Zoe Dalman Chandla, Robb Leigh Davis, Alan Rowe Kelly, Katherine O'Sullivan, Tom Reid
It doesn't happen very often.
Typically, an evening of viewing the latest collection of submitted short films is followed by a glimpse at the calendar to look at when time will allow the subsequent writing of the review.
Occasionally, however, a film such as Contact comes along and overwhelms the senses while demanding an immediate journalistic response before the cinematic experience has even left my body. A 10-minute short film conceived and directed by Jeremiah Kipp, Contact is a black-and-white tour-de-force starring Zoe Daelman Chandla and Robb Leigh Davis as two young lovers whose drug score underneath a seedy underpass leads to an increasingly horrific trip through drug-induced psychological horrors perhaps both real and imagined.
Creating a journey that somehow manages to be both a cautionary tale of drug use and simultaneously a rather celebratory embrace of the journey one's mind travels while high, Kipp's Contact manages to be both horrifying and intellectually satisfying. Barely scripted, Contact relies on the power of its actors and the hypnotic camera work of Dominick Sivilli, whose ability to create compelling visuals on a modest budget is nothing short of astounding.
As the centerpiece of Contact, Zoe Daelman Chandla is a revelatory blend of sensuality, horror, innocence and vulnerability. The film's closing scene, unexpected yet perfectly woven into the fabric of Contact, is amazing in its simplicity and the way it integrates a core of humanity intertwined within the heightened sense of dread and anticipation. As her lover, Robb Leigh Davis provides solid companionship for the amazing journey while Alan Rowe Kelly's brief appearance as the duo's drug dealer is straightforward yet memorable.
Kudos as well to Katherine O'Sullivan and Tom Reid as an elderly couple whose actions are simple yet sinister, meaningless yet filled to the brim with meaning. These two characters, with nary a word spoken, could have easily undone Contact but both O'Sullivan and Reid magnify the film's sense of dread against the backdrop of Sivilli's camera work.
Created by Kipp specifically for what has been said to be the final Sinister Six Film Festival in mind, it feels unjust to sweep Contact into the narrow horror short sub-genre. While Contact is indeed graphic and horrifying and sinister and creepy, it is also a film that transcends genre with its intelligence, sensitivity, intimacy and, perhaps, just a touch of hope. Contact is transcendent horror.
It is often said that many directors and studios tackle a horror film because it's possible to create a convincing horror film on a low to modest budget. While this is true, to a certain degree, of full-length feature films it is quite the opposite in terms of short film. It is a difficult task to create a convincing, chilling, horrifying and satisfying horror short with all the chills and thrills packed into the span of a mere few minutes of screen time. Within a mere 10 minutes, Jeremiah Kipp and the stellar ensemble cast of Contact have created a visually compelling, emotionally resonant and intellectually stimulating journey through the internal and external worlds of a young couple and the world in which they live.