It’s always heartening to see filmmakers go to the short film; it’s kind of like curling up with a real gut puncher of a short story when you don’t have time for (or just don’t feel like) a lengthy novel. It seems all the rage these days (and I suppose it’s because it’s a lot easier now) to just crank out a feature-length film and toss it out there to the masses; the short film is becoming a dying art. Of course, quantity never has (and never will) reflect quality, and many of these ‘features’ would have been much better as shorts (or just not done at all, but I digress…); just get the damned story out there and resist the urge to “fill in” so that you can say you put 90 minutes on the screen….
Order of the Ram is an independent short directed by Scott Lyus that gives you a strict snapshot of time; it’s an afternoon condensed into sixteen minutes, and while you are shown that something is definitely rotten in Denmark (or England, in this case), you get no resolutions. You don’t even get explanations. You get what you get, and it ends.
Mary is a young, pretty college girl, and you get a quick impression that she’s a loner; perhaps she even has some kind of spotty history. We meet her at school, apparently, where we see people wave to her, ask her to sit with them, try to initiate contact, but to no avail. She always seems resolutely preoccupied; she’s not bitchy, mind you, or even really what you would call stand-offish, but she comes across as quite antisocial. We even see a couple of members of the school faculty silently discussing her from afar, and it doesn’t appear that either of them are contemplating nominating her for student of the month. After classes, she ventures alone “deep into the woods”, where she spends her solitude snapping pictures of the flora and fauna, until she is startled by a visitor; one we only see the shoes of and the puffing of his cigarette. She addresses this man; she seems to know him…
…and I can’t really tell you anything else about the plot. Let’s just say her afternoon turns to shit in a really bad way. Really fast.
Atmospherically, I was at times reminded of old Hammer films; the haughty arrogance of the villains, the very gothic feel. The camera work was better-than-average to very good, as was the sound, direction, and the editing. There wasn’t a lot of showcased acting, but “Mother” was very aristocratic and terse, as I expect she was intended to be. Other glimpses of facial expressions and sneers from other actors added to the vibe. The only real complaint about the performances was Mary herself; whereas I didn’t have an issue with her acting in general, I felt her terror was too understated. With really only one special effect, I can’t say I was overwhelmed, but it was adequate. I will say this: if you get interested in the film at all, you’ll be frustrated. It’s like a feature length movie, but you only get to see the first sixteen minutes of the last half-hour; I know it’s a short, but it feels incomplete. You don’t know why what’s happening is happening, and you don’t know what happens next; as I said earlier, you get what you get, and it ends. I can see where it could be argued that all we are intended to see was that span of time; that it is left to us to supply the beginning and the end; but in my case, it just left me feeling like I had brought a six-pack to the party and only got to drink one lousy beer.
As I always do with a low-budget film (short or feature, but especially shorts), I try to look beyond their limitations and see the potential; in the story, the actors, the direction, et al. This film was a challenge to review; I liked many elements of this flick, I saw potential; I just wish there had been more of it. Although I knew what was happening, I don’t know what the hell was going on. What’s next? Where is this going? I was left wanting; any dissatisfaction that I was experiencing I felt would be put to bed by a resolution. Good or bad, I just want a goddamn ending…
…and I suppose that shows the film at least piqued my interest. That may very well be the sly intent of the filmmakers. If so, they’ve succeeded with me, and I’ll definitely watch a “Part II”. If not…well, maybe I’ve completely missed the point, but you Fellow Fans read this for my opinion, and this is the one I’ve got:
Order of the Ram is a technically well done short film that definitely has something to say, but it seems it’s going to hold out on us.
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