Extended Reviews 2019


WINTER 2019

 The Perfect Murder by Vikkramm Chandirramani

The Perfect Murder, though a drama, carries a great comedic punchline. We, as viewers, are lead to believe that this struggling actor has found himself in a sticky situation with his wife and his fling. The whole narrative, built on this idea of someone who has indulged a little too much of course, is brought to a complete simmer with the film’s concluding moment – how the perfect murder is pulled off.

This aside, the film is quite well delivered. The photography has a few moments of great beauty and the two lead actresses seem to be playing off each other (even though their screen time is apart). As a cinephile, I have to immediately draw a comparison here with the duality of the lead female performances with the 1977 masterpiece That Obscure Object of Desire. Vikkramm Chandirramani does a great job here of creating a similar feeling to Luis Buñuel’s film.

The film’s strongest suit is in its overall arc, and the ability it has to polish off its qualities with slight self-awareness to its understanding of being a drama that contains comedy. The only improvements one can make beyond this is to improve on the overall style of the project and allow a cinematic language to further develop and shape the content at hand.

All in all, this is a great fun project – and a film worthy of a viewing!

 Roadside Assistance by Ali Matlock

Roadside Assistance comes with a certain ‘unpacking’ quality. I say this in the sense of how a film, or any work of art, has the ability to extend itself beyond its casual linear context. In this case, there’s the obvious gritty plot (your usual horror ‘encounter’ premise), and then, along with this, the film comes loaded with a variety of extensive tools – the mode of survival, the role of survival and of course, the social and economic context of survival.

In this little short film, we are provided with the relatable couple, the usual ‘on the road’ duo. But their pairing, which is thrown into conflict within this journey and their interactions with a stranger, evokes a certain lamentation over death, and the fight to escape mortality.

The film’s overall grasp of its technical aspects is all moderately placed within the film’s handling of the budget. The photography, editing and design are comfortably sharp and well attuned to the audience’s desires. I’d love to see Ali Matlock make a feature film, one with a bigger budget. He carries a great sense of style, and there’s no denying that he would make a great genre director.

I could in fact, histrionics aside, see Matlock and his team as one of the Dark Castle Entertainment horror film production teams who once helmed the genre in the 2000’s. Their work here, with its almost modern-Gothic feeling, feels equal to those film titles.

 Blackbetty by Marco North

Blackbetty should have been entered into our competition – why? Because it would have lapped up some noms and even a few wins. Well, at least this is my opinion.

The project comes packed with some forceful and impressively designed shots. Often these images are high in contrast and boldly done. Along with this, there is a real sense of the locale and space which the project inhabits, both on-screen (the actual places it is set within) and off-screen (the psychological rendering of daydreaming, cinematographic spaces and our placement within these). These elements, in totality, have a fine balance of how cinematic storytelling works, and how the edit can be used to enhance this further.

The music and acting are fairly consistent, and likewise, the script seems to tread a comfortable understanding of itself, as well as the exploration of the project’s themes and overall idea of movement (mainly explored through the project’s shifting locales, the pivotal character of each narrative, and the splicing of these things together).

My only gripe – and it is one that many will read and stammer over, is that this actually felt more like a film than a web series or new media video project. And because the project’s form is the latter two, and not the former, I can’t help but feel that it didn’t live up to its own fantastic qualities. But, please note – I am a snob. A total film snob.

PS. Fantastic opening credits. Can other web series have credits like these please?!

 Old Girls on The Road by Tracey Walker

The fantastic charm of Old Girls The Road is served up quite fantastically within this single episode – Ms. January.

The presenters, both of whom carry a certain energy and passion for their subject, narrate and carry the show predominantly. Despite the guests and the cars, the ‘real’ show is the hosts. They have a great world view and hunger to share it with us (the viewers), and furthermore – the age difference between the duo makes for some fun interaction in a sense of a character clash which isn’t competitive, but rather engaging and fun.

The photography varies its qualities, but overall captures the talent within a fantastic sense of speed and framing (in the sense of how it is collated together), and the music tends to simply enhance this further – acting more as a lubricant than a solo piece (not a complaint might I add). These two elements could be a little slicker really. But it isn’t a real axe to grind either.

The best part of the show though (shy of the presenters, as discussed above) is the combination of its edit, and the varied locales. There is a real sense that the subject matter at hand, and the journeys undertaken by this documentary team, who are bringing something to the screen we haven’t seen before (ie – this isn’t some slappy macho car show). It is something fun, fresh and well edited. It’s fast, slick – but also tonal, and has a real sense of what makes itself enjoyable and when one needs to move on.

All in all – just fantastic really!

 Jesus Rides A Harley by Michael Boston

With Jesus Rides A Harley, Michael Boston delivers a knockout combination of a comedic ensemble, and well – his own lead performance as this sort of wonderboy miracle spinner!

