Transcript: Chancers – The Great Gangster Film Fraud

Recorded on Thursday 4th February 2016 – Listen to the full episode (including review) here:

Chancers: The Great Gangster Fraud is a documentary that details the creation of a low-budget British crime thriller – otherwise known as a geezer movie – called A Landscape of Lives.

Or, maybe I should take a step back and correct myself there.

Although the film was made for well under £100k (a relatively small sum of money compared to the vast majority of movies that make it into the cinema) it was billed as having a £20m budget.

Why? Because the bankrupt Jordanian entrepreneur Bashar Al-Issa and his co-producer, an Irish student-turned actress, dream up a hairbrained idea to steal £2.5m from the British government. Their plan primarily involves exploiting a tax incentive for independent British filmmakers, by exaggerating the production costs of A Landscape of Lives by well over £20m.

Eventually caught out for their attempts to scam the government, the Great Gangster Fraud uses interviews with virtually all of the players involved; from the archive interviews with the two fraudsters themselves, as well as those unwittingly caught up in the crime such as actors on production and even the man who let them film in his own office.

Perhaps none are more interesting than Paul Knight, a one-time criminal himself turned legitimate film director and writer, who manages to salvage the failing film project. His backstory about formerly being involved in east-end London criminal life, now turned responsible father and husband, gives a remarkable polar-opposite narrative to proceedings.

And as good a salvage job as Paul Knight manages to do, with the best will in the world, from the clips of A Landscape of Lives that we see during the documentary, the finished article does not resemble anything like a £20m budget film.

To give you some perspective, it would be like comparing the production values of, for example, 2012’s Looper starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt, made for a modest $30m, to something resembling the higher end of an ITV TV-special. Clearly, they were never going to fool anybody into believing they were making their first film for so much money – let alone the scrupulous British tax man.

There are a few other interesting talking heads who pop up to give some outside perspective, like renowned film producer Jonathan Sothcott, who rebuffs the idea that first-time film makers in the UK could receive anything like a £20m budget, regardless of their shady financiers. But it does stoke the fire of the lack of a true British film industry and raises the question about how the business can ever grow in this country.

The Great Gangster Fraud was shown on BBC4 here as part of the Storyville series and can be – and should be – viewed on the BBC iPlayer website. [edit: but obviously this is no longer the case!]

Transcript: My Nazi Legacy

Recorded on Thursday 28th January – Listen to the full episode (including review) here:

Produced by Wildgaze Films, in association with BBC Storyville and BFI, the extraordinarily absorbing documentary, My Nazi Legacy, follows the journey of three men traveling together across Europe.

Two of whom are forced to confront the atrocious war crimes committed by their fathers during the second world war. Themselves now elderly, grappling with the horrific and often conflicting truths about the legacy’s that their fathers have left for them is a tumultuous emotional journey.

The third man accompanying them on this voyage of self exploration is Philipe Sands, an English author and respected international lawyer of Jewish ancestry, whose own relatives’ past intertwines with that of his new friends’ history.

There’s no getting around it. As captivating a human-life story as My Nazi Legacy is, it juxtaposes the inescapable bleakness of humanity at one of its lowest points in modern history alongside an unremitting perseverance of will and character. You will struggle to see any other documentary this year that portrays such a deeply personal insight as seen here. The humbling effect that the encounters have on each of the three men appears sincere and genuinely moving for them.

However, the stubbornness of Horst von Wachter, son of Otto von Wachter (a former high ranking Nazi official) will have you pulling your own hair in dismay at his growing reluctance to acknowledge any of his father’s wrong-doing. As an international lawyer who has worked on many high-profile cases, Phillipe’s patience wears thin; so too will you grow increasingly frustrated at the infantile justification put forward by Horst.

“My father was just following orders.”

“Everybody said he was a man of high moral character.”

All I’m saying is: if you sit down to watch this, take a stress-ball with you.

As the journey continues over the course of the relatively short run time, you will be glad that you brought it with you.

Alternatively, of course, you might find sympathy in the simple story of a son who is just looking for the good in a father where none has yet been found.

The documentary is extremely well directed by the Emmy-nominated and BAFTA-award winning director of TV and film, David Evans, with editing provided by David Charap who is probably most well known for his work on the Oscar nominated Virunga.  They combine to give the overall production a touch of class, although it is difficult to shake that TV-vibe. At times it’s like watching an extended (if extremely high quality) episode of Horizon.

