The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - BERNIE AND REBECCA / KILLER FRIENDS / DEATH ROAD | The Movie Waffler


We check out another trio of recent shorts.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Bernie and Rebecca

As a necessity of both narrative and running time, films that take romance as their subject matter eschew the lasting duration of a relationship, instead focusing almost entirely upon the earliest instances of ardour; the meet cute, the first date, the initial misunderstandings which, when resolved, bolster the couple’s bond and ultimate appreciation of one another, paving the way for an unseen but surely bright future. The early days are where the recognisable drama lies; whole films are predicated upon the will they/won’t they dynamic, with the eventual union that ensues holding such significance that it becomes the film’s catharsis, narrative satisfaction for both characters and  audience. Danny and Sandy fly off into the sky, Julia Roberts quits being on the game, and no one notices it’s raining, etc etc. But where do Danny and Sandy end up? What happens when Richard Gere realises the thrill of the chase was far more exciting than the persisting reality? What about when the real hard work begins?

It is refreshing to see the lifetime of ups and downs, triumph and heartache, that embody every long-term relationship (and which is usually precluded from narrative cinema), explored in Melissa Kent (director) and John Harris’ (writer) Bernie and Rebecca, a weird and wonderful short which depicts a couple (Kyle Davis and Brianna Barnes), who, on the occasion of their first date, fantasise and act out their entire relationship: thrills and spills, sickness and health, ‘til death do them part.

We begin in familiarly awkward territory, with Bernie barely able to credit his fortune at being invited in to Rebecca’s apartment for a post-date glass of wine. And who can blame him? Rebecca is hot, funny, and, through her career as a model, even has connections with the Actual Royals (as evidenced by framed photos of her with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - just one of this funny short’s many quirky touches). Director Kent’s control of tone is impressive, we’re never quite sure where this film is going; Rebecca emerges from the bedroom in a silken nightie proposing sex, before questioning whether Bernie will still find her attractive when she’s with child and ‘fat’, confounding both Bernie and the audience. The performances are very sophisticated too, selling the complex concept of the short; with Davis and Barnes moving deftly from meet cute to quite serious as they imagine the rocky path ahead; they discuss the exact shade of rose at their wedding, to their kid’s names, right up to being grandparents. The effect is both funny and moving. A heartfelt and clever short, that offers thoughtful meditation on the nature of time and love.

Killer Friends

Sharing a darkly idiosyncratic tone with Bernie and Rebecca, but at the opposite end of the scale in terms of its cynical outlook, is Zach Noe Towers’ (who writes, produces and stars) Killer Friends, wherein three buddies on a camping trip conspire to kill their annoying housemate. And boy, is this guy annoying. Towers depicts Scott via a camp performance that runs on pure bitch; his first line involves berating Bryan (Dave Racki) for the cheapness of his car, asking why he hasn’t used some of the inheritance from his mother’s recent death to upgrade, before loudly realising ‘oh yeah, she was super poor’. See, the other thing about Scott is that, boy, this guy is funny. You shouldn’t laugh, but you will, as the friends variously attempt to murder the blissfully unaware Scott in the woods, and are obstructed at every turn, his acerbic badinage continuing unabated. My favourite moment involved Bryan and Scott getting stoned and looking up at the stars, ‘The moon is so big, it makes you realise how small we all are…except for Heather, who probably realises how normal sized she is’: such shade! With its cartoon colour scheme, energetic framing and cruel lols, Tower’s film is a sharp and funny black comedy; this frenemy kills it, and I look forward to what he turns his sinister wit to next. 

Death Road

From murderous friends to habits that can kill you in Murtaza Ali Khan’s Death Road, an anti-smoking comedy from India. The production company’s name, ‘Ed Wood Productions’, gives the viewer an early warning towards the film’s production values, which are borne out by the film’s singular set up, wherein a few waiting passengers are harassed by some bozo who lights up a cigarette at a bus stop. He smokes, and they choke, at least until a couple of women show up to have a go at him before the film ends with the ominous intertitle ‘Smoking Kills 1 Person Every 8 Seconds’.

No one can deny that smoking is dangerous, and that being caught up in second hand smoke is an unpleasant state of affairs, but the choice to have a cigarette is surely the prerogative of the well informed individual, a point that the film inadvertently supports by making its smoker a complete div, whose anti-social nature is exemplified by his ripped jeans and baseball cap contrasting with his co-passengers dapper shirts and slacks. It’s his personality that’s the problem, not his habit, as anyone with a modicum of consideration would simply stand a little apart from other people and the - I’m not making this up - various street monkeys which dart in and out of the frame throughout the action, causing much delight in my house. These cheeky simians perhaps ensure alone that the film is worth checking out, along with the Wellesian tracking shot that aligns the narrative: Death Road is, impressively, filmed in one continuous take on location in a busy street.

And, anyway, who wants to live forever? As Bernie and Rebecca exemplifies, it isn’t the time, but how you spend it that matters (don’t count the minutes, make the minutes count, yeah?). Still, unlike the habit it demonises, Death Road is a harmless enough short, filmed and performed with touching sincerity. Those monkeys, though.

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