The Collective, Vol. 3
Working with the theme "10 Minutes to Live," the writers and filmmakers contributing to The Collective, Vol. 3
have created an intriguing, one-of-a-kind indie horror short film collection comprised of 10 films with each featuring a different female writer or director. A project started by Jason Hoover and JABB Pictures, The Collective
has quickly become known amongst fans of indie horror for its uniquely themed films and the distinct artistic voices who contribute to the collections. While all the films were required to work around the central theme of "10 Minutes to Live," each filmmaker/writer came up with their own unique way of approaching the theme with results ranging from horrifying to deeply touching. Here's The Independent Critic's brief reviews of each of the 10 films in The Collective, Vol. 3:
- Home Security
Written and directed by Kate Chaplin, Home Security centers around a home security salesman who tries to beef up sales by breaking into people's homes to scare them. The film stars L.E. Bradford, Emmanuel Carter and Sarah Moore. While Home Security isn't exactly a fresh idea, Chaplin pulls it off well thanks to her solid ear for dialogue and a terrific cast. It's an intriguing and frightening idea - that those we're trusting to protect us might have ulterior motives. Chaplin takes the basic concept and creates a suspenseful, intelligent film that ends up just about perfectly. The film also includes excellent music from Nick Cappelletti and Kevin MacLeod.
The directorial debut of Scream Queen Vanessa Romanelli (Mr. Hush, Dead Collections), Conclusion is a disturbing 10-minute short film in which four strangers check into a specialized medical treatment center not realizing that there's only one way you check out. The film features Steve Dash (Jason in Friday the 13th, Pt. 2) and Kevin Van Hentenryck (Basket Case), though the film's stand-out performance may very well come from Goldie Zwiebel as Edna. There's an underlying psychological drama in Conclusion that adds a tremendous heft to the goings on, with each character having key life moments that have brought them to this place. Zwiebel, in particular, is heart-wrenching to watch the more you watch her story unfold. However, the remainder of the ensemble cast is strong including the film's eerie nurse (Nam Holtz). The film is also written by Romanelli, who manages to give each character a front-and-center moment that stays with you. D.P. Zafer Ulkucu's camera work maximizes the use of angles and constantly gives the film a sense of instability. If Conclusion is Romanelli's debut, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
The Key was, at least for this critic, one of the weaker entries for The Collective, Vol. 3. This isn't necessarily because the film's a bad short film, but because it feels as if it's meant to be a part of a bigger project. The film, written and directed by Anderson University graduate Christy DeBruler, never quite gels and by film's end feels as if there are missing pieces yet to be revealed. The action centers around a young woman, Sophie, whom we are introduced to while she's sitting on a park bench talking with her grandfather. She has only 10 minutes to get key questions answered. While not answering her questions, her grandfather points her in the right direction then we flash forward and Sophie is awake surrounded by individuals demanding to know if she discovered the secret. Of course, she denies it but she leaves that place believing she possesses the key.
The Key feels as if it should be a longer than 10-minute short, though it could potentially work in the 20-25 minute range. The action, rather than suspenseful, feels forced and the heightened drama portrayed by the film's characters feels unnaturally developed.
Without question, writer/director Amy Carmical's The Pact is the highlight of The Collective, Vol. 3. Too many filmmakers are under the mistaken belief that tenderness and heart have no place in the world of horror, when quite the opposite is true. It's the heart and authenticity of The Pact that makes it such a beautiful and haunting film that will stay with you longer after the closing credits have rolled. The Pact, beautifully photographed by Jason Hoover in b&w, is hauntingly companioned in the film's opening minutes by Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." This eerie yet poignant musical companion provides just the right tone for a film that is sensitive, respectful, blunt and jarring in the way that it deals with the loneliness of youth, a sense of abandonment and the permanent solutions too often chosen for temporary problems. Dakota Meyer and Taylor Simmons capture the intimacy, innocence and wonder of a youthful friendship while Meyer heartbreakingly personifies a tragic young figure as the young man whose grief is unsoothable.
Everything and I mean everything about this film works, and it says much about Carmical's abundant talent that she's able to construct such a powerful, meaningful film and bring it in under 10 minutes.
Another powerful and socially relevant entry from The Collective, Pt. 3 is writer/director Shelby Vogel's volatile and suspenseful Stay, a 10-minute short that looks inside the abusive relationship of your typical perpetrator (frighteningly portrayed by Richard Elmsworth) and the woman he "loves" (Lacey Fleming). It's a remarkable challenge to build up a believably abusive relationship within the framework of a 10-minute short film without having the entire scenario feel unnecessarily histrionic and forced, yet Vogel does it by wisely focusing on one particular set-up within the relationship.
