Midnight Mania: Freaky!

Midnight Mania: Freaky!
And they do mean "freaky.” This not-ready-for-Adult-Swim collection from the Worldwide Short Film Festival doesn’t always hit the right notes but the filmmakers seem to be fairly outré even when they can’t put a finger on exactly what they want to do. These shorts range from a pair of revolting PSAs against smoking (Park and Rec Room), in which boy/girl doll couples find ways to one-up the kiss of a smoker, to Russian cartoon bears who hit the sauce to sweetly melancholy effect (Potapych: The Bear Who Loved Vodka) and German seniors who work miracles on supermarket chickens (Homework). There’s Avant Petallos Grillados, in which some grimy black and white cinematography seems out of place with the story of an insect-men committing murderous acts — it aims for the Lynchian only to miss the mark. On the other hand, Bows and Arrows animates the heartbreak of a man who has let a giant robot loose on the world. Not always up to the tone it desires, it still manages some creepy effects. Meanwhile, Silence is Golden pits a British pre-teen against his mentally disturbed neighbour in the midst of the garish ’70s to obnoxiously hyperactive results. Then there is Rabbit, a witty bit of animated weirdness in which children out of a grade school primer discover a magical idol in the entrails of a rabbit and wreak havoc turning insects into gemstones. Losing something in the description it must be seen to be believed. On a less salutary note is a Latin number called The Intergalactic Adventures of Jaime de Funes and Arancha, in which a pair of nerd chic lunkheads have their spaceship hijacked by spandex-clad villains; it’s the kind of self-congratulatory hipsterism that makes you want to slap the director. But there are two unqualified triumphs in the collection. Dog Days features a baby swapped with a dog leading both to bizarre rise-and-fall narratives; it’s funny and disquieting all at once. And Death to the Tinman is a bloody, lo-fi Edward Scissorhands in which a much-envied fireman is cursed, loses his body parts in accidents and then loses the girl he loves to his reanimated body parts. The film starts off wobbly but gains steam until one feels the final pain of his disappointment. In brief, this is a selection worth staying up for.