I first encountered the work of Dom Portalla and Ken Flott, the men behind the short feature Nicky, in the fall of 2010. Portalla had directed the ambitious low-budget thriller The Darkness Within (which came to me via longtime friend of FMWL Cortez the Killer over at the rockin' Planet of Terror), which featured a key side performance by the attention grabbing Flott. It was a good little film that piqued my interest in the folks at Door Eleven Productions, and that interest has thankfully led me to a pretty fantastic short film today.
As a bit of an obsessive nerd, I remember a lot of weird things that I hear on the internet. Back when I was checking out that flick, I remember a tweet or interview or podcast or something featuring Portalla where he was talking about some kind of difficulty with the film's story and was resigned to admit something like "Thankfully, we had Flott." I remember being taken aback by the frankness of the director, who seemed unwavering in his confidence that this man was a one-of-a-kind talent. Seeing what they've done now, it's easy for me to understand why.
Which brings us to Nicky, which is directed by Portalla, based on a short story by Flott, and co-written by the duo. Look at the poster and you will literally see three lines of credits that feature only these two names, plus Flott as the top billed member of the cast.This is by no means a two man show entirely - the 30 minute short has more characters and settings than you'd expect based on its length - but it is a showcase for Flott, who moves through the film and commands our attention at every turn.
The story follows Flott as a nameless man who is searching for his little brother, Nicky, who vanished years ago without a trace. We learn a lot about the man through an inner monologue that plays as narration - not to mention his brief conversations with his unconventional best friend - and it's not hard to see where the plot is going as we watch this man move through his life. But, as he did in The Darkness Within, Flott demands our attention and makes the character fascinating.
His journey goes to dark places, which makes Nicky a trip down an unsettling rabbit hole. There's violence and there's foul language and there's even the obvious statement about human trafficking, but there are also some truly unsettling moments that go beyond the expected. The appearances of young Charles Everett Tacker as the title character - usually accompanied by a beautiful score by Danielle Samson - add an air of mystery to the film and push us to that great spot where we're not quite sure what to believe. The end result of these scenes will surely be some conversation about what happened or didn't happen, what was "real" or "not real".
Nicky is an impressive piece of filmmaking. It's put together well by Portalla, well acted by Flott and company, and - most importantly - unique and engaging. It left me wanting more - it's easy to see this story blown up to feature status with all the questions that remain and the characters that are being established - but it also left me satisfied with what it is. The Darkness Within seemed like a fun diversion, the kind of flick a bunch of talented friends make when they're just seeing what they can do. Nicky seems like the next step in the evolution of Portalla and company as filmmakers, and I'm willing to guess that anyone who meets Nicky won't soon forget it.
For more information on Nicky and Door Eleven Productions, make sure to head over to their official site or hit the film up on Facebook. And, of course, check out the trailer below.