Reviewbr> "Did you see Charlie's face, priceless" - Sarah
Three school friends are heavily into scaring the crap out of their class mates via working on people's fears. The name of the game is to switch a victim's phobia into overdrive and derive pleasure from the response. I've got a huge feeling of confidence for the future of the Country really. Our three musketeers have been conducting the same sort of fear tactics against a number of people over the course of a few weeks judging by the score tally they strangely keep on a whiteboard at their school. Guess the budget is really down in the New Zealand school system as apparently there aren't enough Teachers or indeed Janitors to note the strange scorecard.
Naturally someone has to ruin the fun and one of the intended victims' fights back, which leads to the victim's death. Having disposed of the body out of a window, the murder happened on the fourth floor of a school building, our budding psycho killers head into the night to wait on what punishment the authorities will hand down when the body is discovered. You are going to have to see the movie to find out what happens next.
I wanted to get the bad out of the way upfront as we're talking young film makers with a lot of talent that are simply a bit rough around the edges. So we have a sort of uneven pacing going down, for a six minute short Phobia doesn't develop any fundamental progression from scene to scene, it drops off at stages. Some of the acting ranges down to the self conscious, a Director needs to keep on top of this regardless of medium, the Actors need to sell a movie if that movie is as heavily character orientated as Phobia is. And finally a couple of the developments are dubious at best, but this has more to do with Director Sang not really selling those developments than any fundamental flaw in where Phobia is headed. I'm going to leave out a couple of props, 48 hours is kind of going to cut down your prosthetics and post production options. This might seem a bit harsh, but in this business gilding the lily is a fast track to becoming a quote whore.
On the bright side of the boom mike Calvin Sang gets his movie out of the door is pretty convincing fashion. We open to a black screen with someone heavy breathing and almost whimpering. There's a back ground laughter and a sort of dull thudding that will set most horror fans on edge, this is never a good development in a dark flick. The only light comes from a small gap, which the Audience will recognise once their disorientation is over. Unfortunately Sang decides to go with a voice over narrative that sort of spells the end to the effectiveness of the scene. We learn some random dude, Charlie, is in a cardboard box and is being taunted by three hockey mask clad bullies. Guess Charlie ever has a phobia of dark enclosed spaces, or being in a cardboard set upon by junior members of the Jason Voorhees fan club. But the point here is that briefly Sang hits it out of the ball park with an effective opening that serves notice to the audience that the short is going to have some solid impact. One of the great openings that put me in mind of Rodrigo CortÚs excellent Buried (2010), the movie that takes place basically in a buried coffin, which shouldn't work but which CortÚs nails.
There are only a few directions Director Sang can take his movie in from here, and yeah I called it wrong. I was expecting a reply of Clive Barker's Dread, so two thumbs up to the film makers, strangely collectively called Pickle Thug, for at least throwing a curve ball to me. Probably the only real issue I had with the short was the actually direction it went in, things don't chime as realistic and move toward the sort of twist that will have you face palming. Sang wants to go in that direction but doesn't sell the development in anything like a successful fashion. Given the six minute run time it's going to take a hell of a Director to convincingly round things out, and Sang doesn't have the experience to pull it off.
Heightening your movie journey is an outstanding sidetrack thrown into the mix that had me nodding my head in approval. There's a slightly weird feeling to it, which I guess matches our journey into darkness, but it works like a Trojan to put us in the right frame of mind. It's well worth your while turning off the visuals and checking out the at times surreal approach to the soundscape. We get a mix of typical horror movements, quirky tones, and some solid tunes. The real achievement of this short is in the score and the ability to mix mood with sound.
"Screw you guys, and screw your pen"? While I was happy enough with the plotting, with the proviso of the miss with the twist at the ending, some of the dialogue was atrocious. Given the relatively young age of the script writers, I would expect this aspect of their movie making to improve, and perhaps touch bases with a slight more realism.
Guess I did have a few more criticisms, in a negative sense, of Phobia than I initially thought. There was a distinct lack of Adult voice overs or actors in the short that will ring wrong with some viewers. For example the news reader toward the end is simply way too young to be anything like a national news presenter. It's the small things that are going to bite you in the arse when exposing your work to the world.
I was actually pretty solid with the three leads in this one. There's a nice malicious streak to them that Sang wonderfully doesn't bother explaining, that's a good thing by thw way. At the beginning of the movie they are simply bored bullies having fun at others' expense, besides a short detour into the whole pen thing - that didn't work by the way, I could certainly believe their ultimate transformation if the movie had of sold it better. Very solid acting, though all three might need some speech training if planning futures in the industry.
So end of day, and before I get edited like Swiz cheese, I quite enjoyed this one. You certainly aren't going to be losing anything by checking out what Calvin Sang and team have laid out for your entertainment. I was certainly entertained by it and could see some talent shining on through. Recommending to folk reading who enjoy a short movie that is unblemished with anything like self awareness. Will definitely check out future Sang releases, and I've got a hankering now to purchase the 48 Hour DVDs if they include shorts of the quality of Phobia.
I was unable to find a web presence for the movie makers, and before you ask no I'm not a non-tech or teenage chick so didn't bother with things like visageborg. See below for the movie at least, go forth and Google from there.