Spoiler-Free Short Film Reviews: STOP DEAD, MERGER, THE DAM, and RIDE, BABY, RIDE (A Night of Horror International Film Festival)

September 25, 2023

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival has a bounty of fear-fare shorts from around the globe on tap. Here is a look at four of the selections that run less than 10 minutes each. 


Stop Dead (United Kingdom, 2023)


Director Emily Greenwood, working from a screenplay by David Scullion, has crafted a highly atmospheric short that sets up an intriguing premise worthy of a feature-length treatment. Police officers Samantha Hall (Sarah Soetaert) and partner Nick Thompson (David Ricardo-Pearce) are stuck on a country road at nighttime because of a flat tire. A young woman (Priya Blackburn) suddenly appears, refusing to heed Hall’s order to stop, telling the officers that if you stop, you die. This supernatural shocker boasts solid production values, good performances, taut direction, and some fast-paced editing that helps the world building and ratchets up the suspense.




Merger (United Kingdom, 2022)


Working late in a dark office is rarely a good thing to do, but in writer/director Daniel Negret’s Merger, it was a truly horrible decision for one man (Jonas Tesifa). This short packs some body horror using good-looking practical and CGI effects calculated to make viewers cringe, and Tesifa sells the painful plight of his character admirably.



The Dam (Australia, 2023)


Director Andrew Sully, who cowrote the screenplay with Jo Tabit (the short is based on a play that Tabit wrote), serves up a tale that begins with a budding young-teens romance as Jesse (Jermey Blewitt) regales Flo (Martha Kate Morgan) with stories of local UFO abductions. When the pair discover something deceased in an abandoned house, Jesse panics while Flo seems to have far less of an issue with what they find. As their time together continues, the proceedings take a supernatural turn. The Dam — beautifully shot, charmingly acted, impressively written, and helmed wonderfully — takes viewers on a path that begins with the promise of first love, continues on with mystery and the uneasiness of death, and that slowly builds toward a wholly unexpected conclusion.



Ride, Baby, Ride (United States, 2023)


Ride, Baby, Ride is a killer-car shocker certain to have viewers squirm in their seats, and they’ll be thankful that they are not watching the short at a drive-in theater in an automobile while watching. A mechanic (Celina Bernstein) purchases a fixer-upper Camaro from two creepy dudes (Anthony Richard Pagliaro and Sam H. Clauder II), but their weirdness is nothing compared to what happens when the young woman gets the car in her own garage. Quite simply, it wants to kill her — and it’s not even moving down the road. Writer/director Sofie Somoroff delivers a jaw-dropping supernatural-themed short that puts its protagonist through the wringer, and Bernstein’s performance is great. The practical effects work is super. The short may leave some viewers wanting answers in the way of backstory, and though Ride, Baby, Ride certainly works as a standalone short, the premise could also make for a fun feature film. 



These short films screen as part of A Night of Horror International Film Festival, which runs September 28–October 1, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. For more information, visit http://www.anightofhorror.com/.


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