Short independent films can be extremely tricky things. Not only do you usually have to deal with the usual budgetary limitations of an independent movie, but you also have to have a strong enough screenplay, actors, and director to get in, establish your setting and characters, tell your story, and get out. It’s the failure of any one of those things that can make the difference between a good idea and a good movie.
Of course, the same can really be said of any movie, I suppose, but with the kind of films I’m talking about, the pressure on these factors is even greater, because most of the time, you can’t rely on CGI wizardry to “fix it in post” or on drawing things out to the point that plot, characterization, motivation, etc. simply get lost in the shuffle.
So how does the independent film maker deal with these things? There are a number of ways, of course, but one of them is to use a limited number of locations.. If you’re doing all of your shooting in one or two places, then you don’t have to worry as much about finding a variety of locations, figuring out how to dress them, light them, place your camera in each of them, etc. etc. Instead, the time and money that all of that can take up can be used to better effect making the most of the space that you do have. This is also true when you have to limit the number of actors you can afford to use. When you can’t simply fill up the screen with hundreds of extras – either real or computer generated – who can walk through a scene to distract from the main performance or run screaming in terror to show the audience that there’s something to be scared of, or even just to provide “atmosphere”. then you have to be absolutely sure that the performances you are getting from them are top-notch.
What’s all of that got to do with the two films we’re looking at today? That’s simple. In both of them, writer James Williams and director Al Lougher have succeeded on all counts. They’ve taken their obviously very limited budgets and used them to turn what could have been real disadvantages into true advantages.
This is especially obvious in the first film, So Pretty. Obviously conceived as a response to and commentary on the current Twilight-esque take on vampires as creatures of seduction to be loved instead of feared, So Pretty uses it’s short (8:39) running time to actually tell a story with a concrete beginning, middle, and end. It also takes advantage of its single setting (one almost-deserted subway car) to create a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment that could not have been at all helped by moving outside its confines. Yet it also gives one the sense that there is definitely more going on than at first meets the eye. Here go ahead and have a look:
Pretty intense, and as I said, a film that definitely stands on its own while giving a sense of being a part of a larger picture. Which is where the sequel, So Dark comes in. Following directly from the events of the first film, So Dark actually picks up later the same night, after Sean has been captured (or rather allowed himself to be captured) by the police. Again, So Dark is largely concentrated in a couple of different rooms in the same building, and only moves outside of them at the end, when the plot necessitates it. And, again, the characters are mostly limited to those that are necessary to telling the story at hand. Yes, it’s longer running time (So Dark clocks in at 21:15) allows it to be more expansive, but again, it is a full story rather than simply a part of one, and can very well stand on its own. Certainly having seen the earlier film helps, and there is definitely room for more follow up, but even if you only saw this one film, you would come away satisfied, and that is a large part of what makes it a success, and in a lot of ways could and perhaps should be taken as a challenge to many a much more celebrated film maker today, many of whom seem to think that if their movie doesn’t run at least two hours, it’s not worth making.
As for the film itself, well, it has enough twists that I don’t want to give too much away, but it definitely also follows in tone from the first. Sean is not the kind of vampire teenage girls are going to want to cuddle up with, but in my mind, that’s a good thing. These are movies that harken back to a time when vampires were creatures of darkness and blood and remembers that there is a reason their stories should be filed in the “horror” section as opposed to “romance”. At the same time, they don’t cross over into the graphic gore territory that so many so-called “horror” films seem to want to wallow in today. As a matter of fact, despite the picture I posted above, there’s relatively little blood in either of these films, and when it is there, its there for a reason.
Ok, that’s enough from me. Just take the time and watch the film for yourself. If you’re a horror fan, especially one like me who is just kind of dissatisfied with much of what’s hitting the big screen in the guise of the genre I think you’ll definitely find that it’s time well spent.
Until next time, Happy Viewing.
- SO DARK – Short Film About a Vampire with a Code (geektyrant.com)
- Anti-Twilight Short Gets a “Dark” Sequel: An SML Review of “So Dark” (stuffmonsterslike.com)