Sunday 29 September 2013

Steve from Accounting vs The Shadow Dwellers (2012)

Directors: Patrick & Paul Gibbs
Stars: Zachari Michael Reynolds, Rosalie Bertrand, Mary Etuk, Terence S Johnson and Chris Henderson
This film was an official selection at Filmstock 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of all 2014 films.
This film was an official selection at the 9th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
With an outrageous title like Steve from Accounting vs The Shadow Dwellers, this was never going to be a serious affair, but humour is tough to get right in horror movies. This year's horror shorts at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival did pretty well on that front, Killer Kart and The Root of the Problem especially nailing it. This one is more overt with its laughs, eschewing the subtleties of those films in favour of a Walter Mitty-esque lead character who constantly veers off into flights of fantasy and a ludicrous story that may or may not be one of them. It's never quite clear how many of the 24 minutes we spend in the company of corporate drone, Stephen H Burrows, take place at Kensington Enterprises, his workplace of three years, and how many unfold entirely inside his imagination. The most obvious reading is that only the first couple of minutes are reality: his dressing down because of a rough disciplinary report and his interaction with a few colleagues immediately afterwards.

We have some sympathy for poor Steve. He's stuck in a dead end job in accounting, tasked with little more than carrying boxes; no wonder he starts fantasising about the three hot secretaries who share his lift to the fourth floor. He's lost whatever enthusiasm he ever had and he's got lost in small office feuds like tormenting Earl who may or may not have stolen his chocolate. What's more, he's about to turn thirty without ever having been laid, so it's hardly surprising that his psyche is screaming out for something more or that his happy place turns nightmarish. What's fun is how that happens. He walks out of the lift and stumbles into a satanic cult performing a ritual human sacrifice on company time. His bosses clearly owe their success to a long habit of killing off their own staff; Kerri is just a stopgap until the great upcoming virgin sacrifice the next day when the victim turns thirty. I wonder who that could be? Well, we have twenty minutes to figure out what Steve has to do to avoid that inevitability.

Patrick and Paul Gibbs, who wrote and directed, were well aware of their limitations, as they countered each of their weaker points. Steve's guardian angel clearly has no martial arts training, unlike some of the heavily muscled shadow dwellers like Phil Sevin, so the fight choreography is carefully edited and plays up the humour. So does the dialogue; as Steve escapes his first encounter with Sevin, he hurls feebly back, 'I'm so sorry I ruined your murder party, scary skull man!' The shadow dwellers' chant is backwards talk: 'Sacul! Grebleips! Nosirrah Drof!' highlights Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a more overt influence than any horror movie, emphasised by Randin Graves's epic score. Like that film, this is an enjoyable ride, a desk jockey's fantasy action adventure to counter his failures in life. This framework invites us to forgive a low budget, flawed acting and sync issues and sit back to enjoy the ride. Steve from Accounting is no Dr Jones, but we're more likely to know a Steve than an Indy.

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