The Whistler (Review) If you hear him coming you’re already dead…

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THE WHISTLER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Round Table Pictures and Writer/Director, Jennifer Nicole Stang for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 10-minute Horror/Thriller short, “The Whistler”. The Whistler is a folklore short horror tale that sees teenager Lindsey (played by the beautiful Karis Cameron) forced to babysit her sister Becky (Baya Ipatowicz). Shortly after storytime, Lindsey falls asleep to a TV movie and wakes to find her little sister missing. A venture into the woods reveals a far more sinister danger than she could have imagined.

I’m always intrigued in a premise with an origin to unveil, and Stang’s latest venture has just that. Believe it or not, The Whistler is Jennifer’s eighteenth short film in just six years. With multiple credits in just about every aspect of filmmaking, she’s clearly a talented and versatile individual. Though it’s experienced DP, Naim Sutherland (Feed The Gods) behind the presentation here, and a majority of the shot choices are creative and nicely framed. The audio track is clean and the piano theme that supports Lindsey’s folklore story fits the desired atmosphere perfectly. Karis and Baya are quite well cast as sisters and both turn in serviceable performances.

There’s a particular method using blue filtering which lights the bulk of these scenes but results in a tinged look that I found rather distracting. A series of jump cuts in the middle section also only serves to highlight some of Sutherland’s average handheld techniques. Whilst there are a couple of tension-filled moments, The Whistler ends on an unusually flat note. It’s an entertaining enough short but I’m hoping that Stang harnesses her full potential regarding the titular character because I have no doubt that it could become something quite iconic if given the proper attention. Despite the need for some improved visuals and further fleshing out of the core character, The Whistler serves as a nice proof of concept for the feature that Jennifer is trying to get off the ground. You can check out the teaser trailer below and keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “The Whistler” is 6/10

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Instinct (Review) Gives new meaning to bleeding for your art…

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INSTINCT

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Maria Alice Arida for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 18 minute psychosexual Drama/Thriller short, “Instinct”. Instinct follows Isabelle (played by Christine Kellogg-Darrin), a lonely gallery owner who is rather apprehensive about her latest performance artist, the young and seductive Camila (Jordan Monaghan). Despite their differences, a late night encounter sees the pair hit it off in an unexpected way, leading to an interesting development.

Instinct is the sixth short film from Arida and it calls to mind a more succinct telling of something like Brian De Palma’s “Passion” or even “Windows” from 1980. At its core, it’s about loneliness and that feeling of being disconnected from the world and those around you. Hannah Getz’s lovely cinematography sets things off on the right foot. She utilizes simple shot setups and all the framing looks incredibly slick. The film’s backdrop being that of the art world lends itself perfectly to some unique visuals that you don’t ordinarily see. The audio is really sharp and Erick Aguila’s musical choices are built nicely around classical themes. He opens the film with some low bass rumblings and transitions into a series of broad back and forth strokes on strings. Synth enters the fold shortly thereafter too. Christine and Jordan share a natural chemistry and both performances are quite raw and powerful.

On the technical front, my only issue is that the lighting looked a little dim during the office scene. The other thing is that I’ve never been one of those people that believes just anything can be labeled “art” (I think that’s a personal preference though). Personally, I think there’s a facade of sophistication to this kind of work when in reality a lot of what it encompasses is rather hollow. Camila’s “performance” doesn’t actually involve or require a particular set of skills, nor really anything for that matter. It’s a self-inflicted exhibition of ill-treatment or neglect if you will, and I can’t fathom why she’d subject herself to that, or how one would find any artistic merit in such a showing. On an unrelated note, I was able to foresee the specifics of what was taking place in Isabelle’s own private workspace too.

With Instinct, Marie continues the trend of impressive short films for 2018. Isabelle is a lonely soul looking for a connection and that’s something we can all relate to on some level. The cinematography is gorgeous, the audio is clear, and the score is suitably eerie. Both performances are strong and Arida’s foundations and style ooze of De Palma in the best possible way. I’m certainly wary of buying into the glamour and status at the forefront of the world of art. I know there are so many different periods and styles but some things just can’t possibly be classified as art (e.g Camila’s performance) – at least not in my mind. Even with the somewhat predictable climax, Instinct was a memorable film and I look forward to seeing what The American Film Institue and the talented Maria Arida do next! You can check out the teaser trailer below.

