Five Great Short Fantasy Films

Updated on July 1, 2019

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that deals with the impossible. That's really all that separates the fantasy genre from its close cousin, science fiction. If a story possesses some element of the impossible, something which simply cannot exist in the real world, then it would fall under the broad umbrella of fantasy. Science fiction, by contrast, is a genre that deals with things that could exist, or that might exist at some point in the future (based on our own current understanding of science, at least).

Fantasy is a very broad genre, which can cover a wide variety of different stories. Fantasy stories can feature magic and the supernatural, and they can draw on folklore and mythology. They can take place in our world, or in a world entirely created by the storytellers. Whatever form fantasy takes, though, the goal is ultimately the same—to take something impossible and turn it into something that the audience can accept, then tell an entertaining story within that context.

The short films listed below are five examples which, I believe, manage to do just that—each taking something impossible and using that as the catalyst for a great story. Some are serious and dramatic, others lean more toward comedy, but they are all highly entertaining.

The Portal

Alar, a dimension-hopping wizard, takes a wrong turn on his way to his homeworld—finding himself, instead, in 21st century Toronto. Not only does his portal close behind him while he is distracted, but he soon learns that his magic simply doesn't seem to work in our world. Eventually, the desperate wizard manages to find his way to a nearby travel agency where he seeks help, convinced that an organisation with such an impressive title should naturally have the power to send him home.

The Portal is a very entertaining film. It's well-made and features some great performances from its cast. Most importantly, given the film's obvious lean toward comedy, it's almost quite often genuinely funny. The central premise of a man from a world where magic is real finding himself in a world without magic, and the various misunderstandings that result, is fairly straight-forward—but the short film is still able to make the most of it.

You can find the original short film, The Portal, by following this link.

The Alchemist's Letter

A young man returns to his childhood home to read a letter left for him by his estranged father—a man who was so obsessed with his work that he neglected his own family, and who had recently passed away. Through this letter, we learn that the father (voiced by John Hurt) had been a talented alchemist who had managed to invent a device capable of creating gold—but the only fuel that would power this device was the alchemist's own memories.

As the story unfolds, weaving together narration with some creative use of imagery, both the young man and the audience gradually learn the lengths to which this alchemist was prepared to go in his pursuit of wealth and fame. Finally, as the story reaches its conclusion, the alchemist's final message to his long estranged son is revealed.

The Alchemist's Letter is a very earnest and sentimental sort of film. The exact nature of the final message that the father wishes to pass on to his son is fairly obvious, as is the message that the film wants to pass on to the audience. But the film manages to tell its story so well that you probably wont mind.

You can find The Alchemist's Letter by following this link.

Trick Meter

Late at night, in the dark and quiet streets of an unnamed city, a young skater finds himself caught up in a bizarre contest. After placing a coin into a seemingly unremarkable meter, the young man finds himself pulled into a bizarre other-world, where he is required to perform an increasingly difficult series of skateboarding tricks—with the stakes, apparently, being his own life.

Trick Meter is a very short, although very well-made, film which could easily be dismissed as little more than a showcase of the skateboarding talents of its star (though, to be fair, if that were actually all this film was, it would still be very entertaining). But the film is also able to able to give the viewer a fascinating, and very strange, touch of urban fantasy in its basic premise—and even a genuine sense of tension as the viewer is forced to wonder whether this young skater is actually going to be able to win the bizarre contest he has found himself forced into.

You can watch Trick Meter by following this link.

The Cat Piano

In a city populated by anthropomorphic cats, and famous for its love of music, the greatest singers and musicians are going missing—kidnapped by a mysterious figure for some unknown, though obviously sinister, purpose. The film's hero, a world-weary writer who also acts as the film's narrator, finds himself drawn into the mystery when a particular lounge singer that he happens to have taken a liking to also goes missing. With the increasingly desperate people of the city rallying behind him, he feels compelled to act.

The Cat Piano is a fascinating short film. The film's narration, voiced by Australian musician Nick Cave, takes the form of a poem clearly inspired by the great Beat poets. The animation itself is of a notably high quality. Taken together, the narration and the animation complement each other perfectly—each working to give the film a dark and sombre film noir quality.

You can watch The Cat Piano by following this link.

Lookouts

Drawing its inspiration from a Penny Arcade comic from 2009, Lookouts tells the tale of an ill-fated hunt for a dangerous mythical creature. Opening with a young boy's mad dash through an ancient forest as he desperately flees the creature that pursues him, the film begins to reveal the sequence of events that led to his current situation in a non-linear fashion—cutting back and forth between his struggle to survive, and his final interactions with the important figures in his life.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, Lookouts is able to introduce the audience to a genuinely fascinating fantasy world—one in which young scouts are trained to protect their small community from the dangers of the forest. Just about every aspect of this short film is genuinely impressive. Costumes and set design do a great job of establishing the world that these characters live in, and the cast all give great performances in their roles. Most impressive, though, is the design of the Basilisk—the mythical creature that a group of scouts had been sent into the forest to hunt, but which now hunts the young boy.

You can watch Lookouts by following this link.

© 2019 Dallas Matier

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