Saturday, 6 February 2016

Five Great Short Fantasy Films Available Online

Fantasy is a genre that deals, exclusively, with the impossible. That's what truly separates it from its close cousin, Science Fiction, in the end. If a story possesses an element of the impossible, something which simply does not exist in the real world and which the audience cannot imagine ever actually existing, then it falls under the broad umbrella of 'fantasy' (if it's something that you could imagine, hypothetically, existing then it's 'science fiction').

And, it's a very broad umbrella, too. There's room under there for stories about magic and the supernatural, folklore and ancient mythology, or even entirely unique created worlds. Whatever form it takes, the goal of 'fantasy' is always the same - to take something impossible, turn it into something that the audience can accept, then tell a story within that context.

Listed after the break are five short films which, I believe, manage to do just that - each film taking something impossible and using it as the basis for a highly entertaining story. The fact that the films below also do a good job of showing something of the broad variety of different forms that Fantasy can take is, really, just a bonus.

The Portal

Alar, a dimension-hopping wizard, takes a wrong turn on his way to his home-world - ending up in 21st century Toronto. Not only does his portal close behind him while he is distracted, but he soon learns that his magic simply doesn't seem to work in our world. In desperation, he finds his way to the nearest travel agency, convinced that they will have the power to help him return home.

The short film, itself, is great. It's well-made, features some great performances, and is genuinely funny. The most interesting thing about this particular project, though, is that it has also been turned into a longer web-series.

You can find the original short film here. Also, the web-series can be found here.

The Alchemist's Letter

A young man returns to his childhood home to read a letter left for him by his estranged father - a father who had recently passed away. Through this letter, we learn that the father (voiced by John Hurt) was a talented alchemist who had successfully invented a device that would create gold - but, that the fuel required to work this device was his own memories.

Through the letter the alchemist left behind, and some creative weaving of imagery into the workings of his strange device, we learn the lengths that this man was willing to go to in his pursuit of wealth, and his final message for his estranged son.

It's earnest and very sentimental - almost overly so, at times. And, the message that it wants to get across to the viewer is one that has been done many times before. But, the film tells its story so well that you probably wont mind.

You can find the short film here.

Trick Meter

Late at night, in the dark and quiet streets of an unnamed city, a young skater finds himself caught up in a bizarre contest. After placing a coin into a seemingly unremarkable meter, the young man finds himself pulled into a bizarre 'otherworld', where he is required to perform an increasingly difficult series of skateboarding tricks - with the stakes, apparently, being his own life.

Trick Meter is a very short, although very well done, film which could easily be dismissed as little more than a show-case of special effects, and the stake-boarding talents of its star (though, to be fair, if that were actually all this film was, it would still be very entertaining). But, the film is also able to able to give the viewer a fascinating, and very strange, touch of urban fantasy in its basic premise - and even a genuine sense of tension as the viewer is forced to wonder whether this kid is going to be able to win the bizarre contest he has found himself forced into.

You can find the short film here.

The Lady and the Reaper

An elderly woman, living alone on her farm, dies in her sleep. Confronted by the Grim Reaper, she is initially scared and uncertain - though, she calms down once she realises that she will finally have the opportunity to be reunited with her husband, who has already passed away. However, just as they are about to leave, the old woman finds herself pulled back into the world of the living - waking up in a hospital, where a doctor and his team of nurses have just revived her.

It's at this point that the film's tone suddenly shifts into a strange, and slightly surreal, black comedy - as Death and the heroic doctor find themselves locked in a tense battle over the fate of the old woman. The old woman, meanwhile, finds herself caught in to the middle of this conflict - becoming little more than a prop in a series of increasingly outlandish chase sequences.

You can find the short film here.

The Cat Piano

In a city populated by anthropomorphic cats, and famous for its love of music, the greatest singers and musicians are going missing - kidnapped by a mysterious figure for some unknown, but obviously sinister, purpose. The film's hero, a world-weary writer who also acts as the film's narrator, finds himself drawn into the mystery when a particular lounge singer that he happens to have taken a liking to also goes missing. With the increasingly desperate people of the city rallying behind him, he feels compelled to act.

The Cat Piano is a fascinating short film. The film's narration, given by the somewhat reluctant hero (voiced by Australian musician, Nick Cave), takes the form of a poem clearly inspired by the great Beat poets. The animation, itself, is of a notably high quality - fluid, and done in such a way that gives the while film a sombre 'film noir' quality. Most importantly, though, the poem and the animation complement each other perfectly.

You can find the short film here.

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