My rating for “Instinct” is 8/10

La Chambre Noire (Review) Death is coming for her…

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LA CHAMBRE NOIRE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to French Writer/Director, Morgane Segaert for sending me an online screener to her debut 17 minute Drama/Fantasy short, “La Chambre Noire”. La Chambre Noire is a period piece set in the early 1900’s, where a young girl named Cassandre (Lisa Segaert) witnesses her mother’s (Julia Leblanc-Lacoste) health slowly declining by virtue of a mysterious illness. As each day passes, Cassandre feels an ever-growing presence in the house and will stop at nothing to protect her mother from what lurks in the shadows. The film also stars Sophie Belvisi, Jean-Francois Freydiere, and Matthieu Lecat.

The basis of Morgane’s screenplay is certainly a relatable one, creating an impression that she may have recently suffered a personal tragedy (unfortunately most of us have at one point or another in our lives). Death makes for a dark subject matter and it’s something that inevitably creeps its way into our thoughts on occasion. In La Chambre Noire, its Cassandre dealing with the very real possibility of losing a parent. The film is well shot by yet another first-timer in Guillaume Ogier. The framing is nice, opting for an abundance of long takes (perhaps a few too many) rather than multiple conventional shot choices. The audio is clear and the subtitles are accurate. In addition, the score contains quite a few long and dramatic violin strokes that cue whenever the entity is nearby. The opening orchestral theme is reminiscent of the works of composer Danny Elfman (Big Fish and Alice In Wonderland) – impressive stuff. Both the costume and set designs look completely authentic and each of the performances is serviceable. There are some early signs that Marie (Lacoste) isn’t feeling quite like herself. It seems as if she just has low blood pressure or something, that is until a creature (Lecat) who somewhat resembles “The Crooked Man” begins to appear right before Cassandre’s eyes, growing closer in proximity to her mother with every passing day. The imagery represents an idea of death and is creatively conceived with impressive makeup effects for the creature.

I think La Chambre Noire is a little too long for what it is. I suppose it’s depicting the final stages of a life, but considering that notion itself is a rather depressing one, ten minutes probably would have sufficed. There are two scenes that could’ve been cut and the film wouldn’t have lost any impact. One sees Marie and Cassandre waltzing together, and the other is a simple tea party with friends, neither of which accomplish all that much. The first sets the scene somewhat so that’s the little more relevant of the two I guess. I found it a little odd that Cassandre was so frightened at the site of the creature by the bedside (despite it obviously not being the first time she’s seen it), but in subsequent scenes, she doesn’t seem phased by it at all. One might argue that maybe she’s gradually resigned to the fact that her mother may not live much longer, I don’t know. It just seemed out of character for her.

La Chambre Noire is quite an effective debut short from a young French filmmaker in Segaert. The camera work is quite good, the sound is sharp, and the score is atmospheric. The performances are all solid and the material is relevant, albeit depressing in nature. A couple of the scenes didn’t necessarily add a lot to the narrative and only served to drag out its runtime. Young Cassandre’s reactions to the creature aren’t always consistent with her character either. All in all, though, this one is well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Morgane.

My rating for “La Chambre Noire” is 7/10

Post Mortem Mary (Review) It’s your job to make them look alive…

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POST MORTEM MARY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Joshua Long for allowing me access to an online screener of his 9-minute Horror/Drama short “Post Mortem Mary”. Young Mary (played by Stella Charrington), and her mother Edith (Melanie Zanetti) run an autopsy photography business in 1840’s Australia. The pair visits a small farmhouse, and while her mother consoles a grieving Alice (Kathryn Marquet), a nervous Mary is tasked with making the recently deceased daughter look alive, but things aren’t quite as simple as they appear to be. The film also stars David Breen and Edie Vann.

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Post Mortem Mary serves as the fifth short film from Queensland based filmmaker Joshua Long. He’s clearly found a sweet spot in the horror genre, add to that the period piece setting and dramatic undertones here and you’ve got a rather impressive film. DP, Ben Nott (Daybreakers and Predestination) oozes class with his elegant framing and gorgeous cinematography, simultaneously driving the films high production value. There’s a lot of simple but effective shot choices and the color grading suits the look of the era perfectly. The audio track is mixed cleanly and Mary Duong’s foley work is crisp too. The inexperience of composer Jesse Thomas isn’t a factor in Post Mortem Mary. The score builds around droning motifs and woodwind instrument work, reminiscent of the music in Robert Eggers “The Witch”, it’s in keeping with the content on display. All of the acting is of a high standard and Marquet’s emotional outpourings are among the films high points. A special mention goes out to the wardrobe and makeup designs for their respective efforts.

