Short Film: Paradox – A Rusty Lake Film (2018)

For those who don’t know, I backed the Cube Escape Paradox project on Kickstarter a few months ago which was paired up with the both a free game (available on mobile and Steam), a sequel after 12 puzzle escape games sort of thing. Rusty Lake has created quite the world. The distinct part of the project was not that there was a game with one free access and the second chapter which is premium, meaning you need to pay for it, but also that it also included a short film set in the universe. Rusty Lake’s world is so fantastic that I had no doubt that it would work as a short film as well. Of course, making a game and making a movie are very different things (even if some games are very narrative and would translate really well or looks like an interactive movie aka Until Dawn).

I don’t think that you really need to know the game to appreciate the short film so here it is:

However, if you want to check it out. All the Cube Escape games are free on mobile so its very accessible and they are really good. I’m still working on the last few for Game Warp.

Anyways, I always like to see the projects I backed with final products to distribute. So I decided to do a quick review of this short film.

Review

Director: Sean van Leijenhorst

Cast: David Bowles, Elena Kejvalova, Bob Rafferty (voice)

A detective must solve increasingly challenging puzzles as part of a bizarre game orchestrated by an old foe in order to escape the room he’s in. – IMDB

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cube Escape, its essentially a somewhat twisted puzzle/room escape sort of deal. The premise of the game itself and the story that it tells about the detective throughout its different game might never be the heavy focus but its present enough for it to matter. Because of that, it does feel like the vagueness makes this like an official start to the story and creates a solid foundation. At the same time, the game elements of moving by flipping through screens in somewhat of a point and click style translates well enough to make it feel like its keeping to the theme of the game adaptation. It replicates by the camera through the eyes of the character looking from one room to the next. Its a nice touch to add that in. The source story itself has its own mystery which is always a good element to add into this one. As a film, there is a tighter knit of things so it works that the detective figures out the puzzles at a good pace but at the same time, it also highlights the main elements of the mystery.

There’s a lot to think about for Paradox. The main thing is whether the non-playing audience has a good entry point here or will it feel like you are dropping into someone else’s story and get confused. In my opinion, I think it does a fine job in that respect. The story in the game was vague but present. It answered some questions but there was never a big picture (take note that I am 3 games behind from this one). However, the main characters are here, the atmosphere and style are comparable and the short film style works well enough to be a stepping stone into this Rusty Lake world and man, is this world intriguing and mysterious? They did a good job here. I would be down to see them do more of them and see where its headed for the story. Its a great idea to pair it with the game.

Short Films: Latched (2017) & Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

Today, we’re venturing into a look at two 2017 horror short films, Latched and Goodnight, Gracie.

Latched (2017)

Latched 2017

Director: Justin Harding

Cast: Alana Elmer, Bowen Harding, Peter Higginson, Jarrett Siddall

An obsessive choreographer on a creative retreat with her toddler awakens a fairy corpse with disturbing intentions – IMDB

Latched is an interesting concept. Running at around 17 minutes, it is definitely one if the longer short films I have encountered. Its a little more predictable as to where the film wants to go however if anything, it is a disturbing thought when we learn the true intentions. Playing on concepts of mandrakes and fairies in the wood and a mother’s instinct to protect her child, Latched takes us on a rather thrilling ride with some genuinely creepy moments. While the plot itself falls into familiar themes, the standout of this piece is in fact the beautiful and haunting score accompanying it and the isolated location.

In all its beauty, Latched is a little predictable but also quite odd. However, there is a charm to this one perhaps in its attempt to let us understand our characters slightly while letting the horror aspects play out in a few jump scares after building the atmosphere. Its a creepy idea and one that is fairly well executed.

Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

goodnight gracie

Director (and writer): Stellan Kendrick

Cast: Caige Coulter, Courtney Gains, Zoe Simpson Dean, Brad Goodman

After mom gets hacked to pieces by her latest lover, a devout child fights to escape the same fate. – IMDB

 Goodnight Gracie makes a very good statement in how a very well executed film can have its moment just by well timed cues despite its length. Running at 4 minutes, Goodnight Gracie is truly feels like a scene of a film that has a deeper meaning of faith and perhaps the naivety of children. In the face of danger and witnessing something horrifying, Gracie chooses to lock herself in her room, go under the covers and read texts of the bible in seek of comfort or a miracle. There is terrifying moments best brought out with films that work on child endangerment themes from the close-ups of the killer to the quick mumbles of words as Gracie hides under the covers. It brings out the familiar of hiding away from the world and its problems to seek refuge. Its a great premise and the director writes a great script that is executed well with shots that shy away from revealing too much while still building tension and making us for that brief few minutes care for Gracie. And when the film ended, I wanted more.

