Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Will (2013)

Director: Mack Duncan
Stars: Jermain Byers and Clifton Gray
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
The CareFree Write entry for the Beat the Clock challenge earlier this year was Wouldn't Be Love, which felt like a good film lost under the weight of serious technical issues. Their entry for Mystery Box has the same feel, though both the positive and negative evened out a little. There's much to like here, but it's less of a film and more of a vignette, tailored of course for a film challenge. The story is the strong part once more, with some agreeable quirks and decent dialogue leading up to a strong but admirably subtle little twist at the end. The downside is the sound, though it's mostly just sync issues this time around. In between is the acting, which runs the gamut from wooden or overplayed to strong or delightful. When I reviewed Wouldn't Be Love, I noted that I should go back to find some of the award winning shorts that CareFree Write have made. I haven't done that yet, but this film underlines why I should, because I like what they're doing, just not necessarily how they're doing it on limited timeframes.

The story here happens in the month between the reading of a will and the allocation of assets; to fit in the required running time, we only follow one of the three surviving relatives of the deceased, Gertrude Elizabeth Merryweather. That's a shame, as I'd like to have seen the other two stories that are told only in hints. There are riders to the will; each of the three beneficiaries are given a suitably macabre task to fulfil. Roger must spend 30 days in a haunted house, Jessica must find Aunt Gert's killer and avenge her death, while Gary must safeguard a cursed object. It's a monkey, a child's toy, to which he's handcuffed for the entire thirty days, and his cursed misadventures comprise most of this short. It goes precisely as well as you might expect, but there's still time for substance. Jermain Byers shows some charm as Gary, but it's Clifton Gray who steals the show as the dry lawyer. Unfortunately he only gets to bookend the piece, but he does it well enough to haul us in and leave us wanting more.

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