The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - RECURSION / END OF THE ROAD / A TRICKY TREAT | The Movie Waffler


We check out three new short films.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)


If you could travel back in time to change one thing, what would it be? Kill the infant Hitler? Prevent Zack Snyder from ever getting anywhere near a superhero franchise? It’s an old chestnut turned over once again in Sam Buntrock and Stanton Nash’s superlative Recursion, where a hapless best man, Sherwin (Rob McClure), chooses to bend the laws of time and space in order to go back and retrieve a wedding ring, an item which he seems to have mysteriously lost moments before the ceremony.

Recursion’s tone is set with its two opening quotes - one from Albert Einstein, the other from Dr. Emmett Brown - which introduce us to Recursion’s smart but playful nature. In kinetic montage, time travelling Sherwin returns again and again to his apartment, all the while avoiding the other Sherwins that are at various chronological points in the very same journey. The early references to theoretical physicians and '80s mad scientists are further complimented by a telling shot of a Jorge Luis Borges book, a writer with which Recursion shares a labyrinthine sense of storytelling, with the kaleidoscope plotline building causal calamity and fluctuating from the perspectives of each of the increasingly beleaguered Sherwins (except not, because there is only one actual Sherwin, paradoxically co-existing in the same urgent timeline - mind: blown).

The time travel theme, with its shifting plot puzzles and manipulation of structure, is especially suited to the narrative art form of cinema (which, even in linear narratives, manipulates time with edits and jump cuts), so a fair few short films take the premise as inspiration. However, they are rarely as well executed as Recursion, which balances its cute humour with an encroaching, well-paced darkness. Einstein may have stated that the definition of insanity is ‘repeating the same thing over and over’, but you won’t be mad for viewing Recursion more than once in order to further appreciate the clever intricacies of its clockwork narrative.

End of the Road

I was first introduced to J. Spencer’s fun werewolf short via @SpaceBoyComics' striking poster: seriously, in an age where the art of the movie poster is woefully neglected (usually existing simply to represent the big fat faces of a film’s stars), the utterly gorgeous paints of this one sheet deserve commendation. The poster’s genre beauty certainly inspires a longing to watch the film itself, but does the film proper live up to the initial promise of its marketing? 

End of the Road certainly employs the same vivid colour scheme - shot on Red cameras, the film pops from its opening sequence of red hooded Betsy (Tatum Langton) walking in the crunchy snow, to the neon intensity of the diner where the wolf strikes; this film is dazzling to look at. Ok, some of the performances may lean towards the histrionic, but the realisation of the werewolf is intriguingly weird and unique, almost Giger-esque with its pointed claws and ferine wetness, and Spencer’s camera prowls and cuts with an alpha sophistication. Also, I have to say, there is one jump that really got me, and not of the cattle-prod, big bang on the score variety - a proper, well-crafted, drop-your-popcorn scare, which is typical of this strong short’s energetic and entertaining atmos. Get startled!

A Tricky Treat

Patricia Chica and Kamal John Iskander’s A Tricky Treat is, as its title would suggest, a short, but certainly not sweet, Samhain confection. Focussing on the desecration of a decapitated head by some sort of ghoulish family, the film essentially builds to a groaner (in the best sense!) of a punchline. However, as the severed head has its eyeballs scooped and brains stretched from its skull in full visceral detail, the short is rather disturbing - not only because the head looks fairly realistic, but it also seems a bit sad too, with its confused eyes and quivering lips. 

Following the grand guignol of the head carving, and after the film has snapped back to its winking comedic denouement, its credit sequence is an effectively eerie inversion of Halloween’s title crawl that goes on just long enough for it to stop being amusing to actually a bit freaky. So, slightly sick feeling, a bit of fun, and an underlying creepiness: sounds exactly like what All Hallows Eve should be about. Unseasonable now, but come October, you can bet that A Tricky Treat will be a part of my Halloween party.

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