Black (Short, 2008)

Black Short Film ReviewReviewed by Erik W. Van Der Wolf

Starring Robert McAtee, Seriina Covarrubias, Kevin Dahlgren

Written and directed by Nathan Anderson and Seth Anderson

Runtime: 39 minutes

One thing I really like about short films is that, due to the constraints of the format, filmmakers are usually forced to take risks with their work in order to tell their narrative in the most interesting and effective way possible, often using inspired imagery, unique camera angles, and symbolism. Sometimes the end result is an inspired work that separates itself from the pack and shows amazing talent right out of the gate, and sometimes the result is simply a good film that shows a lot of promise from the filmmakers but isn’t quite enough to leave a long lasting impression.

Such is the case with Black, a short film from LullSkull films written and directed by Seth and Nathan Anderson. Shot in glorious black and white on the Oregon coast, Black tells the tale of young female psychic Dana (Seriina Covarrubias) who has an unsettling experience while trying help a client, Michael (Kevin Dahlgren), find his missing wife who is presumed dead. During the attempt, Dana receives a cryptic message from the other side indicating that Dana’s husband, Emile (Robert McAtee), may be in some sort of danger and that “he needs her”. The message is so disturbing Dana abruptly ends the session and advises Michael to leave immediately. Of course, this only fuels the fire. Did she see his wife? What did she say? What happened to her? Answers he’ll not get as Dana forces him to leave so she can try and understand what’s just happened.

Meanwhile, Dana’s husband, Emile (Robert McAtee), a psychiatrist, is indeed having his own issues of unease; suffering from severe headaches and chronic nightmares about a menacing, shadowy figure chasing after him through the forest, trying to run him down like prey. He’s also quite certain his wife is in fact not a psychic but actually mentally ill and suffering from some form of personality disorder, for which he’s prescribed her medication to control. Which, of course, she refuses to take as it muddles her visions. Is Dana really a psychic? Or is she mad?

As their marriage travels the rocky terrain and Emile’s nightmares reach a fever pitch, Michael becomes more obsessed with trying to find out what’s happened to his wife, and even more obsessed with what Dana may know and isn’t telling him. And just when Emile finds out that a CT scan may show something rather frightening happening in his brain, all hell breaks loose.

Black is a well shot, well acted film (rare for the short form) that, unfortunately, kind of leaves you wanting when all is said and done. While Seth and Nathan Anderson handle directing duties wonderfully and definitely know how to use the camera, the script is a tad pedestrian, a little too obvious in its symbolism, and never really emerges from the pack. But it does rear its head above the crowd just enough to be interesting. All in all, it’s a solid effort from a couple of obviously talented guys who will most likely only get better the more they practice their craft. And as long as they keep making films, I’ll keep watching with the hopes of finally seeing the quintessential Anderson Bros. film.

2 out of 5

Visit the official Black site, and see its premiere this Oct. 16th at the 2009 Astoria International Film Festival.
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