Netflix is one such platform that doesn’t shy away from any sort of content. Whether it be a feature film from the remotest part of the world or a short film that is well made, just so long as there is a hint of a vision. Two new short films have been dropped on Netflix titled Flashback and Disco Inferno that might interest horror fans. Both short films evoke a strong sense of the supernatural, one even dealing with a bit of a sci-fi time travel scheme. Short films usually work when there is a strong idea at the core or two thoughts or styles are pitted against each other to create a polarity that is engaging for that short amount of time. Flashback, with its idea of changing the past while one is literally dying, is fantastical, but with its naivety, it becomes endearing. Disco Inferno pits the 70s indulgent disco scene against the barren religious asceticism of the 50s.
Film Summary: It is 2022, and Jess is in a relationship with Scott. She is a yoga instructor, while Scott is a gym trainer. One day, Jess, before seeing the Grim Reaper, wondered about the notion of someone’s life flashing before their eyes before they died. She believed one could stay in that flashback and change things. Well, soon she got her chance. An intruder shot Scott, and Jess came out of her room to see his dead body. The intruder was as terrified as Jess was, and in his panic, he shot Jess too. She was dying, and there was indeed a flashback. She just had seconds before she could use her yogic technique and breath control to hang on to a moment, and she succeeded. She was 13 now, and it was her birthday. The young Scott was busy running around at her birthday party. She had to save his life, and the only way she could ensure that was to warn him to never enter a relationship with her.
Ending: The Grim Reaper showed up in the form of a vulture-man, ‘Dr. Bones’, a recurring character on one of the kids’ shows on TV, that Jess was so familiar with. She kept a ‘Dr. Bones’ doll with her at all times, possibly an unconscious manifestation of the Grim Reaper. The weird part about the story is that Jess was shot and was about to die, but because she held onto the image of her 13th birthday, she altered her own fate as well as Scott’s. Like a narrative involving time travel, she survived and continued to live her life without Scott. They still saw each other in this new reality, but only Jess remembered the truth. Now she lived alone, and Scott lived with another woman, who used to be Jess’ friend in the previous reality. But Jess could take comfort in the fact that, by sacrificing her love, she had saved Scott’s life. Scott, before getting killed, had plans to propose to Jess, but it wasn’t meant to be, and now Jess was sure of it. He had a nice family in this new reality, and Jess was fine living alone, knowing that she had enough time to find her ‘happy ending’.
Review: As a concept, it seems there was too much liberty taken as far as the logic of death was concerned. The performances are decent, especially the sequences with kids, and are filled with a warm nostalgia for times gone by. Even the TV show at the end reminded me of the times that will never come again. The element of ‘horror’ was a little subdued, and the time of death, ‘8:26’, never fully became meaningful. If it is a reference to the Bible, then it could mean that the Spirit helped Jess latch onto her flashback, even while her body was dying. Overall, the short film had a strong idea, and it managed to execute it pretty decently.
Film Summary: The second short film on the list features an interesting plot that involves a discotheque that was initially a church, where something terrible had occurred. Sister Lynn had come to ask forgiveness for her sins, but even she realized that perhaps absolution was impossible in her case and committed suicide right there in the church. She had killed a mother and taken away her baby. Her deepest desire was to be a mother, but perhaps her religious duties prevented her from becoming one, and she went insane. This happened in 1955, and 18 years later, the church had been converted into a groovy disco, and Mel and Brandon were going to perform in a competition. The place was now known as ‘Inferno’, perhaps a sign of the changed times and the rebellious and subversive attitude of the culture. Brandon didn’t know that Mel was pregnant, and right before the competition, Mel’s soul was sucked into the 50s, where Sister Lynn was waiting for her.
Ending: Brandon looked for her everywhere and eventually found Mel in the same closet where Sister Lynn had once asked for absolution. She wanted Mel’s child, but Brandon came just in time to save her. But did he really? The last shot, where Mel’s eyes turned black in color, indicates that perhaps Lynn’s ghost had possessed her and it would now get to be a mother. The child Lynn had left in the church could have grown up to be Mel herself, and when she entered the ‘Inferno,’ her presence could have awakened Lynn’s ghost.
Review: The contrast between the two time periods is brilliantly depicted in this short film. Mel had not told Brandon about the pregnancy, and the possession could be read as the stress of the pregnancy’s secrecy materialized. There is an awareness that the film is delving into the schism created by the 1960s in America. The 1950s yearned for things but didn’t have them, while the later generation did not value what they had. Sister Lynn couldn’t have a child, even though she wanted to. Mel had easily become pregnant and seemed to be in a spot of bother and wasn’t sure she wanted to keep it. Such layered contrasts make this film a very interesting watch. The performances are terrific, and some of the edits rekindle the spirit of the haunting movies of the past, which should be made more often.