Peanut butter and chocolate. Lime juice and cilantro. Christmas morning and snow. These are classic pairings that have proven themselves winners over and over again. To this list I’d add Derek Cole and Stephen Twardokus. Whenever this pair of filmmakers puts out a feature or short film, they never fail to impress. In the world of indie horror, Cole and Twardokus are a winning team up. Previously I reviewed two feature length films, AMERICAN GHOST STORY (previously titled REVENANT), and THE MUTILATION MAN, and two short films THE UNFORGIVEN and THE BEST THERE EVER WAS that these two have worked on together. I also covered their trailer for a remake of DARKMAN. What Cole and Twardokus accomplish with such micro budgets is beyond impressive. You in fact forget you’re even watching a indie, micro-budgeted film. These aren’t just two professionals, they are truly filmmakers who love their craft and strive to get better with each new project (which they do).
The latest short film from this dynamic duo is LET ME SEE YOUR EYES, which took home Best Short Film at 2014’s Shriekfest Film Festival. The setting for this short film is a post-apocalyptic world where some kind of biological outbreak decimated the population and turned most of humanity into rabid, animalistic eating machines. But the focus here isn’t on the horrors presented by those transformed human beings. The focus here is on the every-man-for-himself world that was created. The short, which runs around eighteen minutes, opens with the viewer observing the life of R.J (Jack Nathan Harding, who also wrote this short). R.J is possibly that last man on earth. We don’t know and R.J certainly doesn’t either. He rarely leaves the home he’s created for himself. He found what seems to be an endless source of fresh water, he has heat, canned food, and he has tons of books to read. We watch as R.J goes about his daily routine of making tea and reading his books.
Then one day there’s a panicked knock on the door as a man frantically pleads for R.J’s help. After checking the stranger’s eyes (the infected have altered eyes) he lets the stranger in. The stranger, Sorrel (Stephen Twardokus), tells R.J that he got caught outside and that those things were after him. After each slowly lets down their guard and they get to know each other the true nature of one of them is revealed and we realize that humanity as we know it has been forever been changed by the biological accident (but probably not in the way you’re thinking).
As in all their projects together, Cole and Twardokus hit this one out of the park. With the added talent of writer-actor Harding, LET ME SEE YOUR EYES is as captivating as it is sobering. The interaction between Harding and Twardokus is fantastic. (Harding has also starred in MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID and is Taco’s Singing Cowboy in THE LEAGUE). They have such a short time to forge a reluctant relationship as they both try and trust one another. But even when it looks as though trust is being established there’s still a lot of tension. In this post-apocalyptic world trust doesn’t come easy and trusting anyone too quickly could be your death sentence. The entire short is filmed inside R.J’s tiny apartment and Cole does a fantastic job utilizing every inch of that set. R.J’s abode was small to begin with and now with the arrival of Sorrel his domain is even smaller. We get some claustrophobic shots as the two engage and what adds to the tension of the situation is knowing that neither could just step outside for some fresh air. Doing that is a certain death sentence.
LET ME SEE YOUR EYES is currently on the festival circuit but I had Derek Cole assure me that when it’s available he’ll let me know so I can post the short right here for ya. In the end there are no heroes and there are no monsters; there’s just humanity. Unfortunately humanity, just like the infected people, has been changed forever – all in the name of survival. This is a fantastic short film. Cole and Twardokus could make a short film of a guy walking around in flip flops for thirty minutes engaging!!
Director: Derek Cole
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 1 out of 5 brains (the threat is there but we don’t get to see)
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer