Monday, January 12, 2015

Eat My Shorts: OVERLAPPING SCENARIOS (2014)

We’re going to mix things up with our first official short film review on the blog.  This one comes from the mind of our pal Don Guarisco.  In addition to running the awesome Schlockmania site, Don is also a screenwriter.  Last year he offered me a sneak peek of a short he had written called OVERLAPPING SCENARIOS (2014) while it was making a festival run. Now watching a friend’s work is always hard as feelings can be hurt.  Thankfully, Don saved me any awkward conversations by supplying an engaging short that confirms that genre cinema works best when one has a really great idea.  When he offered me a chance to review it, I jumped at the opportunity.

The film gets right down to business in the first minute as art school student Sam (Eric Dooley) receives a frantic call from his ex-girlfriend, Laurie (Valerie Jones).  She suspects some foul play has happened with her new boyfriend, Wes (John Stevenson), and recruits Sam to drive up to the family cabin of her new beau.  It appears author Wes prefers extreme isolation when it comes to putting his words on the page and he has gone missing after calling Laurie in apparent emotional distress.  The couple arrives at the isolated location with the writer nowhere to be found.  What they do find is a DVD on a table with “play me” scrawled onto it.  Naturally, they put it in and before you can say “Shall we play a game?” they find themselves inside a warped world where things are exactly as they appear.  To reveal anything else would be a disservice to the film.

Alluding to the SAW franchise above might be a bit of a disservice as this 25-minute short has more thought put into it than the last twenty SAW sequels and plays out like a solid TWILIGHT ZONE episode. Guarisco’s script cleverly plays with some of the clichés we see in genre cinema and tricks the viewer on several occasions.  Early on a viewer might question why characters are acting a certain way, only to have it all explained by the film’s end.  Without giving too much away, I have to say I love the central idea that the plot hinges on.  After my initial viewing I mentioned to Don how the idea that [TOTALLY REDACTED FOR MEGA-SPOILERS] was a very Cronenberg-ian concept and he confirmed that the influence was definitely there.  That last part is another one of the main reasons I dug the film – the script is filled with a number of nods toward all different types of cinema. Tips of the hat include the films of Ingmar Bergman, THE OUTER LIMITS, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), DARK CITY (1998), and the Italian giallo subgenre.  Now I hope I’m not just inferring these references, but I’m the kind of guy who sees characters named Laurie and Sam and automatically think it is a tribute to HALLOWEEN (1978).  (If it isn’t, you should totally say it is.)  However, given Don’s apparent love for all kinds of cinema, I must be right. While steeped in allusions to cinema, don’t think that the story is derivative in any way though. At its visceral core, the main point is definitely original and something I think could be guided into a feature length script.  The script also has some genuine humor in it.  Some of it is overt (“He’s no Stephen King, is he?” Sam quips when he reads a piece of writing by Wes) and some of it is very subtle and clever (like the reason they switch to black & white, which I’m dying to tell you but can’t).

Complementing Don’s screenplay is the work by director Eduardo Miyar.  He caught my attention right from the opening shot, which is just a shot of a mobile hanging in Sam’s apartment.  On the drive to the cabin there are some nice ominous shots.  The one that really got me was one shot in particular where Laurie runs into a room.  Miyar does something so subtle there that the first time I watched the short I went back to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Helping to further establish the mood is some truly spooky music by Kathryn O’Donnell Miyar.  I assume they know each other.  Helmer Miyar also cast three good actors for the lead roles.  Acting has long been the bane of low budget films and, thankfully, it appears they eschewed the age old “let’s just use our buddy” casting; so kudos to the team for leaping over the highest hurdle in low budget filmmaking.  All three leads are good in their roles with Jones and Dooley instantly projecting an onscreen rapport that suggests a troubled past relationship.  Of course, I can’t get into hero and villain specifics without spoilers (there I go being a downer again), but I will say the villain of the piece has a nice, chilling delivery.

The lack of spoilers, however, can be rectified.  Don and the folks at Hodge Podge Productions have uploaded the short on Vimeo for your viewing pleasure and offer it below.  If my words interested you, please check it out but make sure you have an open mind.  If you don’t trust me, just know that the short “Audience Favorite” award at the 2014 Tally Shorts Film Festival and co-won the “Runner Up/Best Picture-Audience Vote” at the "Come To Daddy" Short Film Soiree in Toronto.  Canadians, as we all know, can be trusted.

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