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Like me, some may find the basis of Long’s short a little odd. I don’t even know if this sort of thing was a legitimate business back in the day and I have to admit that I questioned the worth of the process. People didn’t have a lot back in those days and given the emotional and monetary roll versus whatever upside it may have had, it begs the question why? Because it just seemed like an additionally upsetting procedure on top of what the family had already experienced. My only real issue was that I found the ending to be rather predictable.

Post Mortem Mary is a damn fine homegrown short film from 2017, made by a fast developing Aussie filmmaker. Nott’s delivers stunning photography, the sound design builds methodically, and the score is quite a memorable one. Makeup and set design are noteworthy and each of the performances is fine. Despite a somewhat predictable ending and an unconventional subject matter, the story still remains intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing what Long does in 2019. You can check out the teaser trailer below!

My rating for “Post Mortem Mary” is 8.5/10

Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir (Review) It’s a family balance…

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CHATEAU SAUVIGNON: TERROIR

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you Writer/Director, David Maire for allowing me access to an online screener of his 13-minute Horror/Thriller short “Chateau Sauvignon”. The film is a coming of age story for Nicolas (played by Michael Lorz), the adolescent son in a struggling viticulture family. Torn between the demands of his father (Sean Weil) and helping an ill mother (Pooya Mohseni), Nicolas sees an opportunity to please both parties in two very different ways when a devoted mother and her disinterested son arrive at the vineyard. The film also stars Anthony Del Negro and Nancy Nagrant.

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Maire’s intent for Chateau Sauvignon is clear from the outset, and it’s to disturb. The film opens with some rather unsettling establishing shots of decaying matter, and transitions into a few nice close-ups and a handful of shots that emphasize the quality of the set design (or location if it wasn’t a conventional set). The audio track is nicely mixed and Robert Eletto (who scored The Hobbyist) approaches this with a less is more approach and it pays dividends. The performances are all solid and it was great to see Pooya (who worked on Terrifier) make an appearance in a couple of scenes. Anthony Pepe and his effects team did a commendable job of the makeup, applying a dark and tired look to Lorz’s Nicolas. The film has a couple of violent sequences and they showcase a healthy dose of pracitcal blood and gore too.

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I didn’t enjoy all of DP, Oliver Anderson’s camera work. The film is guilty of some unstable handheld moments toward the beginning, as well as a sizeable chunk of dizzying movement during the final vineyard scene (seen in the image above). It was seemingly unnecessary to convey it that way because the victim couldn’t go anywhere, as is revealed in the shot that immediately follows where we see Patrick (the father) just standing there. Some of Anderson’s framing lacks assurance and the choice to use one obligatory 80’s zoom (you know the shot I’m talking about) seemed completely out of context. I noticed one continuity issue that results in a character making it all the way outside and into a vehicle before the other can really even turn around, it just simply wouldn’t have been possible without him noticing. I can’t say much about the ending without revealing spoilers, but I was left with a couple of questions regarding Eartha (Mohseni) and why the family was doing what they were.

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David was kind enough to reach out to AdamTheMovieGod with what is just his second short film, Chateau Sauvignon. He builds this particular world quite well, doing so through plenty of attention to detail and some evocative color grading. The score is subtle, the performances are engaging, and there are a few genuinely violent moments for genre fans to rejoice in. Some of the framing isn’t as even as it could have been and the disorientating movements in the climax are seemingly pointless. There’s one obvious continuity issue from the cellar to the externals of the property, and most are likely to have questions surrounding the family and their actions. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, Chateau Sauvignon is another enjoyable and professionally made horror short and I look forward to seeing more from Maire and AireBedd Productions. You can check out the teaser trailer below!

My rating for “Chateau Sauvignon” is 7/10

The Hobbyist (Review) Be careful what you wish for…

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THE HOBBYIST

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Producer, David Munz-Maire for sending me an online screener to the 8-minute Crime/Mystery/Thriller short “The Hobbyist”, Written and Directed by George Vatistas. A mystery man (played by Daniel Mitura in his first short film) walks into a vintage chemist late at night, in search of a particular individual (Robert W. Smith) who supposedly possesses an undetectable poison. What starts out as a simple transaction, quickly spirals into chaos as hidden agendas arise.

