It's incredibly rare for a live-action horror short to have a shot at Oscar glory, but such is the case with Killer Friends, written and co-directed by Zach Noe Towers, which is set for a limited theatrical release from September 2-8, 2016 at L.A.'s Laemmle Theatres. The film has already proven to be wildly successful on the film festival circuit including playing at the Cannes Short Film Corner and picking up two Audience Awards at Dances on Films.
Killer Friends is based upon a fairly fundamental yet killer premise. After all, don't we all have that one friend? You know the one, right? It's the friend you love to hate to love. They're the kind of friend that you can't imagine life without, yet they so completely irritate the crap out of you that you kinda want them dead.
Admit it. You have one.
In Killer Friends, Zach Noe Towers plays that friend, Scott, a fabulously bitchy friend who's quick with barbs and snark yet just when you've had enough he'll throw out something completely sincere. Towers is an absolute hoot here, bringing out Scott's annoying banter with just a hint of adorability. When Scott goes a bit too far, his roommate, Jill (Jenna-Lee Carreiro), and her boyfriend, Bryan (Dave Racki), hatch a plot for a camping trip where one of them won't be coming home. Just to make sure it all works, Jill's best friend Heather (Peggy Sinnott) reluctantly, or kind of reluctantly, agrees to help out.
Of course, nothing goes quite as planned.
This 11-minute short is funny without being overly campy, more dark comedy than actual horror short. At times, it reminded me of a 2004 indie horror flick called Hellbent, one of the first horror features to have a strong LGBT angle and a film that co-starred Hank Harris, from my beloved dark comedy Pumpkin.
Killer Friends is short on gore and, unlike many horror shorts, truly relies on the tremendous chemistry of its ensemble cast. It's that chemistry that really pushes Killer Friends over the top. This film could have so easily been a disaster, but instead it's just a complete gem of a film that you truly hope manages to snag the Academy's attention. While Towers is truly fabulous here, he actually does a terrific job of keeping Scott in sync with the other characters. If you can, for example, think of Robin Williams - when unrestrained, Williams was capable of truly wrecking a film by throwing off the film's rhythm no matter how funny he was being. However, when he was actually directed well and kept his performance disciplined he'd flow with the rhythm of a film and create a masterpiece. Such is the case with Towers here, whose performance is both stand-out yet perfectly in sync with terrific performances from Carreiro, Racki and Sinnott, the latter being an unexpected scene-stealer with an understated quirkiness that was fun to watch.
For more information on Killer Friends, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic