Tag Archives: short

Pre Vis Action


by Nicholas Lay (@laidbaremedia)

From the minute I saw the debut trailer for The Raid back in 2011, I knew Welsh director Gareth Evans was on to something. Follow a stagnant decade on the Hollywood action front, it was a British filmmaker working in Indonesia who finally broke substantial new ground. The result was the finest cinematic action experience since The Matrix, propelling Evans, his stars, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, and the Indonesian fighting style of pencak silat into the global spotlight. The 2014 follow up, Berandal, whilst arguably even more spectacular in action-based execution, demonstrated perhaps that Evans still has some way to go when it comes to truly rounded filmmaking. Indeed, the final version felt more like a shoehorned mish-mash of theoretically cool ideas, many of which didn’t necessarily translate as well on screen as they had done during the more tightly focused definition of edge-of-your-seat intensity that was The Raid.

With the trilogy’s final installment still somewhere over the horizon, Evans this week whet our appetites by releasing, out of the blue, a stripped back, dialogue-free, black and white action short, Pre Vis Action. Set during the time of the Samurai, the basic plot consists of two assassins attempting to stop a messenger getting from A to B…

Filmed on location in rural Wales, the production consisted solely of Evans – shooting on a Sony NEX-7 – and his cast; once again featuring the ever-dynamic Ruhian (who had a hand in the scene’s overall design and fight choreography) alongside Hannah Al Rashid and Cecep Arif Rahman, the latter of whom also played a part behind the scenes.

Meticulously crafted, the picture comes across as a kind of Gareth Evans shot catalogue, positively overflowing with his trademark visuals, and a stark reminder of his ability to create atmosphere using nothing but spectacle. Whereas his feature films have proven him a master of camera placement within frantic action sequences – an underestimated, under-appreciated skill in the world of martial art movie making – here we’re given a gloriously unrestrained tour of Evans’ equally impressive understanding of camera movement, and how it can be used to make the most of a frame when shooting an action scene. Flowing with the action, up close and personal, the intrusive steps forward, jumping pull-backs and sweeping camera pans feel wonderfully natural, designed with a clear understanding of editing and pacing that plays to the cuts present in the final reel. The well integrated, traditional percussion-heavy score helps tie everything together.

The fight itself may not be the star of the piece when compared to the technical aspects, but it is of course the main beneficiary, and is highly enjoyable as a result. Having previously excelled in hand-to-hand combat, gunplay, and vehicular stunt work, it was only a matter of time before Evans tried his hand at swordplay. Well put together, with call backs to both Japanese and Hong Kong cinema (those bendy swords produced an overpowering flashback to the Shaw Bros. and Golden Harvest eras – think Jackie Chan’s temple fight in The Young Master), it’s a graceful affair utilised in the form of a successful experiment on Evans’ part. Whether or not The Raid 3 will be the full steak and chips remains to be seen, but, either way, it could well be time to once again get excited.

Though it certainly has the look of a sequence shot over a mere three days, a completely polished article was never likely to be the intended end game for Pre Vis Action. Nonetheless, from an action fanboy point of view, it’s charming in a thoughtful, sort of high-grade amateur fashion, and a more than welcome reminder of what Evans is capable of going foward.

Let Go

YQGLYTdZdDmTPM73C51SXP4t2vRTZCnoM62iG3_rb0AThe sun beams through the trees on a new morning. It promises a day full of love, connection and life.

Isabel Dréan’s 14minute long short movie begins with an optimistic view of the world. Two small children, Claire (Milan Coté Dréan) and Mathis (Jaz Coté Dréan), are frolicking about in bed with their mother (Claudia Ferri) before they have to get up for school. Gentle piano keys tinker in the background whilst a warm shade of light shines across the screen as they children’s imagination leads to stories about magic and dinosaurs.

A brief glance again to the heavens outside with sunlight piercing the clouds comes shortly before the family take the car journey to school where once again there’s more singing, more playing and joviality.

But as quickly as this dreamlike sequence begins, it’s suddenly over. We’re back in the bedroom again, but this time, there’s no Claire.

And so the real story of Dréan’s multiple award winning short starts to take shape. There’s a complete tonal shift from what starts out so hopeful and inspiring, moving to a bleak descent into loss and depression. Piece by piece, it fall into place and the true story of a mother having a child ripped from her life takes hold.

