The Movie Waffler Shorts in Focus - <i>The Minions</i> / <i>Painkiller</i> | The Movie Waffler

Shorts in Focus - The Minions / Painkiller

With six films completed in 2014, and a further four in this year’s pipeline, Horror short auteur Jeremiah Kipp is ghoulishly prolific. The Minions and Painkiller are two of last year’s shorts which, already having received acclaim at select festivals, will be released to VOD this year.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole

In The Minions there are no despicable yellow midgets in evidence, but instead a handsome guy-about-town, William (Lukas Hassel), who, upon wandering home one night, decides to chance his arm walking down ‘The Witches’ Path’, a shortcut of superstitious repute. This is no fairy tale however, as we are in what looks like urban Los Angeles, all anonymous blocks, electric lights and inner city menace. One of the intriguing aspects of The Minions is the manner in which the expressive context of the film reconfigures everynight features of the contemporary metropolis as folklore symbols; graffiti becomes a sigil, the glowing neon takes on the dangerous warmth of flame, and the drunken women (Sarah, played by Cristina Doikos, and Katrina by Robin Rose Singer) whom William happens upon are also not as vulnerable as first they seem.
Beguiled by these women (especially Katrina, binge drunk and unsuccessfully tottering in her heels), William’s voiceover tells of the fateful events of the evening.  The Minions is a film about male weakness, and, as William is enticed by Sarah and Katrina, we too are enchanted by The Minions with its seductive pace, whining score and hypnotic use of light and shadow. In this cryptic film where, narratively, precious little occurs, the suspense is nonetheless delicately sustained and a queasy feeling of dread surges throughout. Bewitching.

Minion’s woozy blend of sex and horror is maintained in Painkiller. This short opens on a monitor, upon which a woman (Kelly Rae LeGault), blood spattered and hunched over, smashes a hammer into herself, her whisper as she does so -‘Not enough, not enough’- recalls the unrequited desire of an addict. In flashback, we learn that she and her partner (played by Thomas Mendolia) are radical but well-meaning scientists operating in the ‘field of pain management’. The pair create an organism (an icky cross between a slug and a tumour) which, when injected onto a patient’s spine, will effectively ‘eat’ their pain; which is good news for terminal cancer patients, but bad news for healthy guinea pig LeGault, who discovers that the parasite is insatiable, rendering its host helplessly addicted to pain. As LeGault is hale and healthy, she must therefore ‘create’ discomfort for the organism… and as the organism rewards her with ultimate pleasure, it leaves LeGault desiring her next suffering-fix with a junkie’s desperate urgency.
Painkiller is shocking and utterly disgusting, but witty to boot. The crash zooms and primary colours of Steve Adams and Jeffrey S. Gould’s cinematography give the film the bittersweet flavour of black comedy, which serve to further exemplify the disturbing features of this film, making them all the more unsettling. And they are unsettling; the obvious reference point is Cronenberg (the parasite has the same pink plasticine repellence as Videodrome’s fleshly appendages), but there are also shades of Clive Barker in Jerry Janda’s screenplay, with the former writer’s erotic fusion of suffering and pleasure evident in LeGault’s masochistic destiny.
Mendolia’s recourse is to keep LeGault strapped up where she cannot do him or herself any fatal harm. From a safe distance, he watches her on a monitor, wincing as she hammer nails into her thighs. This hall of mirrors dynamic -us watching Mendolia as he, respectively, watches his own ‘movie’ of LeGault- suggests thematic implications that concern the audience’s symbiotic relationship with the horror film. In its shocking coda, Painkiller encourages us to examine the weird custom of witnessing cinematic suffering, the dubious addiction horror fans have wherein we subject ourselves, repeatedly, to abject imagery: a vicarious transaction.

Jeremiah Kipps’ shorts are glossy and intelligent, dark stars in the firmament of horror. To paraphrase the excitable whispers of LeGault in Painkiller, ‘more and more and more’ please, Mr Kipps.