The trailer for a film is often more entertaining than the film itself. Short bursts of action, a quick explanation of the film’s premise, and a crafty structure that’s designed to linger in our thoughts—what’s not to like? We excitedly watch trailers because they capture the essence of a film in only a few minutes. With this instinctive allure to brief clips of film, it’s little wonder why short films are so popular.

The Hart House Film Board and Raindance on Campus satisfied U of T’s craving for short films with their Holiday Film Challenge last Friday evening. Raindance is an international network of filmmakers that outsources its means to include sub-communities on university campuses worldwide. This university program—known as Raindance on Campus—is a student filmmaking club located at both the St. George and Scarborough campuses.

The event involved a screening of eight short films, each under five minutes, created by teams of U of T students from the St. George and Scarborough campuses. Following the screening, awards were handed out to the top three teams. The winning film was The Witching Hour by Sarvan Singh and his team, in second place was Boy/Girl by Greg Martin and his team, and in third place was Uninvited by Jessica Rapson and her team.

The films were separated into three acts: Inquisition, Revelations, and Termination. The Witching Hour screened under Act II: Revelations. In short, this film is beautifully produced. Part horror, part thriller, part mystery, The Witching Hour is a guarantee for goosebumps. The plot follows a man who is mourning the loss of his girlfriend, although the details surrounding their relationship are left ambiguous.

The film opens at night with a thick fog rolling in front of a psychic reading shop, where the man comes to seek answers. After the psychic advises him to return to his photography studio, the man is confronted with a nightmarish scene. Singh and his team hit all the right marks in terms of creating a short horror film—the setting is ominous, the music is eerie, and there’s a perfect amount of suspense. Despite all these features, The Witching Hour is surprisingly not a cliché. The plot is original, the acting is well-performed, and the filming is sharp.

Boy/Girl screened under Act I: Inquisition. The premise behind this film is equally, if not more, original than The Witching Hour. Boy/Girl relies on its dialogue, rather than imagery, to carry the plot. The film focuses on the conflicting thoughts of a boyfriend and a girlfriend. But here’s where things get tricky: the girl’s lines are written on screen while the boy’s lines are spoken. This technique simultaneously presents two different perspectives on the same thought. The lines occur with different Toronto settings playing in the background and an acoustic guitar melody strumming alongside the words and images. The filming in Boy/Girl is artistic, yet the insightful exchange between boy and girl generates the main power in this film. Boy/Girl is a unique spin on the commonly depicted relationship drama.

As the first film of the evening, Uninvited also screened under Act I: Inquisition. Similar to the other two films, Uninvited holds an original and unexpected premise. The plot follows three girls as they enter and explore an abandoned house. The film takes its unique turn in the ending when the girls’ behaviour turns morbid as they encounter an elderly couple living in the house. Despite the film’s eerie setting and grim outcome, the ending appears more comical than sinister due to the exaggerated actions of the girls and old couple. The filming of Uninvited is well-crafted and the script is definitely entertaining. Uninvited was one of my favourite films of the night.

The Film Board is a Hart House club that teaches filmmaking to its members through a series of workshops. The club also provides its members access to professional film and video equipment, allowing them the means to develop their videography skills. The Film Board is proud to sponsor screenings of student-made films, including the Holiday Film Challenge.