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May 30, 2011

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Short Film Roundup

There are times when I'm a horrible blogger.  I'm sure you can think of some examples, so please, stop right there.  Today's shame comes as I was looking back at old emails and realized that I had a couple of filmmakers who I accepted work from - and then kind of forgot about.  And worse, when I realized I had a couple of short films I hadn't watched yet - I realized I had a couple MORE short films I hadn't watched yet too.  Bringing the total to four.  Like I said, horrible blogger.

Thus, it's time to get my affairs in order, and I plan to do so machine gun style.  Here's a look at four short films, each from a different perspective and style, that deserve more attention from both you and I.
Good Morning, Beautiful
(2011, Dir. by Todd Cobery.)
Official Site          Trailer

An everyman husband, left distraught after the death of his unborn child, begins to experience strange phenomena in Good Morning, Beautiful, a surreal and haunting short tale from Minnesota-based filmmaker Todd Cobery.  The man, played wonderfully by David Tufford, is a fascinating character without saying too much - primarily due to Tufford's ability to emote.  Like most people dealing with great loss, Tufford puts on a calm face as the world around him seems to be falling apart.  Or is it what's inside him that's falling apart?

At around twenty minutes, Cobery and company don't have a lot of time to tell their tale, and I must admit their finale left me a little wanting.  But the film more than makes up for any problems with its narrative thanks to the fantastic visuals and wonderful sound design.  Particularly impressive is a sequence in which Tufford's character witnesses a brutal beating in what appears to be the street outside on his television, then wanders outside to see the same thing - a man brutally beating another with a large hammer.  The scene is a rare bit of technical perfection, with eerie (yet seemingly natural) lighting and brutal sound effects leading to a swift, shocking reveal.

Though the finale leaves questions unanswered - and maybe some of them are better left unknown - the lasting impact of Good Morning, Beautiful can't be denied.  It's been a couple of weeks since I finally got around to watching it, but it still holds in my mind quite well.  It's one of the creepiest pieces of human horror in recent memory.
Damn Your Eyes
(2009, Dir. by David Guglielmo.)
Official Site      Watch it online now!

The spaghetti western has seen a bit of a revival since Quentin Tarantino unleashed Kill Bill upon the world, and Damn Your Eyes (which, despite my mind going their every time I hear it, has nothing to do with Young Frankenstein) is a 19 minute feature that is cut from the same cloth as Tarantino's epic revenge tale.  Directed by David Guglielmo, Damn Your Eyes serves as a kind of teaser trailer for what could be a bigger epic tale of murder and revenge.

The story moves quickly through different settings, including a black and white flashback to the setting event that is reminiscent of the one shown in Kill Bill.  Guglielmo doesn't appear to be simply riding the success of Tarantino's homage to Italy's westerns; his vision here certainly shows he's versed in the ways of the Italian West.  The costuming of our hero is one of the biggest indicators of this - Jakob Von Eichel's Sam looks like he walked right out of a Leone or Corbucci flick - and the musical cues are also a well done tribute to these films gone by.

Performances across the board are good, and the cast helps the film feel like a throwback to a time gone by.  And with all these pieces coming together, Damn Your Eyes is a success as both a tribute to past favorites and its own unique tale.  Most importantly, the film left me craving a bit more of the story it started, and I look forward to seeing what Mr. Guglielmo and crew have up their sleeves in the future.
Night of the Punks
(2010, Dir. by Dan Riesser.)
Official Site         Trailer

Writer/Director Dan Riesser, in a bold move, reached out to me to offer Night of the Punks for consideration at FMWL right after he read my post on my disappointment in the Hobo With a Shotgun Trailer Contest.  You might think offering someone a short film that's meant to be a throwback to '80s films right after they've voiced disapproval of those who do the same is a bad move, and generally you'd be right.  But Mr. Riesser must have assumed that his film - unlike the trailers shown in said contest - is a far more competent and worthwhile endeavor than those films were.

If he was thinking that, he's absolutely right - I had a ton of fun watching Night of the Punks play out before me. In it, a garage punk band takes on their first out of town gig, and quickly finds themselves in the middle of a demonic all-you-can-eat buffet.  Luke Edwards - who I recently wanted to smack upside the head whilst watching his child performance in Mother's Boys - takes the lead as the band's guitarist, and he - along with Aubrey Wood as his love interest and Nick Mundy as the goofball drummer - allows Reisser a cast that is more than capable of anchoring the horror comedy.

Like similar '80s horror films, there's not too much depth to Night of the Punks.  But, like the best films of that era, that didn't bother me at all.  Packed with inventive kills, slapstick gore, and goofy gags, Night of the Punks is nothing but fun; representing exactly the kind of charm I'd expect from a horror comedy.  I'm very interested in seeing what happens next for Reisser, because a film like Night of the Punks is right up my alley.
The Elusive Man
(2010, Dir. by Marc Roussel and Mark Sanders.)
Facebook      Trailer

Marc Roussel first came to the attention of FMWL with his fantastic time-bending short film Remote.  While that film provided a bit of gore in the name of terror, The Elusive Man - which was co-directed by his Remote editor Mark Sanders - is a much more light-hearted tale of crime and greed - with a bit uf gore mixed in for good measure.

Remote co-star George Komorowski takes the lead here as a rich businessman who finds himself kidnapped, missing an ear, and being accosted by a group of criminals who are searching for the titular Elusive Man, the remnants of a famous painting by Van Gogh that is, naturally, worth a bit of money.  The colorful crew, along with the businessman's young wife and her gentleman caller, come together quickly - each presenting a different part of the story - which quickly rolls to a satisfying finale.

With its brisk pace and charming wit, The Elusive Man is a simple but effective little treat that kept me smiling throughout.  Komorowski is an extraordinarily natural actor and is incredibly likeable in the role, and the supporting cast - including Remote star Ron Basch, who gives a fun turn as "the doctor" - do a great job of keeping the film moving too.  It's a simple crime and revenge tale with the expected twists, but Roussel, Sanders, and their cast keep it fresh and fun regardless. 
Thanks again to these fine filmmakers for sending along their work, and I must offer another sincere apology for the delays!  To the rest of you, I urge you to seek out these films as possible, because each of them represent the different kinds of treats that independent filmmakers have to offer us. 

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