Luckily, after some research, it seems they are looking to expand this idea into a feature film, which I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for it.

Short Film: Morning After (2017)

Morning After (2017)

Morning After

Director: Patricia Chica

Cast: Thomas Vallieres, Kristian Hodko, Jordana Lajoie, Joey Scarpellino, Zoe De Grand Maison

Michael is faced with a dilemma, when a night of drinking with friends, turns into a sensual exploration of sexual identity. – IMDB

Morning After is the prequel for a full length feature film that is currently in the works. In the fifteen minutes runtime of Morning After, there is so much to love. The shots are framed well and being from the beautiful city of Montreal, it makes for a great setting for the story it wants to tell as well. As for the story, Morning After aims to tell one that evolves into a sexual fluidity and have the freedom from having labels. Its quite an accomplishment to achieve that simply from a short film but this short film does it very well especially when centering around a friendly gathering that takes a turn for a much more sensual and eye-opening experience.

Morning After

I love watching films that explore these open-minded relationships. There is something about watching someone grow from learning/embrace their nature and their sexuality that is very intriguing. The best example is Spanish romance drama, The Sex of the Angels (review here) which takes a similar approach to the characters embracing or accepting a functional relationship with more than two people. We watch films to not only entertain but broaden our views of the world around us and films that break away from the norm offer unique feelings and angles to the traditional romance.

With that said, Morning After is a short film that carries its message very well. Other than some awkward monologues, the film itself shows off a liberating feeling. Perhaps a little simple in the sense of just friends talking and then it starts raining and they all dance in the rain but standing in the rain is a cooling experience and one that works well when people enjoy nature. An example from Morning After of how it does a truly liberating feeling. Its a journey for the main character here in this short film to acknowledge this new view and mindset. It will be interesting to see what the full feature will offer and the story they choose to tell.

Fantasia Festival Short Films

This year, we’re doing things a little different. Previous years, I’d do the short films before the movie review that its paired up with for the Fantasia Festival showing. This time, since I chose movies coincidentally without a lot of short films and there is only two, I’m doing a lovely little double feature to cover them. I’ve always been impressed with the short films shown at Fantasia and this year is no exception.

Quenottes (Pearlies) (2016)

Quenottes

Director: Gil Pinheiro & Pascal Thiebaux (writer)

Cast: Lionel Abelanski, Matthieu Clément-Lescop, Frédérique Bel (voice)

Quenottes (Pearlies) is a story about a little mouse, but not just any mouse. It is THE little mouse, or tooth fairy, of your childhood. The one that brought you your first coin in exchange for the tooth under your pillow. In everybody’s mind, the little mouse is a benevolent and generous character… What if it isn’t ? What if it is actually a neurotic psychopath obsessing about its collection of dental trophies? If a tooth is missing, it simply must be replaced. By any means necessary…-IMDB

There is some intricate planning for how these short films are paired up because this French partially animated horror short matched perfectly with the film Before I Wake. Both played on a fairy tale-esque sort of story. You can see the Before I Wake review HERE. Quenottes is done so well. It plays on the tooth fairy story which seems innocent enough. As a father and son clean out the grandmother’s house, the father finds a hidden spot in the wall where a tin holds the teeth he lost and gave to the tooth fairy. When he drops the tooth he had and it falls into the cracks, we know something is wrong. In the short film, its effective because it brings an incredibly uneasy dark tone. On top of that, the animation is done incredibly well for the mouse. Its eerie and before we even know its a mouse, all we have are the quick patters and the constant feeling as it spies on the father and son. Not to mention the short film is accompanied with really ambient music.

Quenottes is a 12 minute short film but one that is worth a watch if you get a chance.

Roadside Assistance (2015)

Roadside Assistance

Director and writer: Bears Fonté

Cast: Sarah Fletcher, Joel Gross, Kelsey Deanne, Ronald Bush

A mysterious woman stranded by the side of the road hitches a ride with a passing stranger – neither of them is who they seem.-IMDB

For a seven minute short, Roadside Assistance carries quite a bit of plot. Sarah Fletcher plays the mysterious girl who gets picked up and she is definitely hard to grasp. Her character is provocative but at the same time, we soon learn is special. She captures her role perfectly. It also makes us wonder whether there is something more to it. Maybe the potential of a full feature. Regardless, Roadside Assistance carries a rather suspicious tone but pulls the stops at an unexpected moment and teasing the audience with a little more. These few minutes of the short is all about the subtleties in the actions and conversations.