short film

Wicked Wednesday: The Room at the Top of the Stairs (2010)

I have been weirdly underwhelmed by short films at the moment. After a crazy weekend of comic con, I really just wanted to watch something short and satisfying – The Room At the Top of the Stairs only fulfilled one of these requirements.

It’s another one of those “let’s keep it mysterious by explaining zero things” kinds of stories. And I’m reeeeally getting ill on them now.

The Room at the Top of the Stairs is the story of a girl (who isn’t given a name) who moves into a new flat-share with three roommates. They’re all artsy and ‘free spirited’. Three paintings of a girl hang on one of the walls.

When the Girl first sees her room, she notices nails on the wall. She’s told that their former roommate, Carmen, enjoyed nailing everything to a wall. The Girl is later told more about Carmen, and it’s slowly revealed that Carmen was a bit of a problem to the other three roommates.

The roommates have a party that night, and the Girl eventually joins them. They share more stories about the mysterious Carmen – who apparently had one incident involving a pair of scissors. But it’s pretty clear that The Girl doesn’t fit in. Her tries to share her own stories, but they are mostly lame and her roommates have no idea how to react to her.

Feeling slighted, the Girl returns to her room to drink wine and work on her art alone. During the night, her posters begin to fall off the wall. But the wine convinces her to tear them all off herself. She begins to join the lines between the nails together, forming a geometrical pattern on the wall.

The next day a girl, presumably Carmen, tries to make her way into the house and her roommates push her back out. After the incident, the three roommates decide to go out, and the Girl declines the invite to join them. She later hears a noise and discovers a girl in one of the bedrooms.

The girl, Carmen, is standing over a bed with a sheep’s heart on it. It’s clearly her way to freak out the roommates she despises so much. Carmen sees the Girl wearing a maroon dress and demands she takes it off (not sure why the dress thing is such a big deal, but neither will you – there’s no explanation).

But the Girl refuses to take off the dress, takes a bite of the heart and spits it out, then offers to help Carmen clean up the mess she’s made.

While in the bathroom, the Girl tries dragging the fan towards the bathroom and realises the cord doesn’t stretch to the tub. The night before, she was told a story that Carmen had threatened to drop the heater into the bathtub while one of the roommates was in the tub. Not sure if the short cord was supposed to imply that the Girl couldn’t kill Carmen or that the stories about Carmen were actually a lie.

But don’t worry. There will be no answers.

Carmen eventually leaves and the Girl decides to hang up her own paintings in place of Carmen’s. Her roommates see them and compliment the work, saying the pieces were a lot better than what had been there before. The Girl smiles and leaves. Then the roommates look into her room, and their looks change to one of disgust.

But you don’t see what’s in that room. No, my friends.

I didn’t get any of it. Not a thing. And I suppose there could have been something I missed. Maybe I’m not smart enough, but watching movies should be hard.

Nothing was properly explained. The dress, the tub, what the hell was happening to the girls. Were they both just kindred souls of crazy? The stories that are tackled in a short film need to be appropriate. These are bite-sized minutes of our lives that should really be a full arc. Unfortunately, The Room at the Top of the Stairs was probably a little bit too ambitious. It may have served better fleshed out and delivered as a full-length film.

Wicked Wednesday: The Captured Bird (2012)

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Childhood is often a brilliant thing to explore within the realm of horror. Because really, many people have their’s ended when doses of horrible realities meet our own wide-eyed innocence.

The Captured Bird is a 2012 short-film that explores in a most literal sense: with monsters.

The film, completely free of dialogue save for laughter and screams, relies solely on the expressive face of its young star, actor Skyler Wexler (little KIRA!).

Thankfully, Wexler’s expressive, little face is plenty compelling to carry the film as there is very little plot that unfolds within the 8-minute film. Though it doesn’t hurt that this film looks absolutely fantastic.

The story follows a little girl drawing in a rather over-grown park. While finishing her chalk drawing, a mysterious, oil-like liquid begins pouring from the cracks between the bricks. She cautiously stands up, and follows the trail to an intimidatingly large building that looms over her.

After climbing the steps, the girl begins to explore the grounds and interior of the building, spotting various little joys around the place like maggots. She’s coaxed by the tentacle-like oil to coming closer. It produces a flower for her, only to burn it – which amuses the little girl more than is probably should.

She eventually finds herself in a room where several figures begin to grow from the black puddle. The legless creatures are enough to scare her into action, though all too late as she can’t find her exit within the red curtains.

The following scene (which I suppose is suppose to be ominous) is of the menaces floating away from their home and travel to the park. The sounds in the distance quickly go from laughter to screams.

And… that’s it. A sort of tasting, which is fairly common in horror short films. The Captured Bird is good, but perhaps a bit forgettable when so many of them are excellent.

The visuals save most of the film, especially since there really isn’t much of a plot. Here, there really isn’t much to tantalise you to want to know more about what is going to happen. The best short films are the ones that leave you with a satisfying ending (whether that be open or closed).

The ending successfully managed to squash any imagination conjured up by the little girl and the large house. The 8 minutes didn’t really leave me incited, but rather a little disappointed.

Director Jovanka Vuckovic’s name should be familiar if you read Rue Morgue back in the 2000’s. She was Editor there for a better part of a decade before pursing her directing projects.

Most recently, Vuckovic has contributed her directing to the anthology film XX that premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival in January to quite a bit of enthusiasm. And there was actually plenty to love about The Captured Bird that makes it intriguing to see where Vuckovic goes next.

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