The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - NEVER TEAR US APART / DAY OF THE PEOPLE / LINDA LETHORN AND THE MUSIC BOX | The Movie Waffler


We check out another trio of recent short films.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Never Tear Us Apart

Restricted by their very duration, short films usually fall within one of a few categories of structure or type. Perhaps the most prevalent format of short film is the punchline short; a film that has the truncated, streamlined narrative of a joke, wherein each plot point carefully builds to a shot or line which provides climax and a surprising/satisfying closure to what has preceded it. Chris Bavota and Sid Zanforlin’s horror comedy Never Tear Us Apart is a perfect example of this essentialist approach.

Following a nasty torture sequence, we cut to pals James (the appropriately Adam Sandler-esque Matt Keyes) and Colin (Alex Weiner), who are just a couple of lads wandering through the boondocks. These dude Hansels happen upon a stony shack, and despite Colin’s warnings not to, James takes a little peek through the window. What he witnesses is a touching domicile: imagine if Norman Rockwell painted a kindly redneck couple of a certain age preparing a meal of mincemeat and grits with requisite warmth and love. However, when James’ POV pans right, his Sandlery chops express comic horror, as he discovers a composition more Francis Bacon than Rockwell, with emphasis on the meat; the earlier torture victim and bound up human source of the glowing feast! 

What follows is swift and certainly not sweet, as a chase and well rendered slapstick violence take us to that pleasing groaner of a punchline. Butter my butt and call me a biscuit, indeed.

Day of the People

Another sort of short is the film that focuses its art on decisively communicating a singular message or idea, one that films of extended narratives could possibly dilute with their developed plots and multitude of characters (if we’re being crude, I suppose the analogy is the concentration of poetry versus the luxury expanse of the novel). Day of the People falls roughly into this category. Already garlanded with various accolades, Phillip Stainsby’s superb short is high on atmosphere and suggestive imagery.

We follow a twentysomething, 'The Errant' (Conor Lowson), as he wanders through a dystopian city landscape, seemingly void of all human activity. The surroundings are heavy urban filtered through red and blue, the oppressive brutalist angles of tower blocks and bridges achieving their full science fiction potential through Stainsby’s unnerving cinematography. As scenes cut, intertitles flash across the screen like Dada-ist slogans - ‘Harmony’, ‘The End’, ‘The People’ - while Renan Franzen’s seriously fantastic synth score pulses away menacingly beneath the meticulously framed vistas of unforgiving modernity.

As to what these redolent impressions are pertaining to, it’s difficult to define. However, at one point, the score drops out to allow a murmured, deliberate play of the union standard Solidarity Forever; a retro Pepsi can provides a telling motif (and matches the red/blue spectral palette), and The Errant eventually bumps into the film’s other character, the be-suited ‘The Delegate’ (Dennis Hewitt), a stern personification of corporatism. The correct reading of Day of the People is up to the viewer, the film seems to be suggesting, and, in this impressive meeting of ideology and sci-fi staples (capitalism and comets), there is plentiful poetic suggestion.

Linda Lethorn and the Music Box

Ah, Linda LeThorn and the Music Box. The type of aimless short film you get the impression was made between a few mates for a bit of a giggle: good luck to ‘em, they certainly seem to have had more fun making the short than I did watching it.

Aundrea Fares plays the titular neurotic, a cat lady whose stereotypical craziness is at odds with her carefully curated hipster wardrobe. One day, Linda’s aunt dies, and she leaves her a box of old crap (‘most precious memories’), containing, among Halloween decorations and old postcards, a crystal music box. However, the music box is possessed by the censorious spirit of her dead aunt it seems, and telepathically proceeds to instigate Linda to further acts of cutesy indie random; dancing around a disco lit apartment condo, sitting in a bath full of green olives (and not even collecting for Children in Need while doing so!).

Yeah, it goes on. Then Linda sets up some sort of woman’s group dedicated to ‘skin picking’ - cue lots of gross close ups of creamy spots being burst, their pus churning across the screen. All of this bants is enacted with dialogue that comes with its own inverted commas, in a disaffected, indolent endeavour towards irony. At one point, a narrative does threaten to emerge, where Linda seems to strike up a relationship with another lady from the group. It’s hard to credit the union though; Linda is just too weird, and not weird in that non-orthodox outsider way, but in a manner that is wearily self-conscious and rather irritating. No wonder her cat seems to hate her.

Perhaps I didn’t get the joke.