Maire, a Writer/Producer, and Director (among other things) was kind enough to reach out to AdamTheMovieGod seeking a review for some of the work his production company “Airebedd” has put out in recent years. The Hobbyist serves as Vatistas’s debut short film and it’s an impressive one at that. Cinematographer, Ryan De Franco has built quite a career in short filmmaking and his vast skillset is well and truly on display here. Everything is nicely framed and the shot choices are simple but productive. The audio track is controlled and Robert Eletto’s score is something entirely new. He invokes a sort of magical essence to the sound of keys and adds what sounds like individually plucked notes on a harp. Mitura and Smith’s performances are lively and believable, and the story takes an interesting intriguing direction.

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On the downside, I was a bit disappointed that George conveyed central information disclosed between the pair of men via intentional inaudible dialogue. Some viewers are likely to want to hear the details Sangstrom (Mitura) shares with the chemist. It’s no great mystery though as things start to unfold, but I still think the drama may have hit home a little harder had Vatistas went the other way. It could have even served as a point of exposition for Sangstrom to elaborate on having carried out previously tried means before actually resorting to the toxin. There’s a scene displaying Sangstrom standing around waiting for the shopkeeper, done so through a rather simple time lapse. I think a few more diverse shot choices to further highlight his stress levels during that time would have been of benefit.

The Hobbyist is a stylish little short from 2016 and a wonderful debut film from Vatistas. The script has a hint of the criminally underrated “Five Fingers” about it, and the presentation is even reminiscent of something like “Predestination” (one of my favorite science fiction films). The camera work is slick, the audio is clean, and Eletto’s score is one of the standout features. The performances are both good and the narrative is engaging despite a couple of missed opportunities. I could have gone for some more back and forth discourse between the two characters and the inclusion of a few more frames would’ve helped drive the suspense. All in all, this is a great little film and I urge people to check out the teaser trailer below and keep an eye out for the release, Enjoy!

My rating for “The Hobbyist” is 8/10

Prey (Review) One hell of a first date…

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PREY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Bill Whirity for sending me an online screener of his 4-minute Horror/Thriller short “Prey”. Prey opens up at the tail end of a movie date between young adults Ben and Casey (played by Jacob Zachar and Jessica Cook). Whilst walking back to their car they discover they’ve been set upon by a pickup truck and must fight to survive the night. The film also stars Jimmy Sieczka and Monte.

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Whirity’s speedy setup is a simple and relatable one. Those awkward moments on a date where you’re just feeling the other person out, trying to make a good impression. In this case, doing so by discussing the post-game wrap up (so to speak) on the movie they’ve just come out of seeing. Prey is nicely shot by experienced DP, Edd Lukas (The Gallows). Everything is framed quite nicely and the Steadicam approach works well. The audio track is crisp and clear and the music evokes mysterious tones that complement the material. I remember seeing Jacob a few years back in the leading role in “Detention Of The Dead”, a thoroughly enjoyable zombie take on the iconic film “The Breakfast Club”. As for the stunning Jessica Cook, she featured alongside Matt O’Leary in “Stung”, another solid independent horror film. The pair’s chemistry here feels natural and they both deliver good performances.

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I think the combination of some dark color grading and the scarcely lit car park results in a somewhat overly shadowy final image. It came to my attention because of a cut during an ambiguous moment where a character ends up hitting the ground and there doesn’t appear to be any reason for it. They’re standing side on in relation to the vehicle, plus it’s stationary. The whole sequence was a little vague. Unfortunately, Prey’s inevitable twist is a rather predictable one, although that could just be because I’ve grown used to anticipating such things.

Prey is my first venture into the work of Bill Whirity, and it made for a thoroughly entertaining introduction. The camera work is well conceived, the audio is sharp, and the two performances are fun. I would’ve liked to have seen the film lit slightly better, as well as that first flash of action re-cut and edited for continuity sake. Seasoned viewers are likely to see the twist coming, but thankfully it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of this one. Prey feels a bit like a segment out of one of the early V/H/S films and it’s sure to please horror fans. Keep an eye out for this one very soon!

My rating for “Prey” is 8/10