Shorts: Psychic Murder (2017)

This is the kind of short film that I love. It's simple, doesn't overstay its welcome, and it's weird as fuck. While that's usually enough to make viewing a random short worth checking out, Psychic Murder goes a step further by being well shot, well acted, and thoroughly entertaining. It was written and directed by Brandon Block, making a solid debut, and based off a short story called “Ghosts” by Maxwell Gontarek (which I couldn't find for the life of me). It stars Will Bernish, Timothy J. Cox, and Tatiana Ford, who all make lasting impressions with very little screen time. Perhaps most importantly, in a mere ten minutes the film creates a style and atmosphere that left me intrigued and wanting more. I could totally see this working as a feature or a series, if those involved felt so inclined.  

The film opens with a lovely shot panning across the ceiling of a theater, coming down on a stand-up comic (Bernish) bombing, which fills me with a skin crawling anxiety. He turns the set around by making jokes about his birth defect, having comically large rubber hands with only three fingers. This of course kills because there's nothing an audience loves more than a little self-deprecating humor mixed with getting to laugh at “the other”. After his set, he's approached by a sleazy/devilish agent (Cox, channeling Fisher Stevens in my head), promising him fame and riches while demanding loyalty (and also showing his limited abilities to offer these things). After excusing himself to the bathroom, the comic is approached by the agent's companion (Ford), building a strange sexual tension while perhaps acting as the angel to the agent's devil. The film ends before the comic gives a decision, but his sly smile seems to be all the answer we need.  

One of the reasons I say it would work as a feature/series is that it gave me distinct vibes of Adam Rifkin's The Dark Backward mixed with a little of Joel Potrykus' Ape, both of which I adore. The film drips with a constant state of surreal uncertainty and a Lynchian aura, helped by a gorgeous score composed by Nicholas Saia. When I looked up the film on IMDb (where you can watch the video in its entirety) I watched the trailer, which has zero footage from the actual film, but looks to be a stylistic companion preparing you for the themes and look of the short. It helped to build a world around the work and made me want to play around in this fever dream just a little bit longer. Psychic Murder is a strong recommend from me and was an excellent way to kick off my birthday “watch a bunch of stuff people have been sending me, but I've been too lazy to tackle”-a-thon, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Brandon Block does next. I agree wholeheartedly with his lone piece of IMDb trivia, “Brandon is a great person. His short films are amazing as I have seen some of them. He is a cool person who is very helpful and he is amazing. “ 

3 out of 10 fuckin' Mickey Mouse fingers (equivalent to a 10 out of 10) 

April 16th, 2018