The Movie Waffler SSFF 2016 Reviews - THE COST OF THINGS / DEAD IN THE WATER / MARINA AND ADRIENNE | The Movie Waffler


Three reviews from this year's Seattle Shorts Film Festival.

Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

The Cost of Things

The integrated dynamics of a thriller - involving the incremental expansion of suspense and the development of character to understand motivation - often prove difficult to transpose to the abbreviation of a short film. In Tony Tibbets and Craig Packard’s black comedy The Cost of Things, we see an intriguing thrillerish premise hampered by some ungainly pacing. Two thieves skulk around outside an expensive looking countryside home with designs on breaking in and taking what they find. Don’t worry, one thief reassures the other, the homeowners are ‘rich fucks’ who ‘deserve this shit’, and so the scene is set for a tale of crime and punishment; but which party are the real criminals and who will finally be penalised?

The Cost of Things trades on a simplistic narrative binary of the ‘haves and have nots’, perhaps presuming that the audience will have an instinctive mistrust of the bourgeoisie. Certainly, the rich here are depicted using cartoonish representations; they comprise of two women and a fella (the females his cousin and wife), with the chap actually swanning about in a satin smoking jacket, holding a glass of wine in a manner that can only be described as outré. They’re weird too, the film suggests, with the thieves having stumbled on some sort of ménage a trois sex game; but is that so bad, or even unconventional, in this day and age? Seems to me that the burglars are the ones with the intolerant attitude, and the sense of entitlement, so it’s difficult to feel sorry for them when the tables are turned. If The Cost of Things had more room to breathe, allowing further reason to sympathise with the hapless tea-leaves, and for its nascent satire to build, then the final scenes would have had more impact. As it is, like the stranded criminals, the film seems rather hemmed in.

Dead in the Water

Peter Feysa and Sandra Lince’s Dead in the Water, a nautical noir, is a much jauntier prospect, opening with surf guitars on the soundtrack and sweeping overhead shots of the harbour police in hot pursuit of a wayward yacht. The cops, a grizzled old timer and a younger buck, natch, are intrigued to board the yacht when the pretty young lady on deck, who assures them that her husband is simply ‘sleeping’ below, wipes spray from her face and leaves a smear of blood across her fresh features - yikes!

Like the intruders in The Cost of Things, these seafaring flatfoots have happened upon another love triangle: the girl, her father, and the latest victim of their ‘black widow’ style scam. The music comes courtesy of local band Prom Queen, whose Lana Del Rey-ish stylings play over the action to emphasise the pop-sleaze of the narrative, while the performances do the pulp content a campy justice. The use of confined space is impressive, and the noir-ish use of flashbacks are well executed. A well navigated thriller with a real sense of fun.

Marina and Adrienne

There is a more serious ocean faring romance in Lucy Campbell’s Marina and Adrienne, which eschews Dead in the Water’s colourful approach for a more grounded verisimilitude. In an early scene, a weather worn member of the small crew of the oceanic trawler which makes for the film’s almost exclusive setting, grimly intones that there are but three categories of people, ‘the living, the dead, and those who are lost at sea’. In Marina and Adrienne, we witness all three.

Essaying the tragic circumstances of the titular characters, the film’s opening sequence sees Marina and Adrienne strip themselves of their clothes and their identity: chopping off long locks and donning thick waders and waterproofs in a bid to pass themselves off as fishermen upon a soon-to-depart boat. Although the film does not explain where or what the two lovers are running from we understand implicitly that the situation is desperate. And, give or take a few hiccups, the fugitives may have got away with it too… if it wasn’t for the fact that one of the women is about to give birth.

In terms of technical achievement, Marina and Adrienne is incredible. The white crash of waves and wind thunders through every frame, sweeping the fateful trajectories of the film’s characters along with punishing, apprehensive pace: DOP Davey Gilder’s camera places us, slipping and breathless, in the midst of the action. A visceral birth scene is realised in painstakingly selected detail, and ends in a devastating tableau of death, love and new life. However, the through-line of Marina and Adrienne is rather bleak, and not for those of a nervous disposition. The lack of context surrounding Marina and Adrienne (who they are, why they are there) may reduce what happens to them to narrative shock, and while the final twist offers tentative hope, a moment's further consideration renders it unconvincing (how is the new born infant to be fed?!). There is no doubt, however, that Campbell is a film maker of elemental power, and that Marina and Adrienne will linger in the imagination long after Seattle’s tide of shorts has come and gone.

The 2016 Seattle Shorts Film Festival runs from November 11th - 13th. More info at