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Monday, 5 January 2015

Edward the Damned (2013)

Director: John L Weckworth
Stars: Oliver Hollis, Rachel Warren, David Lyddon and Les Loveday
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
At sixteen minutes, Edward the Damned needed to be an outstanding short to warrant its presence in a horror shorts set but I found it sadly lacking. I say 'sadly' because I did love the idea, sourced from a real 19th century medical curiosity, Edward Mordake (with no second R). Certainly it plays as a neatly original concept with a timeless air. Unfortunately there's no back story to explain where Edward Mordrake (with the second R) came upon his disfigurement and why it took the form it did. In many ways, this feels like the second half to a story, the half where the lead character chooses how to solve his problems, but with the first half missing that would have set it all up. It didn't surprise me to find that John L Weckworth, the man behind the short as both its writer and director, is both new to the roles but still highly experienced in film, having a long list of credits behind him in visual effects. As a senior compositor at Asylum Visual Effects (nothing to do with the Asylum studio), he's worked on some of the biggest recent blockbusters.

Needless to say, the effects work here is one of the strongest aspects of the film, as he has his day job for a reason. I didn't buy all of the effects, but there are some superbly freaky ones here generated from the freaky central character that the script couldn't quite manage to otherwise bring to life. Edward Mordrake seems to have a blessed life, given that he has an apparently important job in the City of London, he can jog out of his apartment right onto the Millennium Bridge and his friends at work have set him up with a lovely young lady called Cindy. However, he has a serious problem and, from his twitching toupée, it has something to do with the back of his head. He's about to get a goodnight kiss from his date when her roaming hand reaches the nape of his neck and he reacts violently, running away from her, even leaving his jacket behind, to track down a phone box and ring a strange man who meets him, throws a hood over his head and drags him into a building. There's surely mystery here.
And so it's set up capably. The idea is quirky and we certainly want to find out what's going on under that wig, actors Oliver Hollis and Rachel Warren are capable in their roles and the effects work, when we get to see it, is strong. However it all feels off somehow. Much of it is technical: the lighting is good enough but isn't quite right, especially outside where foregrounds are a little too bright and the backgrounds a little too dark; the sound is similar, with lots of background noise to distract; and the script hasn't quite figured out exactly what it wants to say, with far too much filler for a short film. I'd have liked to have seen less of what Weckworth shows us but more of what he doesn't. I'm all for industry folk with established day jobs making their own films (in fact some of my favourite movies, short or feature, fit this description), and it's not fair to say that effects folk do any worse at this than editors or cinematographers, but this needed a lot more polish to live up to the promise of the source character than Weckworth was able to provide.

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