dark and thorny forest, where paths might be nastily straightforward or winding and deceptive. At the end I felt slightly spongey and withered, like old fruit.
But despite the variety, there were some threads that linked the films. Most notably, one of horror’s oldest tropes: violence against women, often sexualised, is depicted or implied in all but one of the films. This is a trope that the genre never seems to have been able to move past. That these dozen filmmakers consistently hit this dramatic note – when will this woman be brutalised? – indicates that violence perpetrated by or against women specifically continues to dominate our minds when we journey into horror. The focus on the female experience in The Feather Pillow, Sports Day and Cubicle, are the most effective at employing gender based violence and inject a frankness into the programme. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the programme is that simply discussing women’s realities still feels challenging in 2019.
The range of ideas and energy on display is fantastic and indicates that the Hor-Renaissance we’re living through is set to continue.