You may still be able to catch it in select art-house cinemas around the country after its Holocaust Memorial Day screening on Wednesday 27th January, but if not, you can pick it up on Digital HD and DVD.

The Ridiculous 6

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FAILEDCRITICS.COM

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A new two-hour long Netflix Original was released yesterday called The Ridiculous 6. It’s the second Netflix Original Film, after Beasts of No Nation, and the first of four (yes, four) productions by Adam Sandler for the online streaming service.

Set in the wild west, The Ridiculous 6 is a spoof of old fashioned westerns, taking its title from John Sturgess’s 1960 genre-defining classic The Magnificent Seven – well, duh – and is most likely also a pop at Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming The Hateful Eight. Kind of like how the bastions of quality over at the Asylum try to copy other bigger budget, better films with their mockbuster titles.

In it, Sandler is joined by his usual posse of sycophantic chums, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia and Terry Crews. One by one, they each discover that they all share the same dad (Nick Nolte) and heralded by the “Injun” raised Sandler, set out to steal enough money to pay a ransom to a bandit (Danny Trejo) to save their absent father’s life.

For the past few years, the branding ‘Netflix Original’ has been something of a mark of quality. Generally speaking. From some of their earlier productions like the award winning original dramas Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards, to more recent shows such as Better Call Saul and Daredevil, their label has been a signifier of some level of quality. Even when some of their more ambitious projects like Sense 8 have left me impressed but overwhelmed, I still kept faith in their ability to produce new and exciting material.

Although, with some of their more recent output like the smug-fest that was the God-awful joyless A Very Murray Christmas, my faith is being tested more often than I’d prefer it to be.

Back in October last year, it was announced that the first Netflix movie was in production. It seemed inevitable that they would be producing feature films sooner or later. Whilst we’re still waiting for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny to get up and stop hiding, somehow this piece of garbage wrangled its way into production and onto my YouView box.

I tried with the best will in the world to give it a chance on Friday afternoon. I managed to reach the 15 minute mark before holding my hands up in the air, declaring “nope”, and then switching it off. I couldn’t stand any more of it. I took a breather, watched a few episodes of the excellent Narcos, and then finished The Ridiculous 6 off afterwards, all so I could confidently state that it is without question the worst Adam Sandler film that I’ve had the misfortune to waste 120 minutes on.

It’s meant to be a spoof of westerns in general, particularly the stereotypes that those old movies often employed; yet I see it more as a spoof of Adam Sandler’s ability to keep getting huge wads of cash to make lowest common denominator, repetitive, unoriginal, schmalzy, unfunny, complete and utter fucking dog shit over and over again. Only, instead of a satire of Sandler’s monopoly on “buckets of turd” (an actual line from the film) made by a much funnier comedian, it’s actually not a spoof. It really is the 50 year old actor still pretending to be 13 years old.

It has every single Adam Sandler trademark that you can think of. There are: attractive women desperately trying to capture his attention (but he’s too cool for that, given his already very attractive fiancé); “hahaha he’s black ahaha and we’re white ahahahahaha”; sidelined female characters (and that’s stretching it calling them characters); an elderly person saying something along the lines of “ow that’s gotta hurt”; an animal and related dick / toilet humour, etc. I can’t think of a single “joke” that you might associate with an Adam Sandler film, that isn’t right here in the opening 15 minutes.

And who can blame him? How much money has this schtick made him and his production company, Happy Madison Productions? If you come at this from a business perspective, thinking of Adam Sandler as just some other guy who goes to work like everybody else and earns a living, then there really is no reason for him to change what he does given that there’s clearly a paying audience for this constant barrage of mindless twaddle.

What makes it more infuriating is that I can’t hate The Ridiculous 6 for being bad, because I actually thought it was well directed by Frank Coraci – to a certain degree. It’s a film that’s meant to be seen in 4k, a service that Netflix charges users more for, suggesting that they clearly see Adam Sandler as not only a draw for new customers, but also enticing existing subscribers to upgrade. Not me, I can do without seeing his smug unbothered face in ultra-high definition, thank you very much.

My point is that there clearly was a lot of effort put into making it look very snazzy. There are plenty of lovely individual shots of the old west, as well as nice sequences that give it a bit of a spaghetti western feeling, even though it was shot in New Mexico rather than the cheapest most expansive land in Italy or Spain. The costumes are also rather cool in their own way too, adding a bit of character to otherwise quite bland caricatures. I just get the impression that everybody working on The Ridiculous 6, from set designers to the well-stocked suppliers of push-up bras, they all seemed to want to do something good with this film.

