I’d just like to start off by saying thank you to first time Writer/Director, Brandon Lescure for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 29 minute, Horror/Comedy short, “The Backpage”. The Backpage follows the antics of a night at a bar with awkward but lovable nerd, Paul (played by newcomer, Brendan Krick) and his only “slightly cooler” best friend, Shane (Joe Welkie). Shane convinces hapless Paul to treat himself to a sensual massage instead of going home alone yet again. Paul decides to phone an ad he sees in the back of a newspaper, but gets far more than he bargained for when the alluring Lilith arrives (played by the gorgeous, Annabel Leah). The film also stars Summer Austria, Emily Whitworth and Rosaria Eraso.
What initially caught my attention was Matt Bennett’s graphic design work on The Backpage poster. It’s that retro, hand drawn style of design and I dig that look. In fact, most of the posters in my collection are of that type of design. I purposely avoided the reviews for this one but I liked what I’d heard through the synopsis, enough to chase it up anyways. The quality of production value in short films is usually a mixed bag. I’ve seen them made for 20k and I’ve seen them done on a hundred dollars, so you never quite know what you’re going to get when you head in blind. I was fairly impressed with the camera work, shot choices, and framing. DP (director of photography), Everett Glovier uses a couple of really effective zooms, playing with depth of field nicely. My favourite sequence is a handful of quick cuts, which are superbly edited to coincide with Lilith setting up the massage table. The audio track is one of the best features in The Backpage. Though to be fair, the short takes place entirely indoors and therefore you don’t have as much background noise to contend with. The score opens with a nice piano theme and a low-fi synth line to accompany it. The remainder of the short consists of simple bass and synth notes, very 80’s sounding.
Lescure has written a genuinely funny and free-flowing script here and it plays to the intended tone perfectly. The “leper and leopard” bit was really amusing and the Richard references in relation to “Pretty Woman” were spirited and funny. Most of the gags work and even when lead actor, Brendan doesn’t have Joe to bounce his lines off of, we still get scenes like Paul’s humorous emissions regarding his apprehension about using a website to search for girls. It’s also a nice touch when someone showcases their love for films or collectables within their movie (as a collector myself, it’s always great to see). Everyone’s acting is reliable and believable in the context of Lescure’s script. Krick is like a cross between National Lampoon’s, Tony Denman (Dorm Daze) and Jonathan Daniel Brown (of Project X), only with a lot more talent and comedic timing. Welkie has his moments as well, particularly early on in proceedings. The actresses are all great in this too, and I was indeed surprised to see that for most of them this is their first credit. Leah kind of has that irresistible thing working for her and appeared to be having a lot of fun, so to did lovely, Summer Austria playing the sassy bartender. Rosaria as “Catalina” looked stunning, it’s just a shame she didn’t have more screen time. The special fx on display are conceived practically and they look pretty good, especially some of the nasty, gooey stuff.
Some of the lighting in the bar was perhaps a little dark during the opening ten minutes or so. I don’t go to many bars and maybe that’s a natural thing but a little more color wouldn’t have gone astray. Parts of Shane’s dialogue are rather crude and there’s an excessive use of profanity where it probably wasn’t needed. It’s fussy to critique realism when you’re dealing with this kind of mash-up of genres, but I find it hard to believe that anyone in real life could be as squeaky and awkward as Paul is. Making matters worse, we’re supposed to consider that Shane is the cool one in this scenario. The problem is that Welkie isn’t exactly the poster child for “pretty boy” and I don’t see the character exerting that. Lescure could have cast with better image in mind.
The Backpage is the longest short I’ve reviewed thus far, an it’s an extremely entertaining one at that. If you took the massage element of “Horny House Of Horror” and combined it with Christopher Moore’s creature feature short, “Knob Goblins” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/knob-goblins-review/ then you’d have something resembling Lescure’s debut effort. I love the poster art and the overall production value. Slick audio, smart cinematography and a fun score are standout features. For once the comedy is actually funny and the cast handle the material exceptionally well, given most of them have no experience. Even though the twist doesn’t come as any real surprise, the special effects make it an eventful enough climax (pardon the pun). The lighting in the beginning could have used a tweak and the dialogue tidied up a bit, but other than those couple of minor gripes, The Backpage is a fantastic entry from a new film maker with a tonne of potential. I look forward to checking out future projects and I hope he continues working in the Horror/Comedy genre. Keep an eye out for this one soon!
My rating for “The Backpage” is 8/10