GRINNING FACES marks the debut from director Noah Tilsen. This is a 30 minute short film, shot this past Spring, that examines a young man’s decent into madness as it becomes increasingly harder for him to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fiction. At least this is what I think GRINNING FACES is about. There are times when Tilsen gets a little ahead of himself and leaves too much for the viewer to assume about the plot.
Let me back up a second. Hero, played by Danny August Mason, is a twenty-something kid with issues. He likes to sit in his car ogling girls from a distance while jerking off. He might also be fingering a cut around his ribs to get off as well; that was never made clear. One night while on one of his masturbatory marathons he spots The Girl (I’m not sure her character’s name is ever given), played by familiar indie horror actress Rachel Grubb (13 HOURS IN A WAREHOUSE, TERROR OVERLOAD, STRIP CLUB SLASHER). Hero is entranced by her and wants to make her his own. Lucky for him she’s as much a freak as he is, preoccupied with suicidal thoughts and a taste for very kinky sex. Add to the mix Hero’s friend and mentor, played by Matthew Feeney, an aspiring author who’s writing a book very similar to Hero’s life. Is the mentor pulling the strings and creating a real life version of the psycho from his story?
We get to watch as Hero goes from being mildly screwed up to being a full blown whacko. The only problem here are the many gaps in the flow of the narrative. Director Tilsen’s inexperience shows as he tries to delve into the “making of a psycho”, and there’s times when his focus just isn’t there. For example, in the very beginning we get a narrator babbling on about something that had nothing to do with … well anything. Luckily the acting was good all around, but the problem is by the end of the short you’ll be scratching your head wondering about what you just saw. GRINNING FACES has some pretty good ideas in it and after a little more experience under his belt I think Tilsen should return to this one and give it the proper treatment it needs.
Director: Noah Tilsen
Plot: 2.5 out of 5 stars (good ideas just poorly executed)
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
BODY OF WORK (2009)
You can tell in the next short BODY OF WORK that Alex Bram (who wrote the screenplay, produced, and directed) has a little more experience behind the camera. The story is about a young pregnant couple who buy a new apartment, previously owned by an artist (Justine Dray), and find the artists’ paintings in the garage. The paintings catch the eye of wife Carly (Yasmine Zapp) and she has hubby Mark (Joe Russell) hanging them up in the apartment. Unfortunately for them they don’t know the violent history of the paintings and soon Carly is being visited by the ghosts of the three girls who posed for the paintings. Throw in a TALES FROM THE CRYPT-esque ending and you got yourself a pretty fun little horror short (which clocks in around 23 minutes).
There’s not much NOT to like here. The cast does a great job with the script, the pacing is quick and fluid, and director Bram gives us some truly scary, yet stylish, scenes. Bram has a firm grasp on the material and never lets it slip away down meaningless subplots or meandering dialogue. Even more impressive is that Bram made this short on an estimated budget of $35,000!! You usually don’t get this level of acting or storytelling for such a modest budget, but Bram obviously stretched every penny from the budget and put it up on screen. BODY OF WORK is a really fun and scary short that will have you looking twice at all the paintings hanging up in your home!!
Director: Alex Bram (and wrote screenplay)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Both shorts reviewed by Scott Shoyer