Obviously, it makes most of us Fellow Fans really happy when we can just get swept up in a scare flick; I mean, just really get sucked into the world that’s on the screen and be in the moment, laughing/crying/suffering/screaming right along with the characters. If not for that emotional catharsis, what’s the point of any film at all, right? Now, when you can get that high level of “drawn in” with a short film, so much the better, and even more impressive on the part of the filmmaker. You guys know that I’m a particular sucker for a good short movie; I take nothing away from feature films nor the talent required to do those right, but for me, if a filmmaker can do for me in ten minutes what some films can’t accomplish in ninety, color me seriously impressed. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to screen some really phenomenal shorts over the years, and my most recent viewings in the medium have been no exception.
Filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp is well-versed in the biz, having worked in a number of capacities on both sides of the camera; though his work has been most prolific as a director and assistant director, he’s also taken on the roles of producer, cinematographer, writer, and even actor. The man’s certainly no stranger to a film set, and watching his work it shows; his direction is fresh and skillful, and he’s got a keen eye for and an intuitive understanding of what scares us. While there’s influences that you can pick out if you’re paying attention, he’s definitely got a distinctive style that is all his own.
I’ve had the good fortune in the last few days to view three of Kipp’s short films: Contact, Berenice, and The Days God Slept.
Contact is a fever dream of the horrors of addiction, but also hints at the power of family and forgiveness. Filmed in stark black and white, the film harbors a certain hopelessness frame after frame as we are taken on a virtually dialogue-free journey of drug experimentation. We watch as a young woman’s mother and father worry in the greyscale world as she, along with her lover, delves into a world made especially horrific, an isolated land of mistrust and coldness, to acquire their “fix”. Once this is done, they escape to their own space, using the substance in what seems a kind of sexual ritual, but when it takes hold, the hallucinogenic causes the woman’s perspective to become a twisted, visceral horror show, disrupting the moment she had wanted to share with her “man”. In this sense, we feel how what she was perceiving as a joyful, erotic experience turned on her with a merciless vengeance. Kipp’s directorial and editorial choices make the short a terrifying ride, taking we the audience along with the female lead down the darkest and most lonely of roads where darkness hides in the folds of misplaced love and trust; we’re shown that even with love and repentance, some horrors rear their heads one last time to show that some choices remain with us forever. You can check this short film out right here…
Berenice, the longest of the three shorts, is a modern adaptation of the tale by Edgar Allan Poe, one of his most disturbing and graphic. A very eccentric young man is prompted by his parents (whom he still lives with) to first accept and then become caretaker for his terminally ill cousin, Berenice. As the story moves on, we learn of a history between the two, and as she grows more ill, we see that his obsession with her becomes increasingly intense, his fantasies more graphic…and it’s clear that the already odd man is far more unbalanced than we originally believed. This culminates in a shocking ending that achieves its goal without blatant exposition, just as the short story itself. Again, Kipp creates a world that seems just off from the one that we know, the home and life of the young man somehow slightly alien, his parents, family friends, and hobbies not quite seeming to be normal…and it’s most impressive that his ending carried the strength that it did, being too impulsively horrific to even belong in this slightly off-kilter reality. Both a great Poe adaptation and study in psychosis, this film is featured on the anthology DVD Creepers…you should check it out.
The last of the three happens to be my personal favorite, The Days God Slept. This is a difficult little film to explain; it’s really more of an experience. We begin in a darkened, steamy strip club; a normal-looking joe is having a conversation with a lovely and sympathetic dancer. As the two talk about secrets and confessions, we flip back and forth to a less surreal scene of the two on a park bench, the man dressed the same but the dancer far more conservatively, looking more like a schoolteacher, in the bright daylight. The conversation never changes, but the setting bounces back and forth, which kept me off-balance as I tried to determine the direction of the film. Are these two husband and wife? Does she have a secret life? Is this all a dream? The horror of the film is nestled in the secret she teases, the terrors she hints at; it swells in the darkness of the souls of those who have tormented her, and that in her own for her seeming acquiesence. The way this was done strengthens the plot and impact of the story, despite the sporadic changes in setting and tone. The most important and satisfying aspect to me (as with any short film) was that it left me both thinking about it after it was over, and wanting more. I was reminded a lot of the style of David Lynch, but without the frustration. Yes, it’s somewhat confusing…yes, it jumps back and forth from one seeming reality to another…yet somehow, there was cohesion; it all made some kind of odd sense to me. I’ve said before (and I know some o’ you guys likely agreed) that I may not be playing with a full fifty-two, but I really got into this film. Like I said, beyond it’s exploration of the secrets and horrors we keep from each other and ourselves, there’s not much more I can tell you; you just have to see it for yourself.
As I typically do, I’ll throw in my disclaimer that, like any film, these won’t be for everyone; for me though, I’m impressed; the style and scripting do everything horror films (especially short horror films) should do, with a nice, original twist and a reverence for the genre. If you can dig that, I’d invest the time to seek out and see these brief glimpses into the macabre, seen through Jeremiah Kipp’s eyes.
Personally, I’m hoping that somebody somewhere gives him about ten million bucks and tells him to go crazy writing and directing a feature-length horror film…
…I’d be in line for that one, guaranteed.
If you’re interested in checking out more of Jeremiah Kipp’s work, checkout his website!
JUST CLICK HERE