Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Radar Dog Productions and Writer/Director, Drew Barnhardt for sending me a link to his 18 minute, Horror/Dark Comedy short “Herbie!” originally released back in 2004. Herbie Duck (played by Reggie De Morton) is a nice, quiet well-mannered man, the problem is he has violent tendencies and a void in his life. He’s searching for a connection, something of substance to give life meaning. Enter Rosie (Gena Shaw), a young woman whose looking for her mother (Deborah Mousseau), but instead, gets more than she bargains for with the delusional man who has now taken refuge in the family home.
I recently stumbled upon some promo for Barnhardt’s upcoming feature film “Rondo”, described as a darkly funny revenge, murder, thriller film and I thought I’d reach out via Facebook to further inquire. I did, and he was kind enough to share a screener of his award-winning short from back in 2004. Drew and Co-Writer, Chris McKinley conceived a very tonally awkward, but charming little film about an individual looking for kinship but going about it in the most unconventional of ways. The film has a 90’s, made for TV vibe about it with its grainy presentation and idyllic isolated setting. DP, Kevin Graves (TV’s The American West) utilizes simple shot setups and subtle camera rotations and the edit looks great. Herbies audio track is good as well, and this is before the days of quality and affordable sound equipment, so kudos to the crew. Composer, Ryan Franks (who now works closely with filmmaker Steven C. Miller) began his career on this short film and managed to bring a fresh sound to what’s an unusually peculiar premise. It’s a big score that opens with nice acoustic guitar, followed by quirky instrumentation and even a sequence of bells, electric guitar and marching drum. Herbie is all about its titular character though, that and Morton’s performance. The diction in his narration is perfect, and you certainly feel for the seemingly harmless guy despite the fact that Shaw’s, “Rosie” is innocent in all of it and you know Herb isn’t.
It may seem like an unfair criticism, but those who are used to watching short films with high quality production value may look at Herbie as quite amateur in nature. It has a shot on video look that won’t appeal to everyone, and perhaps Graves could’ve suggested alternative equipment. Content wise, the only qualm is that there was no visual representation on Herbies head or face in the wake of him getting hit with the shovel by Rosie.
Herbie is a one of a kind short film that has shades of Matthew Roth’s little known film, “The Man Who Collected Food” and even “Some Guy Who Kills People”. It’s absorbing, extremely well written and even contains an affable antagonist (if that’s at all possible). The camera work is simple and smart, the score rather lively and diverse, and the lead performances from Reggie and Gena are wonderful too. Perhaps some better equipment might have made the visuals a little easier on the eyes, but aside from that and the minor continuity hiccup regarding the makeup, Herbie is simply outstanding. This may be almost 15 years old, but do yourself a favor and hit up Drew so you can check it out. He’s friendly and this one is a must see for fans of dark short films.
My rating for “Herbie” is 8.5/10