Each year, all across the globe, teams of filmmakers compete to make the best short film in just 48 Hours for the official 48 Hour Film Project competition. Every team is assigned a genre, a prop, a character and a line of dialogue which must be included in the finished movie. Cities hold their competitions on different dates, with each city’s participants
battling each other for the coveted “Best of City” award. The best of the best eventually move on to compete at the annual Filmapalooza event where the best 48 Hour film of the global competition is crowned.
This year, Los Angeles held its shooting weekend on April 1-3, 2016. Nearly 90 movies played during six separate screening groups and I watched every one of them.
I’d like to first offer my applause to all of the teams who participated. I know how incredibly difficult and challenging it can be to make a film in such a limited amount of time, having participated in nine 48 Hour Film Project competitions myself. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to any of the films that played this year’s festival. Narrowing the list to just 25 films was extremely difficult. There were a lot of really good movies that had to be left off the list.
On that note, I should also say that I’ve excluded my team’s film from the rankings. If you’re curious about what we created in 48 hours this year, I recommend you go visit the official Facebook page for the Team Rogue Division entry: The Calliope Box
Here then, is my list of my top 25 favorite movies from the 2016 Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project!
#25.) Punch by Aidan Defrese and Team PaperSketch Media
Genre: Dark Comedy
The young members of a deadly suicide cult just want to end their lives once and for all when they’re interrupted by an innocent building contractor. This darkly comic horror/thriller offers scares and laughs in equal measure, but it’s the twisted ending that really lands the film a place on my list.
#24.) Fatal Impulses by Juan Sánchez-Molina and Team Sánchez-Molina & Bodkin Pictures
Genre: Dark Comedy
A lustful housewife struggles to ignite passion from her overworked husband in this morbid and hilarious dark comedy that mines humor from sex, murder and marital frustration. This crowd favorite delivers one of the best final punchlines of the fest.
#23.) Bugged by Laurel Barham and Team Star Heart Moon Productions
A first date between two suspicious Muslims is more than it seems in this romantic comedy that takes on terrorism, martyrdom, and religious stereotypes in an increasingly Islamophobic America.
#22.) This is Me by James McCune and Team Super STOPGAP
Genre: Fish Out of Water
A slacker balances his menial job with dreams of stardom in this beautifully photographed dramatic lesson movie that suggests it’s better to be yourself than imitate another.
#21.) Rushing Death by Morgan Poferl and Team DarkSpin
Genre: Coming of Age
A college student must spend the night in a supposedly haunted house in order to join a sorority. Believing the rumors to be nothing more than scare tactics, she soon learns that the truth is much worse than she imagined when the murderous owners return home. A great cast, colorful lighting and an over-the-top campy tone buoys this blood-spattered homage to EC horror comics.
#20.) Mourning Michael by Michael Brueggemeyer and Team Amalgamated Grommets
Family and friends gather to mourn the loss of Michael in this tricky drama from last year’s “best of city” winning team. The direction and performances are all solid, even as the script subverts and twists the traditional funeral flick.
#19.) Boy Friends by Michael Moore and Team Bess Brothers Productions
Genre: Buddy Film
A deceptively simple opening sequence unfolds into one of the most humorous and charming movies of the entire festival. In the middle of the night in a grocery store parking lot, two young men squabble and fight about the girl that threatens to upend their friendship. Better production quality might have improved this charmer, but it hardly matters when the cast and script are this endearing.
#18.) Blind Rage by Danae Jones and Team Blvd of Broken Dreams
Genre: Silent Film
Road rage moves from a parking lot into a coffee shop when a young woman lets her anger get the better of her in this wordless thriller with a twist. Most teams that attempt the “silent” genre fall short, but this movie successfully uses the power of images to tell a satisfying story with a relatable scenario.
#17.) Too Deep in the Forest by Silvia Epure Team VOXX Studios
Deep in the woods, a building contractor marks large growth trees for removal so that a house can be built on the land. Suddenly, he is visited by the spirits of the forest personified. Of the many films that relied on drone photography this year, this one stands out for its gorgeous shots of deep wilderness.
#16.) The Hole by John Geronilla and Team Apex Films
A mysterious room is seemingly the source of a couple’s problems, as well as the solution. This mystery/drama features some of the best cinematography of the competition.
#15.) War Torn by Carl Hansen and Team Cultural Detritus
Genre: War or Anti-War Film
This well-acted drama plays off an assumed gender bias within the audience as it explores how military service in war time affects three different family units. The team relied on a military advisor to ensure accuracy, resulting in a film that is both dramatic and powerful.
#14.) Awake by Mark Schaefer and Team Center Cut Productions
Easily the best “squirmer” of the festival, Awake uses incredibly realistic and disturbing visual effects to tell the story of a young woman who wakes up on an operating table… and is then told she will need to undergo a surgical procedure while conscious. An engaging script and a strong cast elevate the material from mere shock value.
