I always get worried when the rule gets broken.
Which rule you ask?
The fundamental rule of indie filmmaking - don't stretch your film's story and technical requirements beyond the limits of your budget.
It seems simple. Doesn't it?
Following the rule saves everyone a whole lot of embarrassment.
There's nothing more frustrating than having to trash a film solely because the filmmaker got the notion to create a larger than life monster flick, for example, but thought that their fantastic story would compensate for the fact that their film looks like crap.
It doesn't work.
Then, there are the exceptions.
Now then, truthfully, I have no idea what the exact budget was for Lukas Hassel's 14-minute sci-fi short film Into the Dark, but I'm pretty darn sure what we have here is an actor, writer and star of the film who had a vision for their film and creatively found ways to make it happen and, perhaps even more surprisingly, actually make it work.
Into the Dark is a true sci-fi short and not just a sci-fi short that does a good job of talking the game. It's a genre that doesn't exactly lend itself to the whole idea of "low budget," but Hassel has crafted a story here that is compelling and intellectually satisfying while also creating a production design and infusing it with visual effects that far transcend anything you'd possibly expect to come from a short film.
Hassel, whom you may remember for his leading role in the critically acclaimed In Montauk, has the lead role here and he serves up a performance that is emotionally honest and slowly revealing. He's companioned in the film by Lee Tergesen and the voice of Laura Fay Lewis, though there's no question that Hassel's character of 58527 is the force that drives everything that goes on in this film set in the not so distant future.
D.P. Henry B. Lee, who also co-produced the film with Hassel, has created lensing that is simultaneously intimate yet claustrophobic. It manifests both this sense of awe and dread even though there's no defined reason for the dread to exist. Paula Siqueira's visual effects do a terrific job of enhancing the film's psychological impact, while T.K. Ballentine's original music lends the film an ethereal quality that works rather perfectly with everything that unfolds.
It is seldom that a short film is a true feast for the heart, mind, and senses. It must be said, however, that Into the Dark accomplishes this in quite fine fashion. The film is already proving to be quite successful on the film festival circuit and after having been seen at last week's VisionFest in New York will follow that up this weekend at the New York Shorts Film Festival to be followed in the near future by appearances at the Hoboken International Film Festival, Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival, Long Island International Film Expo, and another good half dozen already on the books.
For more information on Into the Dark, visit the film's website linked to in the credits on the left. If it's coming to a festival near you, I definitely recommend you check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic