I Baked Him A Cake (Review)

I BAKED HIM A CAKE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Turning The Girl Productions and Writer, Samantha Kolesnik for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 5 minute Horror short, “I Baked Him A Cake”, Directed by Vanessa Ionta Wright. I Baked Him A Cake sees young Lenora (played by Lillian Gray) wanting to help bake her father a cake for his birthday. Mom (going by the stage name, Fleece) appears a little high-strung, Lenora sensing her strange behavior as the day wears on and the man of the house is late.

THE GOOD

DP, Henrik Meyer has quickly started chalking up film credits since 2011, and he certainly seems to knows his way around the camera. Meyer is a big part of the reason this micro short comes off so well polished. Employing a lot of simple but effective shot choices and consistently good framing. My favourite shots come in the form of a montage depicting Lenora making her father the cake. The audio track is one of the best and clearest I’ve heard in an independent film this year (I know from my own short the struggles with audio). Ross Childress (ex lead guitarist of Alt Rock band, Collective Soul) scored I Baked Him A Cake (his first score in fact) and it sounded quite good. There’s an unnerving sense to the bass and static sounds in the film’s opening and some unusual keyboard toward the finish. Kolesnik’s basic premise is rather subtle and I think that’s what makes it work. The bathroom set design looks fantastic and it’s one of those shorts where less is certainly more. There’s something completely unsettling about the fact that you don’t see anything in terms of physical action, just an indication of something gone awry.

THE BAD

Talented child actors are somewhat of an anomaly, and let’s be honest, you can’t expect too much from them when they’re new to the industry. Gray is mostly natural as Lenora, but with only a couple of film credits, she’s green and exudes some of that rawness that comes with inexperience. I think Samantha could’ve incorporated a correlative reaction to Lenora discovering the state of that bathroom, and what one might surmise from witnessing that. I understand that we don’t see anything per say, and who knows what she’s witnessed in that house prior, but children often react in the purest of fashions and Gray never got to illustrate that fear or sense of uneasiness. While I enjoyed the score, I do think the edit of said score, left a lot to be desired. Themes cut off suddenly and sporadically begin on a couple of occasions throughout the five minutes, almost as if they tried to cram a few too many pieces into the short run time.

I Baked Him A Cake is an interesting title for what is a unique Horror micro short. This is just Kolesnik’s second short film and she’s already showing plenty of potential with her writing. The camera work is great, the audio crystal clear and the score made up of a series of different tones. I thought the premise and its execution were well conceived and Fleece’s performance was great, Gray serviceable as well. My only minor criticisms were that I couldn’t help but feel young Lillian’s rawness in her screen presence and a few of her lines of dialogue. I think the film would’ve benefited from a more appropriate reaction from Lenora regarding the situation, and the music edit needed some work too. I Baked Him A Cake is wonderfully made and a great addition to the world of micro shorts, I suggest everyone give it a go when it becomes available. For now, you can check out the trailer below, Enjoy!

My rating for “I Baked Him A Cake” is 8/10

 

 

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Marian (Review)

MARIAN

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to BrickWall Studios and Co-Writer/Director, Brian Patrick Lim for allowing me access to an online screener of his third short film, “Marian”. Marian is a 15 minute, Horror/Drama short from the Philippines, centering on a household haunting. Young, Marian (played by Johanah Basanta) discovers there’s more to the contact she’s been having with a family member than meets the eye. The film also stars Astarte Abraham and Paw Aya Bugarin.

THE GOOD

Lim assembled a sizeable crew for his latest undertaking and the result is an atmospheric and darkly psychological creation. Brian shot and edited Marian and the quality of the cinematography is high-class. Each sequence is nicely framed and some of the gentle panning looks great. My favourite shot comes as a fearful Marian hides under the bed, looking out awaiting what might be on the other side of the door. I don’t know how Brian went about scouting this location but I’m sure glad he was able to obtain it. The old dilapidated exteriors of the Victorian style manor look seriously stylish and the creaking of the floorboards works a treat for the film’s audio bed. It may be indirectly but there’s a feel of folklore regarding restless spirits and protected children in Marian. I rather liked the lighting and set design and Toni Munoz’s piano ballad that plays throughout the opening of the film too. Not since Nicholas McCarthy’s “The Pact”, have I seen such heavy themes addressed within the parameters of a Horror film. Marian is well acted and has its fair share of disturbing visuals (even with the short run time). A special mention to the makeup department for a wonderful job on the effects.

