[Review] Impressive ‘The Pandemic Anthology’ Curates Innovative Genre Shorts from Across the Globe


Thanks to a pandemic that’s ground the world to a halt, most film festivals have been postponed or canceled. The Chattanooga Film Festival found a clever workaround through its virtual edition, bringing the film festival experience straight to the comfort of your home. Of their feature film lineup, The Pandemic Anthology most reflects the current social setting. It matches the spirit of this year’s fest by demonstrating just how clever creatives can be when stuck inside.

During the initial quarantine, Fantaspoa Film Festival launched a worldwide contest that asked filmmakers to submit pandemic related shorts, using the resources on-hand. The Pandemic Anthology is a curated collection of the winning shorts. Admittedly, while the title is apt, nothing about a film with “pandemic” in its name seems all that tempting these days. We’re still living through it, and consume news about it on the regular. Do we need it echoed in our entertainment, too? Perhaps that’s precisely why this particular anthology proved to be such a pleasant surprise. This collection of shorts run the gamut of mood, tone, and style, exploring all aspects of the mind during the quarantine. They tap into the varying stages of isolation, offering creative storytelling and a bit of catharsis during this trying time.

The other pleasant surprise, outside of innovative concepts, is that this isn’t solely a series of shorts filmed on Zoom, Skype, YouTube, or any desktop app that could make this feel like an anthology version of Unfriended. Some of that does exist, but these filmmakers approach the challenge by utilizing whatever they possibly can. Some shorts are lo-fi, some use a mix of previous existing footage, some have high-quality equipment, and some do employ desktop video chats to create a distinct series of shorts where each one stands apart.

As for the content, the stories demonstrate a constant supply of imagination, even in the most constricting of circumstances. A few explore the isolating experience of this pandemic and ponder what the world might be like outside. Others apply chills to that trapped feeling. Others get heady with mind-bending shorts. The best offerings tend to bring humor into the fold like Satan-summoning cats left alone during the pandemic or a catfishing puppet. There are alien invasions, demonic dolls with an affinity for Night of the Living Dead, and even a foreboding appearance by Egyptian god Anubis.

Like all anthologies, The Pandemic Anthology is a mixed bag in terms of taste. The quick turnaround of the contest and the resource limitations mean that this collection varies in technical quality. Clocking in with fifteen shorts means that there are some misses in the bunch. Still, the sheer diversity displayed is impressive. There’s also something a bit cathartic in this visual reminder that this is a shared experience across the globe. With filmmakers hailing from all over, from the U.S. to Brazil to Cyprus, these shorts touch upon familiar anxieties and emotions that are recognizable to all in our current situation.

No matter your tastes, The Pandemic Anthology has it all. There is something for everyone. There are definite standouts, and the biggest winners are the ones that manage to bring the laughs. Few attempt to go for the jugular in terms of eliciting scares, many opt for emotional and existential horror. Mostly, though, this anthology makes for a solid reminder that living in a digital age can sometimes make the forced solitude bearable.

The Pandemic Anthology is streaming as part of the Chattanooga Film Festival.