A TALE OF THE LAUNDRY GAME
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to One Manner Productions and Co-Writer/Director, Matthew Maio Mackay for allowing me early access to the online screener of his 16- minute Mystery/Thriller short “A Tale Of The Laundry Game”, based on an original story by author Stephen King. A Tale Of The Laundry Game opens to a spur of the moment reunion between old high school buddies Rocky and Bob (played by Marc Clement and Brendan Cooney respectively) as the former’s vehicle requires an impromptu inspection – Bob Driscoll’s mechanic workshop seems as good a place as any. Amidst giving the car a once over, the pair enjoy a few beers and begin to reminisce about misspent youth, and one particular event that ensured the two would forever be intrinsically linked. Before the night is through things will take a dark turn. The film also stars Brad McNamara (Smothered), James McCluskey-Garcia (Warpath Chronicle), Stefanie Rossi (Warpath Chronicle), and Cheryl Lousie.
The skills of DP, Rebecca Duncker is one of the biggest factors driving the high production value of this South Australian made short. This marks Duncker’s tenth short film, and it’s her sharp eye and smooth edit commanding the attention here. The shot choices and framing are both consistent and the cuts are really smart. Highlights come in the form of an ominous shadowy figure, a sequence of foot shots, and a seamless transition made on a headlight pan. In addition, most of the car footage looks authentic as well. I could’ve gone for a couple of nice wides but that’s just a personal preference. I love the floodlight creeping into the frame during Rocky and Bobby’s introduction, as well as the use of reds backlighting some of Rocky and Leo’s car conversation. Declan Heath does a great job with what is an extremely sharp audio track, and the piece of the score during the climax is aptly tenebrous. Lead performances from Clement and Cooney feel quite natural and the pair seem to find a certain rhythm between individual conversation pieces.
It wouldn’t be independent filmmaking without the odd technical shortcoming, in this case, there are a few inadvertent focus issues but they’re on the minor scale. I wasn’t a fan of the music used in the flashback sequences it felt rather non-distinct. By the same token, it’s a bit jarring when you begin the film with some vague handheld visuals that ultimately relate to something else. It’s tricky knowing how and when to intercut past with the present, especially if the two differ in creative elements. There are multiple references to Rocky’s car being “iconically aussie”, unfortunately, we don’t actually get to see what type of car it is (most likely because it’s not so iconic) – just one of those things. The Driscoll workshop sign doesn’t look like the most professionally made thing either, it would’ve been nice to see them spring for something a little more credible. McNamara doesn’t have a lot of acting experience, and while he’s certainly not bad in this, having to play a drunk isn’t as easy as one might think. It’s a tough balancing act between doing too much and not enough – as is the case here. With this being adapted from an American setting, Maio and Co-Writer Max Kowalick could’ve tidied up some of the phrasings. Such as “indicator” instead of “blinker”, or referring to “on the courts” when perhaps “on the field” might have been a better fit. Leo has a line where he says “How late is it?”, which just doesn’t sound right. A simple alteration to “What’s the time?” would’ve sufficed. The flashbacks of Rocky and Bob only really have some significance because the pair more or less tell us through conversation what we’re about to see, doing so in a rather convenient way.
Maio Mackay is a young filmmaker who’s studying the craft locally and starting to notch up a few credits in several different departments. I’ll admit that I went into Laundry Game having never heard of the original short story, and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the material and the film overall. The cinematography looks great, the sound is crisp, and the interactions between the main trio remain entertaining throughout. Clement and Cooney make for a good duo and there’s a surprising streak of wickedness to this one. There are a few little things that were lacking and some creative license-related specifics that weren’t necessarily to my liking, but all in all, A Tale Of The Laundry Game is really solid homegrown independent filmmaking that should serve as a growing platform for many of these talented locals. The film will be playing at MonsterFest in both Adelaide and Melbourne in November. Until then, you can check out the official trailer below!
A Tale Of The Laundry Game – 6.5/10