Nightstream Film Festival Review — ‘Home Invasion: NYC Horror Shorts’ Block

by Rachel Bellwoar

“Shut Eye”

Directed by Robert Gregson

Written by Addison Anderson

When you’re willing to take sleeping pills from a guy you barely know, you know you need sleep — and Raveena (Mia Darrow) reaches that point early in “Shut Eye.” When a person’s out of line, though, it’s easy to call them out. What’s harder is when that person technically isn’t doing anything wrong, yet something doesn’t feel right. It’s that kind of horror that “Shut Eye” excels in and it’s one of my favorite shorts in this block.

“Shut Eye”

Unfinished Business

Directed by Mary Dauterman

Written by Mary Dauterman and Jenny Donheiser

Did somebody call a stripper? Pure fun with a choreographed dance routine (by Ani Taj), be sure to stick around through the closing credits. Shout-out to Phil Gomez for the very Designing Women 80’s costumes.


The Mother

Written and Directed by Hope Olaidé Wilson

First, it’s a free sample. Then it’s an invitation to their house. There’s only one way this story ends, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. I love the levelheaded tone Wilson takes and that she opens the short on a crowd scene.



Directed by Danny Garcia

Written by Danny Garcia and Braeson Herold

I’ve never seen a short put so much thought into the look of the subtitles before. It’s really, really clever. Hija’s abuela (Nancy Ealo) wants her to let The Spirit in, but that has to be a mistake, right? Starring Yuruby Soto, this is another one of my favorite shorts in this block.


The Howling Wind

Directed by Lorian Gish and Justin Knoepfel

Written by Justin Knoepfel

After hearing reports on the radio of a wind causing people to become violent, Arnold (Anthony Arkin) boards up his house and gets ready to wait. Just then, a young man (Nicky Boulos) appears seeking shelter and Arnold has to decide whether to let him stay. The concept of “The Howling Wind” is smart and the black & white cinematography by Harrison Craft looks great, but the set-up feels too reminiscent of The Lighthouse (and not in a way that does the short any favors). Gish and Knoepfel use too many extreme close-ups and the film isn’t consistent about how the wind effects people — that or the film doesn’t have enough time to explain. There’s a lot of build-up over whether the boards on the door will hold but, in the end, it doesn’t amount to much.


Decapitato: Consequenze Mortali

Written and Directed by Sydney Clara Brafman

Turns out one minute really is all you need. Wow. Technically this short is less than one minute (the full minute includes the closing credits), but Brafman makes it an indelible runtime. Starring Bill McGovern as an unnamed protagonist, Decapitato is the name of the video game he’s about to play. No dialogue, but a rocking 8-bit score by composer, Neil Sveri.


Lose It

Directed by AJ Taylor and Maximilian Clark

Written by AJ Taylor

On the surface, this is a short about a woman (Akyiaa Wilson) who loses her keys. Except she didn’t lose them. We saw her put them in the bowl by the door. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be where she left them, but they’re not there and, boy, is the subtext strong with this short. The very last thing you hear is the sound of police sirens. “Lose It” will, and should, get under your skin.

“The Door”

The Door

Directed by Kyle C. Mumford

Written by Rachael Emrich and Kyle C. Mumford

This is the short I can’t stop thinking about. In the middle of grieving her sister, a tiny door appears in the wall right where Harris (Rachael Emrich) recently scuffed the paint. As much as the door might recall Alice in Wonderland, this isn’t the only stunning visual in this film. Take the still above. It wasn’t until I’d seen the short that I realized Harris’ reflection isn’t in the right spot. Would I have chosen something else to be behind the door? It’s possible, but that’s less a criticism than it is an acknowledgement of the fact that Emrich and Mumford do make a choice. You miss stuff the first time around, too. Mumford includes some great details, but it’s up to viewers to notice them. Highly recommended.



Directed and Written by Moh Azima

Having rented out a church for his birthday, Justin (Justin L. Wilson) is weirded out when he starts finding stuff from his childhood around the place. The ending is what clinches this one. The Dario Argento hoodie is a nice touch.


The Three Men You Meet At Night

Written and Directed by Beck Kitsis

Suburbia in the daytime looks a lot different than suburbia at night. People get bold when they think nobody’s watching. All Jess (Stella Baker) wants is to get home safely — yet which is safer: walking or accepting a ride? Forced to reassess constantly, Kitsis’ short is shrewd and entirely on the money when it comes to the back-to-back harassment women face.


Nightstream runs from October 8th to October 11th. Tickets for the Home Invasion: NYC Horror Shorts block can be purchased here.

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