THE BAD

Despite running just under 15 minutes, Marian does stagger a little in its pacing. There are one or two sequences that could have been cut down marginally just to tighten things up. The scene that comes to mind involves some rather nasty abuse that you’ll likely want to see over before it’s even started. I understand the context of said scene, it’s meant to be confronting, but audiences still aren’t going to like it. There’s a couple of sections with obvious ADR (additional dialogue recording), which was a surprise to me considering the set was seemingly a singular controlled location. While the practical effects are commendable, the CG enhancements on the blood look a little amateurish.

Marian is the first film of Brian Patrick Lim’s that I’ve seen, and overall I was pleased with the result. I commend him on directing, shooting and editing the film, it all looks great. I love the location, the set design and the themes on display are quite different for the genre. The acting is good, so to the practical effects work during the final act. I think a couple of scenes could’ve been shortened and Brian could’ve opted for more of the practical rather than CG during the films final scene. Minor issues aside, Marian is a great short film and a memorable one at that. It’s currently available for viewing at Crypt TV. You can find the link below, Enjoy!

My rating for “Marian” is 8/10

Holiday Fear (Review)

HOLIDAY FEAR

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Nicholas Santos for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 4 minute, Horror/Comedy short “Holiday Fear”. Holiday Fear is a Christmas themed short that picks up with young adult couple, Emily and Bruce (played by Rebeca Robles and Eric Whitten) just after an attempt has been made on their lives by a madman in a Santa costume. Now it’s up to Bruce to impress the girl and finish off the killer. The film also stars Ben Elder.

THE GOOD

Holiday Fear opens with Emily and Bruce standing atop the broken balcony of their snow-covered domicile, a bloody Santa lay seemingly lifeless below them. From there, the couple must decide the fate of this holiday intruder. Santos’s screenplay isn’t so obviously funny, but the subtle humor is evident through the dynamic between Emily and Bruce and how the conventional “horror movie” clichés are somewhat reversed. Both Robles and Whitten know the intended tone and their performances reflect that. The audio is crisp and clean and the cinematography is simple but effective. Kyle Kelley’s use of the wide shot and gentle zooming both help make for a great looking short. The score is made up of some nice synth orientated music with plenty of bass in the mix.

Holiday Fear is one of those blink and you’ll miss it type of deals, and trust me you don’t want to miss it. Nicholas has worked in short films for nearly a decade and it shows in the quality of this latest holiday themed entry. The concept takes the road less traveled in regard to the point where it picks up at, the cinematography is great and the score fits. Both actors are very watchable and there wasn’t anything I could fault in the speedy 4 minutes (if I’m nitpicking, I’d have loved to have seen some gore). Down the track perhaps we will see the events that led to Emily and Bruce’s final act conundrum. Holiday Fear will surely go down as one of the best shorts of 2017! It’s now available for viewing online at the link below. Enjoy!

My rating for “Holiday Fear”s is 9/10

 

Creeper (Review)

CREEPER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Drew Macdonald for allowing me early access to an online screener of Wanderer Films, 12 minute Horror/Thriller short “Creeper”. Creeper is an Australian made short film about a young woman (played by the beautiful Melanie Zanetti) who is unknowingly followed home by her “Uber” driver (Harry Piaggio) after a night on the town. The cat and mouse game that ensues explores the lengths people will go to for some form of human contact.