It’s a clever way to begin the film because it only makes the latter half even more traumatic an experience. I don’t personally have kids, and even I could feel that sick sensation in the pit of my stomach at what a horrible thing losing a child would be for someone to go through.

I’m not the only person to feel that way too, it seems, as the prestigious Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival recently awarded Let Go with a Best Picture award. Isabel Dréan also picked up a Best Director award for her achievement.

“This film is very personal to me as I made it with my own children. As a mother, nothing is scarier than the thought of losing a child. It was a very challenging artistic process.  Every one involved was passionate about the project, I’m happy that our team is getting recognized for their effort.”

Whilst it somehow seems a shame that Jérôme Boisvert didn’t pick up an award for his score on Let Go, there is some justice in the world that Philippe Toupin was awarded Best Cinematography for his part in the film. Some of the shots in what is essentially an indie, crowd-sourced project are very impressive indeed. Particularly the final shot – which I’ll refrain from spoiling! But wow. What a way to end it.

From The Babadook, to Secret Sunshine, to even Marley & Me, films about loss, separation, grief and the anxiety that goes with it are almost always guaranteed to make you a bit weepy eyed. It seems like it would be a failure of the filmmakers if you are not to emotionally connected to a story like that.

For Let Go to not only attempt to tackle a subject like that, but to also do it effectively with such a short amount of time, is pretty remarkable. It’s not an easy watch by any means. The foreboding early on and crushing inevitability leaves you squirming a little in your seat, but it’s all the same a neat, affecting short psychological drama.

For more information about Let Go and Isabel Dréan’s work, visit her official website or view the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/141205507.

The Package

the package

How far would you go to get something back?

Fans of last year’s FrightFest coverage may remember a short film we raved about called The Tour, starring Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff, set in an old haunted English house. Writer and director Damon Rickard’s The Package, the follow-up to his chilling thriller, will be hitting the international festival circuit soon. It will be making appearances at the likes of Scream in the Dark, Weekend of Horrors, Puerto Rico Horror Festival and the Cornwall Horror Festival (a little closer to home) – and we’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peak at his latest twisted tale.

Actor Tom Gordon – a co-star of Cameron and Dorff’s in The Tour – returns for Rickard’s newest production, where he mercilessly intimidates, threatens, beats and tortures a mysterious stranger (Dan Palmer, Stalled). Who is he? What does Gordon want from Palmer? Why is he tied to a chair, seemingly unaware of why this is happening to him?

Or… is he unaware?

You see, The Package begs its audience to carefully consider the situation. As clues are gathered throughout the duration of the relatively short 15 minute run time, squeezed out of the dialogue an inch at a time, it’s clear that the intention is not to paint you a pretty picture of good vs evil. “Who is the villain of the piece” is not at all a straightforward question and you soon learn that as quickly as one fact may be established, the next may provide some further context that completely flips it on its head, keeping you guessing right the way through to its eventual and satisfying conclusion.

The most difficult element to get right in a short such as this is the pacing. Give away too much too quickly and you’ll kill any suspense before it’s even begun, but if things move too slowly, then there’ll be no momentum – or worse, the ending will be rushed.

I’m pleased to report that The Package suffers very little from these problems and is a keenly scripted, well edited suspense thriller. Credit is due not only to its screenplay, but the whole production values belie the micro-budget the crew had to work with. Visually, the setting is well chosen and atmospheric, with some rather nice individual shots of its two high performing stars. The score, produced by Eric Elick (who also worked on The Tour), also suits the tone perfectly.

However, getting back to the budget for a moment, this film only exists because there were fans out there willing to back Rickard’s project via its Indiegogo page before production had begun. They managed to raise £4,383 in funding, which in the grand scheme of the multi-million dollar films released at your local cinema every week, it may not seem like a huge amount. In actuality, it’s a mightily impressive figure for a short like this to achieve. Especially when they were only asking for £3,500 initially, which they surpassed by some distance. Take a look at the last entry to my June In Review article to see how easy it is to mess up a film on a budget of a similar size. To get a final product in The Package that was this good from that much money is highly commendable.

