Remember that interview I posted yesterday with Taaffe O’Connell? Of course you do. Just in case you’re late to the party and need to catch up, you can see that HERE. Anyway, in part 2 she talked about releasing short films under the Taaffe’s Twisted Picts banner, and Bottles is the first one. She gave me a copy to review, so without further ado…
When it comes to short films, I guess I’m kinda like Goldilocks. The stories seem to be kinda hard to nail down perfectly for the length. Sometimes they’re too short, meaning they have a feature’s worth of ideas, but they only have time to skim across them superficially, and you end up with that “that’s all?’ feeling. Sometimes they have a little kernel of an idea, like a scene or a gag that would be really good as a scene in a feature but just can’t stand on its own, so they try to stretch it into a short. Then it’s too long. Then you get a flick like Bottles where it’s just right.
Here’s the synopsis: Mira is a hard working divorced mother with a dark secret; when she gets angry, objects move and people get hurt. One day, coming home from a patient who has slipped into a mysterious coma, she notices disturbing items in her twelve-year-old daughter’s antique bottle collection. Her daughter, Cheyenne, is hiding her own frightening capabilities. As Mira copes with her daughter’s budding talents, Cheyenne draws Mira, her Father – and his new wife – into a shadowy set of life or death choices.
The story here works perfectly. We never find out where the ladies’ powers come from, and we don’t need to. I like that everything isn’t explained. It leaves the world that the movie takes place in a bit of a mystery. The central idea is well realized, and it all ends with the type of surprising conclusion that doesn’t leave the audience gasping so much as with an evil, conspiratorial grin. It has an almost Twilight Zone-ish vibe to it. I want to avoid saying too much, as if I say pretty much anything beyond that synopsis I’ll give too much away. I will say this, I knew that the film was 20 minutes, but when the credits started rolling, I had to look at the running time again to be sure, because it flew by.
Where this short really shines is in the acting. There are only six members of the cast, so a weak link would have been glaring. Luckily, everyone turns in performances that are far superior to what you see in a lot of horror short films, or indie horror films at all for that matter. The standout is Teressa Byrne as Mira. She delivers a complex performance that is simultaneously sympathetic and sinister. It’s no wonder that she’s been wining awards at the festivals the film is screened at, and she could easily be a star on the rise. I also really dug Gwendolyn Oliver’s performance as nursing home nurse Cecilia. My grandparents spent some time in nursing homes near the end of their lives, and Gwendolyn captures the demeanor of the nurses there that I actually liked with pinpoint accuracy. Like I said, everyone did a great job, but those two were particularly noteworthy to me.
The visual style is where I had a bit of an issue with the flick. A lot of the time the camera is moving for no reason at all. It’s not shaky cam, it’s just wobbly cam. There is a lot of good, motivated camera movement, but there are also times when the camera is just bobbing slightly in shots that should be static. I’m not sure if this was an artistic choice or if it was just shot handheld and the wobble was left in, but I found myself a couple of times being taken out of the story because I was too busy asking “why is the camera doing that?” That being said, I did dig a lot of the visuals in the flick. Some of the shots are set up beautifully, with some unique angles. The lighting is used quite strikingly. The effects on the bottles themselves were creative and actually really cool looking. I loved the look of the film aside from that wobble.
Overall filmmaker Jon Stout brings us a great little creepy tale in Bottles. The acting is phenomenal. It’s based on a short story, but it was adapted perfectly. Like I said, aside from the one visual issue of the wobbly frame, everything is spot on. It’s no wonder it’s, as Taaffe said, tearing up the festival circuit. Rumor has it that it will be included as part of an upcoming anthology. Keep your eyes peeled for that, and I’ll let you know if I find out any more details. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out. To find out where you can see it, go to www.facebook.com/bottlesfilm.