Shorts: What Jack Built (2015)

The “Marcus is actually doing shit”-a-thon continues with another short film sent to me by character actor Timothy J. Cox (though the film was directed by Matthew Mahler). In the first film I watched him in, I said he seemed to be channeling Fisher Stevens (in my head it was via Hackers). In this short he comes off more of an amalgamation of both Tucker and Dale when they versused Evil, if they had also been building a trap in the woods to catch a monster with a fast-moving shaky cam POV (fingers crossed for the sequel). At first, I wasn't sure if I would really have much to say about this film (and I still may not), but its frenetic energy and dialogue free approach made it a surprisingly fun way to spend ten minutes.  

The film shows a nameless protagonist (though I suppose he's the titular Jack) as he madly works on some sort of contraption in his shed. We have no idea what his goal is or what he's building, but he seems to be racing against some unforeseen clock, a dude on a mission. He saws and drills and lays down on the floor to make sure the keys on a keyboard still go clickety-clack. We then see him dragging pieces of his project out into the woods, putting them together to create some sort of a trap for something. He sets up a tape to play as bait and drags a rope (fishing line or breadcrumb trail? I do not know) back to his home base, where he has several way too quality surveillance cameras set up for its 1985 time stamp. Some creature comes a runnin' to what I can only assume is the docile tones of Jack's mid-80s mix tape full of Joy Division, The Cure, and The Smiths...with maybe a little Journey or Oingo Boingo tossed in to keep it fun (birthday mix-check), and the trap is sprung. Jack goes back to the trap to find it torn asunder and to finally become the victim of said creature. Hoisted by his own monster catchin' petard, as the kids like to say.  

Once again, my good short film criteria comes into play. Be simple, don't overstay your welcome, and get a bit weird. Check, check, and motherfucking check. As I mentioned, the short is dialogue free, but contains this pulsing electronic score that makes it feel like a montage from a heist film, while watching a dude lose it all in his hunt for this Moby Dick/Bigfoot-esque motherfucker. There are a lot of great small touches in this film, like the white mask hanging on the wall of Jack's workshop to his delicate hanging and disrobing of his trench coat atop his tattered clothes, that give it a little extra depth. It all adds together to make this a fun and interesting romp, even if it's not the most well-made or unique. Cox gives a great physical performance, almost calling to mind the physical comedians of the silent era for his cooky descent into madness. It makes me feel comfortable giving him the moniker of “character actor” after only two performances given his night and day approach to the roles. The swiftness of the run time forgives some annoying techniques like the shaky cam or unnecessary slow-mo “oo, it's gettin' weird” shots. In the end, I think this would be a good short to play on silent while listening to Tom Waits' “What's He Building”, which ain't a bad way to spend a few minutes of your life. You can watch the short in its entirety on its IMDb page if you're feeling nasty. 

6 out of 10 crazy hermit accessories 

April 16th, 2018