Celebrating the work of women in genre film, the Bloody Mary Film Festival is back for its second year at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto. Tonight’s shorts program will begin at 9:30 pm, following the feature film Blood Hunters (2016) at 7:00 (review to follow!)

Looking for a good reason to stay up late and get spooky tonight? Here are five:


Madre Di Dios (2015)

A LuchaGore production directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, Madre di Dios is the macabre tale of an unfortunate young woman kidnapped by a pair of elderly practitioners of brujería. Filmed almost entirely without dialogue, the film features excellent sound design that seriously intensifies the ever-building sense of dread. Its disturbing body horror is built upon a series of gruesome special effects, leading up to an unexpected (and deliciously sinister) ending. Great visuals and fantastic makeup design round out the reasons why you should catch this film while you can.


A Woman on the Telephone: Carol (2017)

Groundhog Day meets Office Space in this story of a 9-5 (and 9-5 and 9-5) from hell. In Erica Genereux Smith’s A Woman on the Telephone: Carol, a receptionist slowly comes to the realization that she has no life outside her job … literally. Seasoned improviser and comedian Kayla Lorette co-wrote the script and stars as the eponymous protagonist, doomed to repeatedly deal with incompetent employees and inept vendors. I enjoyed the humanizing detail of the unexplained cast on Carol’s arm, and the missing numbers on the clock (naturally, the numbers corresponding to those outside of work hours.) The film doesn’t offer much of a climax, but Lorette offers an entertaining enough performance and the set design is attractive in a bizarre, futuristic corporate way.

Undress Me (2017)

Frat parties leading to unexpected consequences is pretty par for the course. In  Undress Me, a short by Montreal-based filmmaker Amelia Moses, those consequences result in some serious bloodshed. A socially awkward freshman desperate to fit in makes advances toward an older frat boy. After waking in his bed the next day, she begins to experience disturbing (and increasingly gory) physical changes. The film is a sympathetic and potent examination of female anxiety engendered by a society that makes women (and especially young women) feel guilty for their sexual desires and the ways that they choose to act upon them.

Tik-Tik (2016)

Larica Perera’s Tik-Tik is a short but satisfying tale of a family dealing simultaneously with a home birth and with the imminent approach of a child-stealing creature that can take the shape of those you know (based on the Aswang, part of Filipino folklore). This short is harrowing not only because of the creature waiting to attack, but also because of the very vocal anguish of unmedicated labour.

The Drop In (2017)

I actually caught a screening of Naledi Jackson’s excellent short The Drop In during Toronto After Dark last month and was very impressed with both the story and production values of this stylish thriller. The basic plot: when a young woman decides to keep her salon open after-hours for a late-night customer, she is forced to face secrets that she’d rather have left deep in her past. That’s the nutshell plot, but this short is so much more, using a speculative fiction approach to pointedly address social issues that are especially resonant in the current political climate. The Drop In is a must-watch.

See you at the Carlton!