That’s everyone except for Adam Sandler and his writing partner Tim Herlihy. I’m not suggesting they intended to make a bad film. Worse, I’m implying that they’re incapable of it. In an effort to put together a semi-cohesive story with a couple of call backs and set ups along the way, it appears as though they just decided to forgo writing clever, funny gags. Instead, I think they went straight to a local charity shop to spend 50p on a children’s joke book from the 1970’s.

At one point, a farting donkey sprays shit all over a wall for no apparent reason whatsoever except so that he can do it again later at a slightly more opportune time without it appearing to be too random. At another point in the plot, there’s a rock that looks like a giant phallus because LOL IT’S A ROCK THAT LOOKS LIKE A COCK, which impresses everyone with its size, except for Crews because he’s black lololol. Taylor Lautner plays a retard who laughs at every joke so you, the expectedly similarly retarded audience, also know when to laugh.

Which, in hindsight, is fair enough because I certainly didn’t know when to laugh.

It’s not even that the cast are unlikeable. I have a lot of time for Terry Crews. Brooklyn Nine-NineThe Expendables series, even White Chicks, he’s pretty damn funny in them. But here, he’s reduced to little more than token black guy who makes jokes only at the expense of his race. Jorge Garcia does fat-guy-falls-down. Schneider is a donkey-loving Mexican. Luke Wilson is Luke Wilson. It’s just thinly veiled attempts to satirise the pervasive stereotypes of old without having anything new to say about it. It mimics the offensiveness with neither subtlety nor impetus.

The less said about the controversial portrayal of native Americans, the better (although the whole “four out of 150 stormed out during production” seems to be something of a storm in a teacup.)

For a comedy, it is the biggest crock of shit that I’ve seen all year. The worst thing is, is that I knew it would be and yet I still wanted to give it a go because of that Netflix Original brand. With another three of these films to go, regardless of the quality of Beasts of No Nation, I’m beginning to think that maybe they should have just stuck to making original shows, steering clear of the movie business. Because if the poisonous Sandler infection spreads and Netflix ends up as a syphon for his bankroll (this fucking film cost $60-fucking-million to make) then I may have to reconsider my subscription.

But hey, if you’re looking for something to submit in your “worst 3 films of the year” category for the Failed Critics Awards, then why not give it a shot.

He Named Me Malala

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FAILEDCRITICS.COM

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Academy Award winning director Davis Guggenheim’s 88 minute educational documentary, He Named Me Malala, aims to share with the world the private and public life of teenage activist and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai.

If I think back to the first time I heard about Malala’s story, it was on BBC Oxford back in 2013. I used to listen to local radio a lot whilst driving to and from work, but one national story caught my attention that day.

You see, Malala – who now lives in Birmingham – was being interviewed about why, at the age of 15, whilst sat in the classroom of her home town of Swat Valley in Pakistan, she was targeted for assassination by the Taliban and shot in the head at near point blank range.

In talking about her road to recovery, from being in a coma to bravely discussing how she was not going to let the death threats stop her campaign, I was genuinely moved and close to tears because it was such a powerful speech. Not the most practical of problems to have when you’re trying to navigate the A34 roundabout at 8.30am – although I believe that’s what you might refer to as a first world problem.

But it’s true. It was incredibly moving and I simply couldn’t believe that it was a 17 year old saying these things. If I try to imagine what I was like at that age, and whether I’d have been able to do what she did? There’s just no way on Earth that I’d have had the kind of fortitude that Malala displayed.

After being shot in the head, kicked out of her country and told if she were to ever return, her entire family would all be killed, just for holding an opinion that was different to the criminals who had overtaken her home town and imposed their own rule of law; it’s unbelievable.

Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, becoming the youngest person ever to win it. But He Named Me Malala focusses slightly less on the importance of winning the award and instead what it really tries to do is balance this by showing Malala the way she is at home. Particularly focussing in on her family and her relationship with her dad; a huge influence on her activism. There’s also an attempt to balance this personal life with her travels around the world, speaking to presidents and royalty.

Not only speaking with them, I might add, but telling them, without any fear, exactly what she wants from them. For example, her appointment with Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria where she demands he does something to save the girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram shows exactly why Malala is an incredible person.

