At the last horror convention that I attended, I was fortunate enough to view a selection of short films.
It was set up as a full movie experience in a ballroom at the hotel. Popcorn and beverages were sold, and a festival of horror shorts played all day, all three days of the convention. For my travelling companion and I, this was a gold mine. We were without a vehicle and were staying in the host hotel, which was convenient but located smack dab on a highway nowhere really near anything entertaining. Once we had shopped every booth in the vendor rooms three or four times, this was the perfect way to kill time instead of chilling in the room the entire weekend when we were between activities.
I was hooked!
I had never really taken a deep dive into the realm of short films before, other than the odd one that was highly publicized, or the warm and fuzzy, ugly-cry inducing shorts at the start of any Pixar film. And so, I had never really thought about the true power of a short film that has to somehow fit plot, theme, visuals and a story into such a tiny time frame.
Lovesick, the latest short film from director, writer and actress Cassandra Sechler, is without a doubt demonstrative of a powerful short.
In Lovesick, an alien lays dying, and finds itself trying to experience what a human being would experience during sex. It is visually powerful, with a great practical effects costume including the staple of any alien story – lots and lots of slime.
The premise of the film is simple. There is no dialogue, just images of the alien as it writhes and strives to achieve the feeling of physical companionship. The present is interspersed with images of what the alien perceives to be the perfect female form. What really hits home is that the alien is not imagining real, flesh and blood women. The daydreams are instead made of Barbie-like images of legs, breasts, and shoulders. Perfectly smooth and symmetrical, the alien struggles to define itself in these terms. This is something that I feel that anyone can relate to, particularly women. After all, who hasn’t judged their own body compared to an idealistic image at some point in their life? Even the most confident women I know have their off days or have achieved the confidence that they have in themselves now over many years of struggling to accept themselves.
While the alien’s desire clearly comes through, there is more to it than that. There is also a very powerful sense of frustration as the being tries its hardest to re-create the experience. It is trying so hard to be something that it’s not, that it can’t seem to enjoy the experience in its own way. It is trying to enjoy the act as a human being would, and it is clear that the anatomy is not the same. There is a sense of trying to ignore that it is different and its own needs to attempt to experience sex as it thinks it should be. It is a very strong statement and a very empathetic look at what it is to feel like the Other, or an outsider. Rather than accepting a difference, the desire to just be like everyone else is what is causing so much frustration.
Overall, Lovesick is a sparsely done, but very effective, examination of what we perceive to be beautiful or desirable. In wanting to be like everyone else, or wanting to do what is expected of us, we sometimes lose sight of what it is that we truly want.
It’s a film that is not for everyone, and it will make some people very uncomfortable in its graphic simplicity. I will confess, I felt this discomfort the first time that I watched it. But embracing and examining the discomfort that you feel is the point of the film. To understand why topics make us uncomfortable is the first step to truly understanding them. Too often we revert to thinking that something is “disgusting” or “bad”, without thinking about why. When we start to think about the why, we start to examine our standards of what we think is beautiful, or sexy, or normal.
Like it or not, we all have preconceived or programmed views as to what that is. Cassandra Sechler is a director who understands that films like Lovesick are the first steps to understanding that “abnormal” when it comes to beauty is entirely subjective. She is not afraid to push the envelope and shove the audience out of their comfort zone to confront their feelings on this issue.
Cassandra Sechler is a writer, director, actress and producer with Dreams for Dead Cats Productions. She has created numerous short films and is currently working on a full-length film, Tearful Surrender.
‘Tearful Surrender’ is a dark, surreal fantasy/horror film, inspired by tales & folklore of sirens, vampires, & mermaids, films of Hammer Horror, Jean Rollin, and Ken Russell, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The film focuses on the desolate and immortal life of a beautifully haunting mate-hungry seductress from the sea and her muses from the underworld who must feast on human souls to survive! -Cassandra Sechler
For more information on the Kickstarter campaign for Tearful Surrender, please see www.tearfulsurrender.com/donate.