Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Tribeca ’17: Two Sentence Horror Stories—Ma

What’s a shy twenty-something with mother issues doing in a horror film? Perhaps Mona isn’t such a trailblazer in that respect, but her macabre tale will be told in a showcase emphasizing diversity—and brevity. Think of it as a haiku of terror. Fans of short form horror can look forward to the launch of Vera Miao’s Two Sentence Horror Stories on the digital platform Stage 13, following the premiere of the first episode, Ma, at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Judging from Ma, each episode starts with a cryptic opening sentence and ends with a kicker closing statement. The first episode itself is about twenty minutes long, which really isn’t much shorter than a classic Twilight Zone episode. Ma is a promising way to start. Directed by executive producer Miao, it emphasizes character and atmosphere over shock and jump scares.

Poor mousy Mona has lived with her domineering mother so long, she has abandoned all hope of an independent life, until Erica moves into the building. Even though they are complete opposites, their mutual attraction is undeniable (despite a slightly rocky introduction). However, this is a horror film, so Ma is not likely to give up her hold over Mona without a struggle.

Wei-Yi Lin is just terrific as Mona. Even at her squirreliest, she makes us feel for the under-socialized woman. It is also nice to see Mardy Ma (who made her second career-acting debut in SundanceTV’s One Child) quite chillingly portray her not really-namesake. Ayesha Harris also develops some compelling chemistry with Lin, while providing a grounded connection to the outside real world.

Horror fans may already have a pretty solid notion of what is going on here, but Miao’s moody execution is still impressive. Frankly, she leaves us wanting to see more installments from her (even though we are intrigued to see what Sleight’s JD Dillard brings to the table in future sentences). Miao wrote and produced the just-okay Best Friends Forever, but 2 Sentence Horror could really make her a genre favorite. It will reside digitally at Stage 13, which also had the best television/online premiere at Sundance with Snatchers.

Ma is satisfyingly eerily as a short film in its own right and it leaves us wanting to see more of the series, which is pretty much all that could be asked of it. There have indeed been some great horror shorts recently—a trend Ma happily continues. Easily recommended for horror fans, Two Sentence Horror Stories is coming to Stage 13, after screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.