Unfortunately, the documentary is something of an inconsistent mess. By trying to focus on two different aspects of her life, and with such a short run time, it can’t truly decide what it really wants to be. You see the mundanity of life for a teenage girl, sitting on class and writing her homework, mixed with scenes of her recounting being oppressed in Pakistan. Then it’s straight to a scene of her looking up pictures of Roger Federer on Google images, back to talking about how her dad’s life was threatened. It’s simply not enough of one thing nor the other, despite what should be an interesting juxtaposition.

It paints the picture of Malala as a normal, regular human being. But then, on the other hand, it shows you the extraordinary things she’s achieved and is capable of and you see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, just why she’s not a normal, regular 17 year old. She’s capable of so much more than the normal person.

Apparently, He Named Me Malala is being made available to secondary schools all around the country. And rightly so, in a way. Her message of equality of access to education for everyone in the world is an important concept for kids to learn about, so it clearly makes sense to send it in to schools.

Likewise, I am personally glad that I managed to catch it in its short theatrical run because I have learnt a lot about Malala that I didn’t know already. But – and it’s unfortunate that there is a ‘but’ – it seems like it could’ve been more insightful and may be a case that the person at the centre of the story is more interesting than the way her story is told.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cug1-eTOVSk]

 

Let Go

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FAILEDCRITICS.COM

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The sun beams through the trees on a new morning. It promises a day full of love, connection and life.

Isabel Dréan’s 14minute long short movie begins with an optimistic view of the world. Two small children, Claire (Milan Coté Dréan) and Mathis (Jaz Coté Dréan), are frolicking about in bed with their mother (Claudia Ferri) before they have to get up for school. Gentle piano keys tinker in the background whilst a warm shade of light shines across the screen as they children’s imagination leads to stories about magic and dinosaurs.

A brief glance again to the heavens outside with sunlight piercing the clouds comes shortly before the family take the car journey to school where once again there’s more singing, more playing and joviality.

But as quickly as this dreamlike sequence begins, it’s suddenly over. We’re back in the bedroom again, but this time, there’s no Claire.

And so the real story of Dréan’s multiple award winning short starts to take shape. There’s a complete tonal shift from what starts out so hopeful and inspiring, moving to a bleak descent into loss and depression. Piece by piece, it fall into place and the true story of a mother having a child ripped from her life takes hold.

It’s a clever way to begin the film because it only makes the latter half even more traumatic an experience. I don’t personally have kids, and even I could feel that sick sensation in the pit of my stomach at what a horrible thing losing a child would be for someone to go through.

I’m not the only person to feel that way too, it seems, as the prestigious Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival recently awarded Let Go with a Best Picture award. Isabel Dréan also picked up a Best Director award for her achievement.

“This film is very personal to me as I made it with my own children. As a mother, nothing is scarier than the thought of losing a child. It was a very challenging artistic process.  Every one involved was passionate about the project, I’m happy that our team is getting recognized for their effort.”

Whilst it somehow seems a shame that Jérôme Boisvert didn’t pick up an award for his score on Let Go, there is some justice in the world that Philippe Toupin was awarded Best Cinematography for his part in the film. Some of the shots in what is essentially an indie, crowd-sourced project are very impressive indeed. Particularly the final shot – which I’ll refrain from spoiling! But wow. What a way to end it.

From The Babadook, to Secret Sunshine, to even Marley & Me, films about loss, separation, grief and the anxiety that goes with it are almost always guaranteed to make you a bit weepy eyed. It seems like it would be a failure of the filmmakers if you are not to emotionally connected to a story like that.

For Let Go to not only attempt to tackle a subject like that, but to also do it effectively with such a short amount of time, is pretty remarkable. It’s not an easy watch by any means. The foreboding early on and crushing inevitability leaves you squirming a little in your seat, but it’s all the same a neat, affecting short psychological drama.

For more information about Let Go and Isabel Dréan’s work, visit her official website or view the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/141205507.

SPECTRE

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FAILEDCRITICS.COM

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Sam Mendes is back in the hand-stitched, luxurious leather driving seat of the 007 series as the next instalment of British espionage kills and thrills reaches the US shores this weekend.

by Owen Hughes @ohughes86

Celebrating fifty years of James Bond, Eon’s twenty third film in the series, Skyfall, was released back in October 2012 and became an enormous runaway success. Accolade after accolade was poured over it – and rightly so, as it was a thoroughly entertaining action film. Our readers and listeners certainly thought very highly of it, voting it above the likes of AmourThe IntouchablesArgo and The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012’s Failed Critics Awards.

