Spoiler-Free Short-Film Reviews: “Legend of El Cucuy,” “PU EKAW TNOD,” “Blockbuster,” and “Welcome to the Enclave” (Slamdance Film Festival)

January 23, 2024

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.

Legend of El Cucuy 

Folklore horror meets problems of modern parenting in writer/director Cynthia Garcia Williams’ short film Legend of El Cucuy. Laura (Diana Sanchez) and Carlos (Effie Cacarnakis) are attempting to raise their young daughter Isabel (Obriella Genesis Witron) with as much freedom from rules at home and school as possible, but when the girl starts really acting up, Carlos attempts to straighten her out some by telling her the tale of El Cucuy, a ghostlike monster that kidnaps disobedient children, with origins in folk tales from Spain and Portugal. The short boasts great cinematography and a fine score, impressive performances, engaging direction, and impressive CGI and practical effects makeup work. It is certainly worthy of being expanded into a feature-length film.


In writer/director Rebecca Culverhouse’s U.K. horror short PU EKAW TNOD, a young couple (Dorothea Jones and Harold Addo) watch a horror film together when they discover that they are suddenly in a dreamworld — one that also exists in the movie they watch. But whose dream is it — and what is the danger that lurks in that realm? Culverhouse builds the suspense wonderfully as viewers journey through the mysterious area, with solid performances from her two stars. Wild visual effects that reminded me of the original The Outer Limits TV series and clever play with credits are just some of the creativity on display in this chiller.  


Amateur film director Abel (Luiz Gomide Walther in a captivating performance) is obsessed with practical effects and the excitement they can bring to  suspenseful film, and in writer/director Rafael Toledo’s Brazilian short film Blockbuster, Abel graduates from illustrating his points using a can of tomatoes on a stove to something on a far grander — and more deadly — scale. Toledo does a masterful job of sending up genre-film cliches while adding his own original spin to the mix, resulting in a humorous genre-blending work awash in love for cinema with a dash of wry commentary. 

Welcome to the Enclave

Director Sarah Lasley’s scathing commentary on today’s digital world Welcome to the Enclave is horror adjacent in that it shows how threatening and emotionally damaging cyberspace can be. Two sisters  — both played by Brenna Palughi — create The Enclave, a cyber haven for “like-minded women.” When one of the sisters turns to Reddit for support despite the other sister thinking it’s not a wise idea, the pair find themselves bombarded with a maelstrom of negativity of the worst kind. There’s dark humor among the vulgarity and depravity, and Palughi captures the tragedy of it all marvelously. Lasley has crafted a short —  created inside Unity game engine and that uses live action avatars in a 3D environment, made with no budget — that gets under the skin and delivers plenty of food for thought along with no shortage of shudders.

Legend of El Cucuy, PU EKAW TNOD, Blockbuster, and Welcome to the Enclave screen as part of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th edition in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, from January 19–25 and virtually on the Slamdance Channel from January 22–28. For more information, visit https://slamdance2024.eventive.org/welcome.


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