#13.) Scripted by Rommel Andaya and Team Rawmix Productions
This off-kilter romantic comedy pulls back the cinematic curtain on our lovesick hero, exposing the conventions of filmic storytelling in the process. The film overflows with winking, ribbing jabs at both love and moviemaking, with some special nods toward the Los Angeles 48 Hour Film project.
#12.) The Red Navel by Sherry Berg and Team Go Go Guppie Productions
The winning team from the 2015 48HFP Holiday Edition return with a hilarious, neo-noir about a private dick, a femme fatale, and a priceless missing heirloom. My vote for the funniest film of the fest, hands down.
#11.) The Carving Party by Ryan Everett and Team Tuesday Morning Productions
Genre: Holiday Film
I loved this twisted yarn of a Halloween costume party gone bad. Three friends gather to carve pumpkins, but one of them has brought a strangely menacing fourth guest to the party. The plot isn’t hard to unravel, but the writing and performances are so good that I was always invested in where things were going.
#10.) Les is More by Matthew Lorentz and Team Jim’s Steak Out
An amateur sleuth attempts to solve the mystery of who stole from his “do not touch” plate of oranges at the previous evening’s raucous house party. The script is smart and the humor biting. If this doesn’t secure a writing nomination, there’s no justice.
#9.) The Lion, The Fox, and The Beasts by Tom Gault and Team Tom Gault Productions
Aesop’s fable “The Lion, The Fox, and The Beasts” gets a contemporary overhaul in this witty adaptation involving a dying billionaire and his hand-picked potential benefactors. A great little movie that made the best of a tricky genre.
#8.) Bookish by Sethward Allison and Team Sethward Productions
The always entertaining Sethward Productions returns with this loopy love story about a nebbish, would-be Romeo who takes inspiration from his favorite books in order to woo the object of his affection. The cute factor explodes as animated flourishes bring to life The Mad Hatter, Captain Ahab, and Mary Poppins, who take their turns steering the film’s crushing hero toward true love.
#7.) Julius! by Ryan Constantino and Team Upper State Entertainment
Genre: Period Piece
This impressive one-take film plays out on an old Hollywood film set as cast and crew gossip and gab, and one person takes the word of the director a step too far. A few too many characters make this one a bit hard to follow, but I’ll bet repeated viewings are especially rewarding. A stunning short that shows off its talented director and cast.
#6.) Hide and Seek 9: Hide Harder by Ehrick Mason and Team BallerHouse Productions
A simple game of hide and seek gets the action movie treatment in this hugely enjoyable crowd pleaser that pits Mom against Dad at the whims of a child. Solid and very, very cute, with my favorite title of the fest.
#5.) Diana by Carolyn Feres and Team Iron Relic Entertainment
This nightmarish story of grief and loss wows with a combination of haunting visuals, strong acting, multiple locations and impressive costumes and sets. Expect plenty of awards for this film!
#4.) Grifters by Rachelle Henry and Team RPM Lightning
Genre: Film de Femme (films with a strong female character)
This fast paced head-spinner about competing con artists who battle over a slippery mark to determine control of a valuable stretch of wallet-lifting landscape is a joy from start to finish. The direction and editing are as sharp as the performances and the script delivers a great “a-ha” ending.
#3.) Last Words by Fernando Raigoza Jr. and Team Trinoceros
Genre: Time Travel Movie
This team always delivers, but this year’s entry is (in my opinion) their best yet. Employing an untested time travel device, a woman returns to the last moment that she saw her lover before his unexpected death. The special effects and production design are especially winning, but the cast, screenplay and cinematography are all fantastic. A great film that deserves to be seen.
#2.) Soul Provider by Frank Mohler and Team Slushpile Entertainment
Genre: Dark Comedy
A man sells his soul to a demon in this wonderful film constructed around an original, on-camera card trick. The up-close table magic is great, but the wickedly funny screenplay and hilarious performances make the movie.
#1.) Boy Soldier by Adam Bradshaw and Team Transplant Pictures
Genre:War or Anti-War Film
A child plays war and takes on his own search and destroy mission while his divorcing parents argue down the hall. It’s hard, nearly impossible, to turn in a perfect film in 48 hours, but this one gets just about as close to pulling that off as I’ve ever seen. The effects are great, but it’s the ending, in which the pathos and payoff feel truly earned, that really wows. A great short film and my favorite LA 48HFP of 2016. Well done, Transplant!
Many of these movies are playing on Sunday, April 24th during the 2016 Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project Audience Choice Award Screening at Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center downtown.
You can buy your tickets HERE.
The judges nominations will be announced soon, and I’m sure many of these films will be recognized at the 2016 Best of Los Angeles Screening. This screening (and a ceremony) happens Sunday, May 1st at Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center downtown.
You can buy your tickets HERE.
Thanks for reading!
Ryan Stockstad is a Los Angeles filmmaker with a passion for horror, documentary and experimental cinema. He has written articles for HC Magazine, Mostly Harmless Magazine and various blogs and websites. He has lectured on topics as diverse as low budget filmmaking, short story structure, and the influence of the Spanish Civil War on surrealist cinema. He hosts new episodes of Pop Culture Beast's Halloween Horror Picks every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in October.