John’s Horror Corner: Brother (2016), Short Film Review
Disclaimer: This review was solicited by the filmmakers. However, my opinion remains unbiased as I was neither hired nor paid to produce this critical review.
MY CALL: This is a pretty damn impressive horror short film about a boyfriend who’s not as faithful as his girlfriend thinks, and his girlfriend’s monstrous family secret. MORE MOVIES LIKE Brother: Here at MFF we occasionally do horror short film reviews. Among recent solicited promotions are Order of the Ram (2013), TRAILER TALK: Blood Money and Short Film Buzz: Burn (2016). We also did a solicited review of the indie techno-horror Other Halves (2016).
Description: Directed by Alrik Bursell and starring @ComedianCapone, Brother is an indie drama/horror film starring comedian Capone Lee about family and relationships and how sometimes the two struggle to get along. Shot on location in Oakland, CA, Brother is a completely independent horror short film with a focus on strong characters and old school practical effects. Brother also stars local actor Dezi Soley and LA based actor David O’Donnell. Brother made its premiered at the 14th Oakland International Film Festival.
My greatest relief arrived in the first 5 seconds when the characters (the lead couple) were instantly likable, the writing felt totally natural, and the actors had immediate on-screen chemistry. Just trust me on this. This basically never happens. When the brother character arrived I felt that the relationships were still somewhat natural, but less organic than the pristine opening scene.
I was also impressed with the camerawork. The opening scene included a great swing-around shot when the couple approached the lake. Nice continuous shots like this in lieu of multiple cuts may go unnoticed to most viewers, but I feel they (with fewer cuts and a more natural feel) enhance everyone’s experience.
With all three characters on screen things feel good, but there’s something missing. This may sound overly critical, but honestly short films suffer this more often than feature length because we’ve had less time to engage our main characters and cultivate an investment in them.
I was especially pleased with the sound editing. The sound of pouring a glass of wine may seem trivial at times, but without such nuance the atmosphere can stale over quickly with an overly sterile feel. Great work on the texting/media presentation as well.
Right about now would be a good time for you to stop reading and give this short film a watch. No worries, it’s just a brisk 10 minutes. Then we’ll get back to our criticism…
I must aim my greatest criticism on the boyfriend (David O’Donnell). I actually feel that he has by far the best highlights in terms of natural line delivery. However, the revelations of his infidelity–staring at the jogger in the opening scene with little regard to his girlfriend (Dezi Solèy) possibly noticing, candidly admitting to her brother that he was seeing multiple women when he met her, and dismissively agreeing that she’s “sweet”–all should have been more subtle. I fail to believe that approaching a possible engagement that she would have never noticed his poorly hidden and frequent interests in, for example, a random runner prancing by. But again, I must offer a fair defense that we only have 10 minutes to develop our story and, as such, some things must be comparably rushed to make our points with alacrity. That said, I imagine a longer version of this film would offer a better-substantiated and more natural foundation for these monogamy-fleeting behaviors.
Likewise, her argument with her brother (Capone Lee) feels as if it advances at a rushed pace, skipping much detail. But, people, 10 minute short film. All things considered, I feel this is going resplendently compared to most of my solicited indie reviews, and I’m largely enjoying this. I want to see the feature length version of this.
I often comment that “the fledgling director has much to offer in terms of [BLANK]” or that “I like what they were trying to do, but perhaps with a larger budget…” But here I have little criticism outside of aforementioned issues. And can I just say how awesome Dezi Solèy was in her first role? Fantastic.
The special effects were part CGI and part practical. I liked both. Again, better quality than I’ve come to expect from solicited submissions by far.
All that remains is for these filmmakers to move forward and make a feature length film or a longer (perhaps 20-30 min) short film out of this…perhaps for the next V/H/S-style anthology movie. I’d certainly like to see it!
Also, just as a sidenote, anyone who thinks this is a fluff review because I’m flattered to have been asked to review this…you’re quite wrong. Just check out my previous solicited reviews (all hyperlinked above). You’ll find that I’m quite critical (even at times brutally honest) but fair to the merits presented. And these filmmakers and actors have shown the kind of merits I want to see more.