Short Film Review: Message Received

Every relationship harbours secrets, some darker than others. When blackmailed for his, James (David Chin) races against time to keep his unsuspecting wife Simone (Danni Ai) in the dark. Not a word is spoken in the ten-minute short Message Received. Rather, dialogue happens solely through an on-screen exchange of text messages.

It works. Director Stephen Herman packs all necessary detail taut in every frame of the immersive mystery, built on a compelling amount of ambiguity. James’ concurrent message threads with his unknown blackmailer and wife aggrandise the tense situation, adding friction to his fragile relationship fractured by lies.

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Short Film Review: Tethered

Abandoned by his mother, a blind boy Solomon lives alone in the forest, abiding by his mother’s three rules of survival. He gives back to the forest that provides for them. He seeks comfort in the song they share. Above all, he never lets go of the rope that he is tethered by.

Clocking in at just around ten minutes, Tethered turns in a well-made and suspenseful horror short, much on par with a good number of full-length features. A dark cloud of foreboding drifts in place from the very start, as his mother warns of danger over her chilling recording.

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Short Film Review: Night of Natalie

Directed by Tori Pope and shot by Douglas Burgdorff, Night of Natalie is a 13-minute short drama, set in the small town of Sugarloaf, California, near the mountains of Big Bear. The story centres on the strange phenomenon that Natalie (Catherine Parker) encounters, after a fight with her artist boyfriend Jeff (Jeffery A. Baker) leaves her alone and distraught on the streets.

A perfect evening turns into a frenzied nightmare. The deceptively simple premise proves enthralling with its masterfully crafted enigma. Stylistic and surreal, Night of Natalie continually draws us in with mounting intensity, towards the dark ambient mystery at its core.

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Short Film Review: Cargo

Walking corpses, dead meat, head shot – check. But this zombie film isn’t your usual body count highlight. More akin to 28 Days Later than Resident Evil, Cargo focuses less on the infected and centres instead on humanity.

The story takes place in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, where a father tries to seek safe haven for his infant daughter. The tale of one man’s struggle for another’s survival builds a gripping, meditative mood that draws a strong connection to its protagonist.

Stripped of the genre’s typical displays of bravado, quiet moments paint a poignant picture with captivating character-driven drama – something that the Walking Dead has been lacking for a while now.

Filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke adeptly convey the meaningful and emotional drama, all within seven minutes and no dialogue. The unique horror piece plucks at heartstrings and won hearts.

It is no wonder that the Tropfest Australia 2013 finalist is still making its rounds in cyberspace. As the leading man races against his sombre imminence of death, the ending may leave one teary-eyed.

Short Film Review: Valibation

The premise behind Valibation says Cronenberg all over it. The reference isn’t subtle either. The body horror short opens with Geena Davis crying out as flesh slips off Jeff Goldblum on the television screen, while our lead character has his eyes fixed on his mobile phone.

He taps away on his little screen with no heed to the real happenings around him, which shouldn’t sound strange to most of us. Technology addiction has spun a wide web over the globe like an infectious epidemic. To some, turning to the mobile has become a reflex. So many just cannot keep away from the lure of its light, even when there is else to do.

Evading basic etiquette, the disease manifests in the most unwanted situations. People watch a film while on the move, game in the midst of watching a film, or as in the film, start to text during sex.

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