And it is a good, intriguing, exciting short movie. But it’s not perfect. Once or twice you do wish that they would just get on with it. You have an inkling as to what the eventual outcome might be, and as much fun as it is getting there to find out, occasionally the dialogue’s restrictiveness does not work in its favour. The concept of drip-feeding you revelations about the menacingly dark plot is great, firmly planting one foot in the horror camp and the other in suspense-thriller territory, but in reality it struggles at times to feel real because of this. Either the characters know what’s motivating them and therefore don’t need to speak it out loud for the audiences benefit, or they’re trying to ascertain facts and would be as quick as possible to establish them. I wouldn’t say it’s jarring, but it is quite possibly a result of simply being a short movie. With longer time to play with, things could be allowed the room to breathe and grow organically. Let them settle on the air in the room first.

But this is just a minor gripe. It certainly doesn’t detract heavily from what is overall an enjoyable – and teeth grindingly tense – way to spend 15 minutes.

The Package will get its world première at the Scream in the Dark Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday 18 October in a block of short films starting from 1pm. UK residents won’t have to wait too much longer to see it, as it’ll be screened at Film4 FrightFest’s Halloween All-dayer on 24th October 2015 at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square.


FrightFest 2014 Diary – The Tour

As well as seeing the likes of The Guest and Truth or Dare at FrightFest 2014, Mike also found time to take in a short film or two, including Damon Rickard’s The Tour.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)

the tourAlongside all the main films, FrightFest also runs a short film competition, usually sponsored by the Horror Channel.When I watched the shorts during my first year, the quality ranged from very good to downright terrible. The next year, I didn’t bother. It wasn’t until the second year at the Empire, when I didn’t fancy anything in the discovery screen and it was raining, I reluctantly stayed for the shorts. Well, I wasn’t expecting what I saw; the quality was outstanding. The majority of them were brilliant. Even the worst ones were above average and since then I’ve made a point of seeing the short showcase.

The shorts used to play in the main screen and the competition winner was announced at the end of the presentation. This year, the shorts were split into two sessions and were moved into the discovery screen. I had originally planned to watch both sessions, as I was interested in seeing both She and The Tour. However, She was up against Starry Eyes, and The Tour against V/H/S Viral, two major films I really wanted to see. As it turned out, I wish I had gone to see the shorts instead now!

I have been lucky enough to see The Tour since the close of the festival. Damon Rickard is a FrightFest audience member and he has co-written and co-directed this piece with Alex Mathieson. It stars Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff both from Truth or Dare (which also played the festival), and Tom Gordon.

A small village relies on a local haunted house, Darkmoor Manor, to bring in tourism revenue to a local community; they claim it is England’s most haunted house, although its doors are closed to the public. Tom (Tom Gordon) is the tour guide and the film opens as he is concluding a tour. Two female American tourists have been on the tour and Tom is out to impress the women, inviting them for a drink. Cassie (Heather Dorff) and Morgan (Jessica Cameron) accept the offer and the conversation turns to the house. Cassie and Morgan aren’t impressed with the claims of the house and Tom promises to get them inside and give them the real tour of Darkmoor Manor!

This is an excellent short film and I really did enjoy it – I’m even more annoyed now I missed it on the big screen. The cast are extremely good. Tom Gordon delivers a great performance; he’s charismatic, cheeky and very confident in his role and hopefully we will see more of him in the future. Heather Dorff and Jessica Cameron are also excellent. Dorff plays the sassy Cassie with considerable ease, while Cameron plays the more timid character (maybe a departure from her usual roles) but she does it very well. Having these two actresses in the film is a major coup for Rickard, especially considering it’s his first production. He has done very well with the casting of this short.

The cast are backed up by a solid script. It was very well written throughout, allowing for some decent twists along the way and a couple of solid scares as well. Visually the film looked great, especially the interior house scenes that were very impressive. You can see Rickard’s knowledge of the genre coming through in this production. He knows the beats to hit, he knows timing is essential in a horror film, and in a short you have far less time to make those beats work. Rickard and Mathieson have crafted a very fine short here. There is potential to turn this into a feature – maybe one day they will? I would pay money to see that!

For more information on The Tour, you can check out their Facebook page or find them on Twitter. Mike’s FrightFest Diary reviews will continue soon with a look at the more amusing side to FrightFest.