It might be fair to say then that the weight of expectation on SPECTRE couldn’t have been higher. Skyfall ably dealt with the notion that James Bond, the suave British super spy, just wasn’t suited to the modern world. That he was too old. Too outdated. Much like Casino Royale did in 2006, it found a way to make him relevant again.

Surely then, SPECTRE wasn’t going to go over the same old ground, right?

Well, not exactly.

Facing a new Orwellian threat that takes Bond across Europe to track down a secret organisation, whilst also under pressure back home with MI6 under scrutiny for its actions, it crosses almost every box on the 007 checklist. Trains, snow, Bond-girls and Aston Martins; if you’re planning on playing a drinking game with SPECTRE, you will be inebriated within half an hour, having your stomach pumped before you’re even half way through the enormous 148 minute run time, and dead before the film has finished.

But it’s not just regular tropes of the series that make a re-appearance. Again, the idea that the secret agent is an outdated practice is continued from the previous movie. Whilst Skyfall focussed primarily on James Bond being too old, this time around it’s expanded to examine the methods employed by MI6 as a whole.

Although SPECTRE is mostly entertaining, one of its biggest problems is that by asking you to consider a world where we have surveillance drones, billions of mobile devices and CCTV cameras on every corner, why do we persist with a man in a tuxedo sneaking into a party to seduce the crime-bosses wife for tidbits of information. The ultimate conclusion is of course a combination of “the old ways are the best” and “nobody does it better”, but unless the audience are well read on their 1984’s and Brave New World’s, what exactly is the problem with information gathering in the way that’s proposed? Why is it so menacing? Is your freedom more valuable than your safety? Whatever your opinion, SPECTRE never fully addresses the issues with this “newer” method beyond showing you that the guy collecting the information is evil.

Speaking of the bad-guy, Christoph Waltz plays the latest Bond villain with relish. His softly spoken, quietly sinister performance is easily the best in this modern era against Daniel Craig’s all action hero. I’m a big fan of Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem (let’s just pretend Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist, as SPECTRE seems to do as well) and they both bring something different to the series, but Oberhauser is perhaps the most nuanced opposite to James Bond thus far. It’s the age-old battle of brains and exploding-gadget-and-fast-cars-braun.

Craig may be getting sick of playing the role, with this possibly being his last appearance as Bond, but he once again seems entirely comfortable at being the rugged interpretation of Ian Flemming’s character. One who doesn’t mind getting his shoes scuffed and suit ruffled in the pursuit of his nemesis. Just watch him during the absolutely incredible opening scene set in Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. He has the swagger, the charisma and perfect timing to please fans of the series, no matter who your favourite version of the character is. Prefer the goofy Roger Moore take? Craig is more then able to match the comic timing Moore offers. Enjoyed Pierce Brosnan’s confidence and cheekyness? Bingo. It’s all there in that opening 15 minutes.

The support cast are all decent enough too. Léa Seydoux as Madeleine – the closest the film gets to having the staple Bond-girl – does a good job at modernising the role. She’s not a floozie there only to fall under the charms of 007 and provide the audience with a bit of eye candy. One scene in particular on a train journey draws us back into the narrative of old-versus-new as she shows she doesn’t need Bond to show her how to use a gun. It’s a subtle development of a role that in the past has been reduced to little more than a damsel in distress that needs the big rugged man to come and save her.

Ralph Fiennes adds his own take on M, whose relationship to Bond has a lot more animosity and begrudging respect than when Judi Dench was in the role previously. Q (Ben Wishaw) is also given a lot more exposure this time around. His quirkiness will either annoy you or feel like a welcome break in the pace of relentless, non-stop action scenes and (£24m worth of) exploding vehicles. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), C (Andrew Scott), Hinx (Dave Bautista) and Lucia (Monica Belluci) are reduced to minor supporting roles which seems a shame, but they all do well with what they’re given.

