Spoiler-Free Short-Film Reviews: IN THE HEAT, TERROR, MURDER CAMP, and SINCOPAT (FilmQuest)

November 14, 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.

In the Heat (Canada, 2023)


Sam Chou follows up his superb animated vampire tale VRDLK: Family of Vurdulak (Canada, 2022) with In the Heat (Canada, 2023), the story of a man claiming to be Santa Claus who is under suspicion of murdering a young girl. Though the detectives grilling him are skeptical of his story, he seems to know something about them, and if what he claims is true, a Christmas-time battle of good versus evil is at stake. The animation style is wonderfully crafted, the voice acting is excellent, and the plot is gripping and poignant. Fans of Christmas-themed fear fare, animated horror, and animation in general should consider In the Heat to be required viewing.  



Terror (United Kingdom, 2023)



A man (Charles Sandford in a fine performance) returns from a mountain climbing expedition under the scrutiny of authorities after his climbing partner died mysteriously in Terror, winner of FilmQuest’s Best Horror Short award. The police are the least of his worries, though, as whatever happened on the mountain has left him emotionally scarred beyond belief. Marvelously directed by Giles Buchanan and boasting absolutely gorgeous cinematography, this Lovecraftian chiller does an outstanding job of revealing just enough to allow viewers’ imaginations to fill in the dread-drenched gaps.



Murder Camp (U.S., 2023)



Even masked killers suffer from identity crises, as evidenced by director Clara Aranovich’s horror comedy Murder Camp — winner of FilmQuest’s Best Comedy Short award — in which brainy camp counselor Becky (Olivia Holguín in an amusing supporting role) reluctantly makes out with far less bright counselor Johnny (Ian S. Peterson), having no idea that they are intended to be the victims of murder. Two masked maniacs are there to perform the deed, though, as Kevin (Will Harris) and Greg (Jeremy Radin) didn’t coordinate their kill calendars correctly. Aranovich, working from a sharp screenplay by Harris and Radin — both of whom display splendid comic timing and perfectly fitting facial expressions and body language — invests the proceedings with a fun, frenetic tone, leading things toward a winning, unexpected climax.


Sincopat (Spain, 2023)



Sound drives Sincopat — winner of FilmQuest’s Best Foreign Short award — both the terrific sound design and the use of sound that I won’t mention specifically here to avoid spoilers, except to say that it is a device that allows viewers to empathize with main character Ona (Núria Florensa), creative executive of a company that is on the eve of launching a device that allows users to experience listening to music directly inside the brain. Director Pol Diggler’s science fiction/horror short works with psychological distress, putting viewers at unease while watching Ona suffer and giving us further worries to mull over concerning modern and future technology.  



In the Heat, Terror, Murder Camp, and Sincopat screened as part of FilmQuest, which ran October 26–November 4, 2023 in Provo, Utah. For more information, visit http://www.filmquestfest.com/.


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