THE GOOD

Creeper has been garnering a lot of attention on the festival circuit in 2017, and being a home-grown production, I thought I best try to seek out those behind it. It turns out that between the cast and crew, less than a dozen people were involved in the film. I found the tone of Macdonald’s film reminiscent of one of Travis Zariwny’s more recent films, “Intruder”. Truth be told, Joe Tiernan’s production design and Jesse Lane’s cinematography on Creeper also give it a hint of the Giallo (70’s Italian Horror) feel. Drew’s script (which happens to be devoid of almost all dialogue barring the opening minute) sets an unnerving chain of events in motion, and the scariest part is that this premise isn’t too much of a stretch. In the world of modern technology and an ever evolving city lifestyle, the disconnect among us is present and that’s a little bit of what Macdonald touches on in Creeper. All the technical facets are unbelievably well constructed. The audio and foley are crisp and the lighting extremely moody, particularly the shots in Demi’s lounge room. The opening aerial shot establishes the city lights and helps to set the city scene, it’s a great addition for an independent film. Lane exerts gentle zooming and a couple of really effective looking focus pulls throughout the short. The approach to the camera placement and shot choices is almost always intentionally voyeuristic, giving off that slow and meticulous stalking vibe. Zanetti doesn’t feature a whole lot, but she looks stunning and is more than up to the task of playing the innocent victim. Shortly into Creeper it becomes evident it’s Piaggio’s show. I mean no disrespect at all, but this guy (and in turn character) is as creepy as they come, think Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. The intensity of the performance is conveyed mostly through his piercing eyes and that constantly restrained smirk. There’s a bit of a montage of shots showcasing his creepy actions, it plays to music as well which makes him all the more worrying. Although there’s no real on-screen violence there’s a scene involving a razor and it’s sure to make you cringe, it’s a great scene and a superb performance!

I haven’t reviewed a lot of Australian short films but Creeper is certainly the best one I’ve seen thus far, I couldn’t pick a flaw and that’s extremely rare. With all the instances and allegations of violence and harassment against women floating around in the media right now, Drew’s film couldn’t be a more relevant cautionary tale. The cinematography is fantastic, the audio clear and the lighting atmospheric. Zanetti’s character is immediately sympathetic and Piaggio’s is anything but. This mystery driver is stone faced and as cold as ice, and for 12 minutes you’re never quite sure what he’s really after. It’s a dialogue free performance and I’m calling it the best of the year, so to Creeper itself. Do yourself a favor, as soon as this one hits the world-wide web check it out! You can watch the trailer below.

My rating for “Creeper” is 9.5//10

A Time Of Vultures (Review)

A TIME OF VULTURES

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Producer, Eric Sonnenburg for sending me the link to the 8 minute, Action/Western short “A Time Of Vultures”, Co-Written by William James and Adolfo J. Kolmerer (who also directs). A Time Of Vultures sees a mysterious drifter (played by Eskindir Tesfay) enter a saloon to settle an old score. The film also stars Erkan Acar, David Masterson, Bernhard Bulling, Ronny Wagner and Stephen M. Gilbert.

THE GOOD

A Time Of Vultures was made back in 2012 and is bought to you by a number of the team involved with “Snowflake” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/snowflake-review/. There are a handful of really professionally made and entertaining western shorts floating around on YouTube, and after having enjoyed Snowflake so much, I wanted to check out more of Kolmerer’s body of work. The film opens with a few really nice shots, followed by a focus pull to reveal a Mexican (Acar) amidst an animated poker game. As a whole, the cinematography is really impressive, possibly even better than in Snowflake. Consistently good framing and plenty of intriguing shot choices drive the higher than expected production value. Adolfo goes all out with a couple of motion whip pans and an abundance of shots with slowed frame rates, which are used to great effect. Some of the lighting is gorgeous, particularly the back-lit sequence where the drifter engages with the Mexican from across the bar. The audio is clear and the foley nicely matching. I heard some momentary flute in the score that was reminiscent of any number of the scores in Sergio Leone’s films. The action choreography was solid and the way the drifter used his whip was thoroughly entertaining.

THE BAD

I was a little disappointed that the score didn’t figure quite at the front and centre like it usually does in the Western genre, but I can also acknowledge that the short format has its limits. The only aspect that took me out of the film was the fact that the two main character’s enter into hand to hand combat during the climax. Was that response ever used in the wild west? Usually it’s more of a showdown at sunset type of deal. What occurred in A Time Of Vultures was more akin to that of a martial arts film.