Overall, for such a long film, it doesn’t ever feel boring or stretched. It suffers from a Skyfall hangover as it will constantly be compared to its predecessor, and in that regard, it is the lesser film. The way it retrofits itself onto the rest of the rebooted franchise is contrived at best and just nonsensical at worst, but it doesn’t detract too much from its own plot. Effectively, it hinges on the relationship between Craig, Seydoux and Waltz (whose appearance really could have come sooner on in the movie) which is well developed across the course of the film, but is not quite enough to elevate it to the delirious heights of Mendes’ last feature.

So no, I don’t expect the Bond revival to die with SPECTRE. Bond (James Bond) is bigger than one film, but as to where I see the film heading next? I honestly have no idea – but I am excited to find out.

You can listen to Owen, Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank review SPECTRE as well as induct James Bond into our Corridor of Praise on the podcast released back in October.

The Package

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FAILEDCRITICS.COM


the package

How far would you go to get something back?

Fans of last year’s FrightFest coverage may remember a short film we raved about called The Tour, starring Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff, set in an old haunted English house. Writer and director Damon Rickard’s The Package, the follow-up to his chilling thriller, will be hitting the international festival circuit soon. It will be making appearances at the likes of Scream in the Dark, Weekend of Horrors, Puerto Rico Horror Festival and the Cornwall Horror Festival (a little closer to home) – and we’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peak at his latest twisted tale.

Actor Tom Gordon – a co-star of Cameron and Dorff’s in The Tour – returns for Rickard’s newest production, where he mercilessly intimidates, threatens, beats and tortures a mysterious stranger (Dan Palmer, Stalled). Who is he? What does Gordon want from Palmer? Why is he tied to a chair, seemingly unaware of why this is happening to him?

Or… is he unaware?

You see, The Package begs its audience to carefully consider the situation. As clues are gathered throughout the duration of the relatively short 15 minute run time, squeezed out of the dialogue an inch at a time, it’s clear that the intention is not to paint you a pretty picture of good vs evil. “Who is the villain of the piece” is not at all a straightforward question and you soon learn that as quickly as one fact may be established, the next may provide some further context that completely flips it on its head, keeping you guessing right the way through to its eventual and satisfying conclusion.

The most difficult element to get right in a short such as this is the pacing. Give away too much too quickly and you’ll kill any suspense before it’s even begun, but if things move too slowly, then there’ll be no momentum – or worse, the ending will be rushed.

I’m pleased to report that The Package suffers very little from these problems and is a keenly scripted, well edited suspense thriller. Credit is due not only to its screenplay, but the whole production values belie the micro-budget the crew had to work with. Visually, the setting is well chosen and atmospheric, with some rather nice individual shots of its two high performing stars. The score, produced by Eric Elick (who also worked on The Tour), also suits the tone perfectly.

However, getting back to the budget for a moment, this film only exists because there were fans out there willing to back Rickard’s project via its Indiegogo page before production had begun. They managed to raise £4,383 in funding, which in the grand scheme of the multi-million dollar films released at your local cinema every week, it may not seem like a huge amount. In actuality, it’s a mightily impressive figure for a short like this to achieve. Especially when they were only asking for £3,500 initially, which they surpassed by some distance. Take a look at the last entry to my June In Review article to see how easy it is to mess up a film on a budget of a similar size. To get a final product in The Package that was this good from that much money is highly commendable.

And it is a good, intriguing, exciting short movie. But it’s not perfect. Once or twice you do wish that they would just get on with it. You have an inkling as to what the eventual outcome might be, and as much fun as it is getting there to find out, occasionally the dialogue’s restrictiveness does not work in its favour. The concept of drip-feeding you revelations about the menacingly dark plot is great, firmly planting one foot in the horror camp and the other in suspense-thriller territory, but in reality it struggles at times to feel real because of this. Either the characters know what’s motivating them and therefore don’t need to speak it out loud for the audiences benefit, or they’re trying to ascertain facts and would be as quick as possible to establish them. I wouldn’t say it’s jarring, but it is quite possibly a result of simply being a short movie. With longer time to play with, things could be allowed room the breathe and grow organically. Let them settle on the air in the room first.

But this is just a minor gripe. It certainly doesn’t detract heavily from what is overall an enjoyable – and teeth grindingly tense – way to spend 15 minutes.

The Package will get its world première at the Scream in the Dark Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday 18 October in a block of short films starting from 1pm. UK residents won’t have to wait too much longer to see it, as it’ll be screened at Film4 FrightFest’s Halloween All-dayer on 24th October 2015 at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for further updates and check out the trailer below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rppazLJtzfc]