The film’s structuring, which is greatly enhanced by a rule-breaking plot, shifts its core focus of what is presumably a romantic comedy into a surreal fantasy like a comedic voyage. It smells a bit like a John Hughes high school film in this sense, whereby the encapsulated genre and presentation are actually just a fantastic character study that includes some heartwarming messages and overall showstopping set pieces.

The only real flaw here is the cinematography, which is paired with its editing. Both at times feels a bit at odds with the content, often flexing their technical muscles in the wrong direction (the edit a tad fatty, and the cinematography featuring some fancy throwaway moments that feel more dramatic than comedic).

Issues aside (as they are minor remarks), this is yet another fantastic effort from a team that have delivered time and time again. It is a real joy to see Mr. Boston and his teams work on an on-going basis. And one can only wish that he’d get a chance at making a feature film… one that contains some of his stable characters, insights into the human pysche and textured locales.

 Yort by Duane Michals

With a sort of Guy Maddin by way of digital distortion, comes another wild adventure from Duane Michals – Yort!

What a delightful magic lantern styled presentation. For one, we have the circular frame, which is in itself an underappreciated film form, which Michals fully utilises to evoke a real sense of nostalgia and format. This is further enhanced by the post-production effects, which distort the film’s colours, its opacity and overlay. Furthermore, the film’s adventurous journey is used as a sort of backdrop to a series of homemade locales and some ‘slight of hand’ puppeteering.

The film’s only real core is its lack of a character, though it gasps full of energy and caricatures within its mirror of wild distorted attractions.

 You or Me by Yana Zinov

The core mechanics of You or Me is its concept of duplicity – a fine trick for low scale short films, and a fantastic tool with which to minimalise a film’s overall expenses and production conflicts.

The technical tools at hand though, these being the overall stylistic and operational choices made by director Yana Zinov, seem to be an odd balancing act of style and overindulgent delivery. There is a great sense of space, and more so of a stylistic vision, but it rarely seems to veer into a cinematic realm, often finding a comfort amongst the simple TV style of master and coverage rather than something more unusual and ‘edgy’.

This isn’t to say that the film isn’t well made – it is, and very consistently so… but it often lacks a feeling of being richer than the content at hand: an unwanted guest invading one’s personal space, psyche and life.

In a vague sense, the film is a very confident piece, and one which seems to elevate above the average short film produced… however, in a sort of self-aware motto – the film never steps too far away from its core concept of being a combination of two staged performances combined as one with a psychological twist. In a sense, we’ve seen this before… though, perhaps, it has never been done with such a glamorous location or chutzpah since Fight Club.

 Abra Cadaver by Duane Michals

Duane Michals’ is back with a mystery box this time – Abra Cadaver. It is perhaps one of the most bizarre shorts we’ve ever had, mainly because it is so self-aware that one almost feels like the film is a joke of itself than in itself. But it is also mighty creative and has a feeling of the bygone – a celebration of past time practices of magic, gatherings of magic, and well, the showmanship of the 20th century.

The main premise seems to revolve around a gathering of magicians, or performers (one has to consider the magic show as a bit of a farce really), who have a series of ‘deaths’ occur. The whole thing is a bit of a ‘slight of hand’, though not so much in terms of the magical practices, but rather that of cinema itself. The theatrical presentation, headed by Michals himself, is brought forward by the idea of him as a sort of host for the film. The kind of eyeglass that moves through space and somehow is incorporated into all of the drama and mysticism.

The only real flaw of the film is the film technique. Little care is given to the style of filming, and the photography at times veers off into that early digital look of the 2000’s, rather than say the current decade. Though of course, with such an experimental subject matter, digital ‘looks’ become a part of the style, and are perhaps intentionally flat in lighting and a bit staged.

All in all, as ever, Michals’ work here is at the very least intriguing, and memorable. I’m still not sure what it is that we’ve seen… but it is a delight just the same.

 The Little Chapel by Richard Schertzer

Richard Schertzer’s The Little Chapel is a short horror delight. First off, the short has this fantastic establishment of the old chapel – it’s presentation is made within a series of opening montage shots with the credits, all of which seem to hint at that B-Movie base, one which is further enhanced by the film’s simplistic ‘gotcha’ plot. Overall, the film’s eerie locale and the way with which it is captured is the strong suit of the production overall.

The minor hiccup that really hits The Little Chapel is its lack of plot, or perhaps, the impact of what it has plot-wise. The chapel as a cage is a fantastic idea, especially considering the stigma dogmatic practices can evoke in people and societies, but all of that is ignored in terms of opportunities here… and the simple supernatural building plays out instead, or does? The film ends as a sort of punchline to its own genre, so – I guess to a degree the film might be in itself a sort of parody of horror films, rather than say a pastiche of one. The confusion around this, and what the film is trying to say is somewhat embedded in the film’s plot. In terms of beats, more time is given to credits than the film’s dialogue, character or purpose.

Overall this film is a micro short, and one that can be enjoyed as such. With a bit more wit and atmosphere, it would serve as either a fantastic premise for something that Funny or Die would make, or perhaps a Crypt TV production.