For the most part A Time Of Vultures was exactly what I expected it to be, a polished and entertaining little Western short. The cinematography and shot choices are expertly crafted, the audio and foley sharp and the lighting sublime. Some of the score is quintessentially geared to the genre but there’s not quite enough of it, that and I would’ve preferred to have seen the action carried out a little differently. Those issues aside, this is another impressive short from a German filmmaker on the rise. You can watch the film below and see for yourself, Enjoy!

My rating for “A Time Of Vultures” is 8.5/10

3 (Review)

3

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I just want to say thank you to White Lotus Productions and the team at Chicart Public Relations for sending me an online screener of Lou Simon’s latest feature film titled, “3”. Lou has been all over the indie horror scene ever since the release of her film “HazMat” back in 2013 *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/hazmat-review/. She’s since directed two more feature lengths, “Agoraphobia” with Cassie Scerbo and Tony Todd and more recently, “All Girls Weekend” which was made up of an all female cast. While I wasn’t a fan of the latter, I thoroughly enjoyed HazMat and have been keen to see this latest project of hers. 3 is a confined and revenge fueled, suspense/thriller that centers on a man and a woman (played by Todd Bruno and Aniela McGuinness) who kidnap her rapist (Mike Stanley) with the hopes of eliciting a confession from him. The film also stars Katie Carpenter (Maid To Order) and Jim Adams.

THE GOOD

A forewarning, this review will likely be a bit shorter than usual, as 3 can be described as one of those films that’s difficult to canvass without ruining the desired element of surprise, something I don’t want to do, especially considering this is a thriller. Make no mistake though, it’s not a reflection of the quality of Simon’s latest venture. From a technical standpoint most of Lou’s work has been well presented and 3 is no exception. The audio track appears to be all natural and consistently clear, which comes as a surprise because the basement in which three-quarters of the film is set in, must have created some headaches for the crew (reverberation wise). The cinematography isn’t overly dynamic but it’s smart. A lot of simple shot choices and setups make for speed and efficiency, two of the most important things on a self-funded independent film. Michael Damon (whose scored all of Simon’s previous films) composed a nice synth piece for the opening of the film, and the remainder of the score is made up of keys and bass but it persuasively builds the required tension.

When you think of films contained entirely within one or two locations or sets (some of which are my favourite films), they’re actually few and far between, mostly because they pose quite a challenge. How do you keep people interested or engaged? My experience tells me if you’re film isn’t built on aesthetic appeal it usually rests on good dialogue and talented actors. 3’s running time is only 80 minutes, but there’s a fair amount going on in this controlled little scenario. Simon sets up an early reveal in the opening act, something that’s often a key to drawing audiences in. Each of the three leads deliver really consistent performances, by far the best I’ve seen in any of Lou’s films thus far. McGuinness highlights her characters trepidation of the situation the two-some have decided to act on. As for Bruno, he’s forced to raise his game emotionally speaking because of the weight being carried on his characters shoulders. Then there’s Mike Stanley, who has to combine believable dialogue delivery with the physical performance of his character, clearly the most challenging of the three roles and he does it very well. 3 is also surprisingly violent for a film that forms through dialogue and not action. There’s a great scene involving a foot and the corresponding effects are more than serviceable. Lou’s script is likely to catch a few people off guard when it heads in quite an unexpected direction, that said, there are some clues along the way, but nothing that sets things in stone.

THE BAD

I noticed one or two minor issues with the sound, most notably the bass. It seemed quite loud in the mix, though that may have just been due to my set of particular computer speakers. The lighting was a little dark during the first character interaction in the kitchen too. Continuity wise the film is pretty spot on. There aren’t any real obvious lapses (at least none that I could find), although at one point Stanley’s character says to Bruno’s that he heard him talking to a woman. Those of you’ve who’ve seen the film will understand why that doesn’t necessarily compute. I continue to gone back and forth on my opinion of the climax and its eventual conclusion, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps a flashback or two may have given more of an inclination as to something going awry later.

