Oct 30: Micro-Wave Cinema’s “Halloween Shorts” embrace the genuinely absurd and grotesque

halloween shorts
A scene from Spencer Parsons' "Bite Radius"

Chicago-based filmmaker Spencer Parsons will be in attendance to discuss his piercing and chilling Bite Radius

Series curator Brandon Colvin has assembled a bewitching bevy of shorts for Devil’s Night (Halloween Eve) in 4070 Vilas Hall at 7:00p. Most notably, the “spooky and imaginative” seventy-five-minute program includes the world premiere of writer-director Robert Hillyer Barnett’s hallucinatory odyssey, Talk About Your Dreams, shot in stereoscopic 3D. A progressive plunge into the unconscious, the film clings to the ecstatic visions of a virtual reality porn star (Kate Lyn Sheil, the lead in the director’s last uncanny art horror masterpiece, Tears of God) and a dispirited assassin. Considering another of Sheil’s former roles, when she was mainly captured via video chat in Zachary Wigon’s The Heart Machine, the whole concept possesses a whiff of reflexiveness.

This stimulating color palate directly complements the “neon ghosts dreaming in dead landscapes” of Plena Stellarum [Full of Stars] from yet another Micro-Wave Cinema alumus, Matthew Wade (How the Sky Will Melt). Animated to imitate a series of retro arcade and home console games, its netherworld’s beaming hot pinks and psychedelic purples resemble an acid bath simulation of Ghosts ‘n Goblins crossed with the haunted nooks of the Pumpkin Zone in Super Mario Land 2. Following its premiere at Sun Valley Film Festival this past March, The Independent Critic Richard Propes praised Wade’s ability to weave together external forces that “force their way into one’s psyche.”

Matthew Wade's "Plena Stellarum"

Matthew Wade’s “Plena Stellarum”

Spencer Parsons’ gritty and trenchant Bite Radius is the thirty-minute centerpiece of the evening, a short which reprises the substance abuse in Barnett’s premiere. Cokehead Peyton (Trevor Dawkins) is jilted awake to discover a dead lover and a blood trail in his bathtub. Without memory of exactly what transpired, he lethargically attempts to bypasses the police by notifying his girlfriend Nicole (Sophie Traub, also appearing in Barnett’s film), who saunters over for a visit. While the true event-based depiction of depravity may be viewed a cautionary account (perhaps, in some form, comparable to Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream), its organic tonal shifts that mimic character psychologies- from ludicrous high to searing melancholy- lift its initially claustrophobic ambiance.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum are The Procedure and The Bulb, Calvin Lee Reeder’s two patently comedic contributions to the program. The former, which premiered at Slamdance in January, is a concise A Clockwork Orange-inspired sketch that thrives on steady misdirection in the cold, eye-opening sterility of an examination room. The Bulb‘s more fleshed-out antics zero in on a seemingly demented illusionist (Linas Phillips), who suddenly appears in a motel bathroom. And he’s very keen on showing a recent arrival (Frank Mosley) something special on channel 76. Contrasting the environmental drabness is the television’s pulsating grid of deep saffron, portending the fluorescent color correction in both Barnett and Wade’s experiments.

  • The five films in this special presentation of “Halloween Shorts” play FREE Sun, Oct 30, in 4070 Vilas Hall at 7:00p. An in-person Q&A with Bite Radius director Spencer Parsons will follow. For more information on the Micro-Wave Cinema Series, visit their Facebook community page.