This is a review for the second short film I watched from director Torin Langen, it’s called “Malleus Maleficarum”. I just want to say thanks again, for allowing me access to online screeners of these films. Malleus Maleficarum, which I can barely pronounce (haha), is a 17 minute horror short starring Erin Stuart, Rebeca Mackinnon, Eric Repke, Maxwell Lantz and Sam Varteniuk. It’s about a Sister, Brother and Auntie (played by Mackinnon, Repke and Stuart), who are living in a small town, where religious beliefs have found them stuck in the dark ages. Halloween has become a night of terror and violence, where potential sinners are sold to the general public, to do with as they see fit. Check out my review for Torin’s other short film “Fondue”, which is a kind of prequel to this. See under the heading, Short films.
This Canadian made short film was shot for just $2,000, and like Torin’s other short, the production value is wonderful. I loved the old-school style 80’s intro theme and credits. The opening shot choices look fantastic, and the location makes for a great character in of itself. All the camera work, subtle editing and clever cuts are so well done. I watch a lot of films, especially in this genre, and it’s rare to find a young director with such a keen eye for the particulars. The film’s color grading is perfect, helping give it a much more polished and expensive look than what you’d think $2,000 would give you.
I can’t go into details about the specifics of the story, but it’s a really entertaining one. The cast all do a solid job of keeping things emotionless, and that’s kind of the whole point with this world they are living in. I was surprised that their was no dialogue for the entire running time, but surprisingly it works in the films favor. I think the strongest aspect is the diversity of the score. It opens with a Coen brothers (Fargo, Blood Simple), style crime theme which sounds great. Half way through, it becomes more orchestral based and sounding like something out of Kenneth Branagh’s, “Sleuth” (one of my favorite films). Just when you think you have heard it all, we get a piece of music reminiscent of something composer, Angelo Badalamenti would have written for “Twin Peaks”, I loved every bit of music in this film.
I can’t see myself using the words poor or bad, when it comes to something Torin Langen has done, or will do. From a technical point of view, he is as good as any director in the genre. Because of the lack of dialogue though, I questioned whether some of these characters were mute?. It may have been an interesting plot-point if they were, but I’m not sure. If you are a viewer that likes a motive in the resolution, you might be a little disappointed here. Personally, I think that it adds to the mystery of the experience if you don’t know the whole story, but each to their own. I’m not a fan of the dutch angle (tilting the camera on the side for a different effect), there were a couple of shots in the film like that, I didn’t care for. They aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just I prefer standard shot technique and because everything else Torin does looks great, those few shots are noticeably different.
Moreover, the actors faces are framed a little too close in several of the shots as well. These are nit-picky things and nearly always personal preference. I thought the action scenes, which I can’t describe without spoiling, needed to synch up better with the sound effects. A particular weapon didn’t match the chosen sound all that well, and although the blood looked good, the detail in the makeup after one of the sequences wasn’t perfect.
Malleus Maleficarum is an aesthetically pleasing film, that entertains from start to finish. The technical aspects are nearly all perfect. It’s just a couple of those artistic choices that weren’t for me. The acting is good, the color grading brings everything to life and Torin uses his budget wisely. I thought “Fondue” (his previous film), was nearly flawless and this one is pretty damn close too. Keep an eye out for Torin Langen, it’s a name I sure hope you continue to hear about in the future. Great stuff!!
My rating for “Malleus Maleficarum” is 8.5/10