3 is anything but a straight up suspense/thriller or revenge flick, it’s cleverly written and manages to weave its intended web of deception. The audio, camera work and score are all well executed and the pacing ensures that the film doesn’t lose too much steam. Lou sets the scene early with immediate introductions, followed by an important reveal. There’s a few nice clues scattered throughout about the potential deeper source, that and our central trio of actors turn in really solid performances. The violence is rather brief but the intensity is evident and the practical effects look good. There’s a couple of slight technical inconsistencies and one continuity blip, I’m also still undecided on whether I like the big finish or not. If I’m honest, it’s hard to deny the comparison to a film like David Slade’s expertly crafted, “Hard Candy” or even the lesser known indie film, “The Tortured” but I’m not overly concerned, because I can respect that 3 tries on something a little different in its final act. My two cents. I think Simon’s, HazMat has more of a fun rewatchability factor, but 3 is certainly her best and most professional film. Fans of contained thrillers (like the aforementioned) best check this out when it becomes available. Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “3” is 7.5/10

 

Born Again (Review)

BORN AGAIN

 

THE SETUP

Born Again is a new 7 minute, Horror/Comedy short Co-Written by Randall Greenland and Jason Tostevin (who also directs). Born Again places you right in the thick of a clumsy trio’s devil summoning ceremony. A vessel (played by the lovely Ellie Church) lay on the table, legs spread, ready to give herself over when the fourth party arrives shortly thereafter. Seemingly the most dense of them all, Greg (also played by Randall Greenland) realizes the ritual is going pear-shaped and it might just be too late to do anything about it! The film also stars Brian Spangler, Tiffany Arnold and Jaysen P. Buterin.

THE GOOD

Right off the bat I noticed Tostevin gauged a perfect sense of tone for his and Greenland’s cult themed premise, doing so through great lighting and Mike McNeese’s simple but diverse shot choices. The audio track is surprisingly clear given the film takes place inside a shed. There’s two things one can learn from watching Born Again. One, comedic timing is everything, and secondly, silence is golden. Both are examples of simple rules so often attainable but rarely applied, especially when mixed with the horror genre. You can tell just by watching this, that both Randall and Jason are no doubt funny guys in real life because it bleeds into the script. All of the cast more than do their bit and they clearly understand what is likely to generate natural chemistry. From the moment Greg shows up, it’s all about the humor in his interjections during the sacred ceremony. He can’t make heads or tails of the cloak, his mask looks like Kung-Fu Panda and he’s genuinely out of his depth in the best possible way. At one point there’s a lengthy as hell pause between all the characters, and that is in fact the best and funniest moment (in a number of funny moments) but it takes the right personalities to get it done. The finale is just a wonderful culmination of something that was one way or the other, doomed from the beginning. Credit to the practical fx team for the quality of blood and gore too.

THE BAD

My only minor complaint in this speedy 7 minutes was the look of the expanding belly of Ellie’s character. It appears as if Jason and Co opted for the practical route in order to avoid hokey CG (I apologize if I’m wrong), and while I can respect that, unfortunately the hands on approach doesn’t end up looking a whole lot better, albeit, the imagery is brief.

I recently reviewed a similarly entertaining cult themed short called “Born Of Sin” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/born-of-sin-review/ but I’ve been waiting for something a little more light-hearted like this for a long time. The technical aspects are fantastic, the premise is actually funny, and more importantly, the cast have great comedic sensibilities. Short films like this one are all too rare and aside from a misstep in regard to that tricky practical effect (it is at the best of times), Born Again is as good as they come. 2017 has been a great year for short film but this one might just be the best of the year. I can’t wait to get my hands on some more of Jason and Randall’s work and if you like other quirky shorts like Jason Kupfer’s “Invaders” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/invaders-review/ and Chris McInroy’s “Bad Guy #2” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/bad-guy-2-review/ I suggest you click on the link below and get watching!

My rating for “Born Again” is 9/10