Our angry young man returns home from work, immediately becoming explosive when his dinner isn't ready. The verbal volleys begin being spewed as he corners his cowering partner, quite literally, while weaving back and forth between "You know I do this because I love you" type sentiments and his unfathomably vile rantings. Fleming wisely plays her character straightforward, neither too much as "victim" nor over-the-top dramatic. The end result is a film that unfolds with such stark realism that the ending leaves you gasping and, I admit somewhat guiltily, a bit relieved. Stay is photographed with a claustrophobic sensibility, with much of the action taking place in confined spaces that heighten the drama considerably.
Written and directed by Robbin Panet, Suffer Well is billed as a "surreal journey into the life of one obsessed man and his sanity." Panet, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008, explores the dark side of the human experience with her shorts/features and this exploration is on full display in Suffer Well. The film is not for the timid nor the closed minded, as Panet creativity and without hesitation explores that incredibly thin line between where fantasy and reality meet, dance then beat the shit out of each other. While the film is dark, its beautiful lensing and production design work together to create a visual journey that feels like Hitchcock meets Ken Russell.
In case you're wondering, that's a compliment. Suffer Well is well acted across the board and, much like Pact, is a short that grabs from its opening scene and never lets go.
He Who Watches
Shot in Indianapolis and Carmel, He Who Watches was co-directed by Kylee Wall and Katie Toomey and written by Wall. The film is centered around Laura (Sarah Hoback), a young woman who has been diagnosed with an incurable illness. Lingering between life and death, Laura becomes increasingly haunted by her recent past and a mysterious figure (Eric T. Schroeder). The strength of He Who Watches lies in Kylee Wall's creatively nuanced script and in the foreboding performance by Schroeder, who embodies this mysterious figure as, well, mysterious.
He Who Watches flounders a bit due to a hit-and-miss sound mix that occasionally gives Hoback's increasingly dramatic performance a bit of tinniness, but overall Wall and Toomey accomplish quite a bit with this low budget psychological thriller.
Judging from the tone of some of these films in The Collective, Vol.3, all I can say is I don't advise crossing a female filmmaker. Exhibit A for this argument would be Snapped, a film written by Jamie Thomas and directed by Jason Hoover. The film is a fairly straightforward thriller about a woman's discovery that her man has been cheating on her. The key action takes place over the course of eight minutes, a period of time that flashes back and forth, as the woman (Jamie Thomas) discovers the truth and her increasingly rage-filled mind contemplates her options with her man (Mitchell Thomas).
The main obstacle for this film is that given the already known theme, that of "10 Minutes to Live," it becomes obvious fairly quickly exactly where this entire production is going. While it's dramatic watching it unfold, the film lacks the suspense that one would like to see and experience in this kind of production. It may be important to note that this film was a late entry into the collection after a filmmaker dropped out, perhaps contributing to the sneaking suspicion that this is a film that just needs a bit more work before it's ready to hit the festival circuit. That said, Thomas shows tremendous promise as a writer here with a solid ear for dialogue.
Athena Prychodko (You're right, Athena! I have no idea how to say your last name) contributes this incredibly dark thriller about a jogger named Uni heading out for a routine jog that ends up being anything but routine as they start to have eerie, death-like visions and this foreboding sense of being followed.
The beautiful thing about Jog, other than its absolutely beautiful color palette, is the way that Prychodko patiently yet intentionally keeps building the film's suspense over the course of its 10-minute running time without ever spoon-feeding the viewer exactly what's going on. Has the jogger stumbled into a post-apocalyptic scene? Is the jogger potentially a madman (It probably didn't help that I watched this film shortly after the Chardon, Ohio school shooting)? Is the jogger just plain psychotic? All of these things are completely possible, and Athena wisely refuses to answer questions for the answer instead, quite brilliantly, allowing the film's colors, sounds, scenes and music to surround the viewer into a full-on sensory experience. If I had to pick a favorite "idea" for a short film on The Collective, Vol. 3 it would belong to Jog and Athena Prychodko.
Written by Taylor Simmons and directed by Jason Hoover, Palindromist is an experimental short film about the cyclical nature of life with all its redundancies, repetitions and obscure and unnoticed moments. The film stars Michelle Feaster as a woman whose actions, at times moving both backward and forward, quietly illustrate the ebb and flow of the life cycle. Rather than playing a character responding to this cycle of life, Feaster seems to actually be living out this life cycle in a way that seems to make each moment interchangeable with the next.
The film is aided by Hoover's excellent accompanying music along with camera work that is neither too intimate nor too distant, yet always seems as if there's a wall between it and Feaster's character. Palindromist is the kind of film that leaves you thinking about it and talking about it long after leaving the theatre, its character lingering in your psyche' and its images filled with meaning that is open to interpretation.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic