Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to iByte Films and both Writer, RJ Ortiz and Director, Alex Gibson for allowing me early access to an online screener of their 9 minute Horror/Thriller short “Match”. A regular night at the bar for old buddies David and Gabe (played by Alex Zuko and J. Benedict Larmore), takes a more sinister turn when they realize Russia might not be the only country experiencing strange events. The film also stars Virginia Newcomb (Peacock) and Eric Michael White. Not too long ago I had the chance to watch Alex’s previous short films “Stranger In My Mirror” and “Holidaze” (the latter coincidentally directed by Ortiz), both of which were quite well made considering their micro-budgets. Gibson clearly has a keen interest in a number of genres, and that makes for a great foundation with which to work from.
Writing a synopsis for a short film can be tricky, because on one hand you want to inform readers on what they’re in for, at least to a certain extent, but not so much so that you ruin any of the film’s key unknowns. Ortiz’s script is definitely an astute one, its focus seemingly on a singular insignificant match and how that fits into the world of the story. Is it simply that once it’s gone David will finally quit smoking? Or is this a cautionary tale of sorts, about being prepared for the unknown? For most of its quick running time you’re never fully aware of what you’re actually watching, and in this case that’s a good thing. I thought the framing was precise and all the cinematography clean. High production value on display despite just an estimated budget of $1,600. There’s nice tight cuts and edits, along with a crisp audio track making dialogue distinct. The score is used to good effect, with its rumbling low-end bass depicting a clear shift in tone. In addition, there’s a nice piano ballad that gently builds toward the end. From the outset, it’s obvious that Zuko and Newcomb have a real natural chemistry together. She plays Ashley, David’s partner, and together it’s the two who are trying to quit their ugly habit. Both Zuko and Larmore handle their scene well too.
There’s only one thing missing in Match and that’s Gabe having the opportunity to call David and let him in on whatever he’d just been privy to, instead, opting against it. To be fair, it seemed as if the phones had started having connection problems. That said, I still thought he might have tried.
It’s great to see Gibson continuing to make more shorts and it’s hard to believe that Match is RJ’s first writing credit. I had no idea what to expect and I was enthralled by the numerous avenues this could have potentially taken, yet pleased where it settled on. The technical aspects are all well conceived, the music fits and the performances set a high standard for other fellow independent actors. Match is Alex’s best work yet, and I look forward to seeing many more of these types of shorts!
My rating for “Match” is 9/10