Written and directed by Gregory G. Kurczynski
Short films in the horror genre work best when they contain a story dynamic we don’t see coming or leave us suffering from some sort of emotional impact when all is said and done. The work of Drew Daywalt is a great example of this. With an impressive resume of short films, he’s a filmmaker who truly understands the idea of set-up followed by a vicious sucker punch. Anyone even considering making a horror short should check out his fabulous work before doing so.
Risen, written and directed by Gregory Kurczynski, gets credit for actually aspiring to hit all these important notes, almost hits them, but is ultimately undone by giving us too much information throughout and missing the emotional high mark it aims for.
The film opens with a familiar horror trope – boy meets girl in a bar, a news report tells us there is a serial killer on the loose, and we the audience are to ponder which one of them is not who they claim to be. The change-up tossed into this particular incarnation is the added news stories about corpses coming back to life, and it doesn’t take much effort from the avid horror viewer to figure out what’s going to happen next: the serial killer will be revealed, and the eventual victim will return as part of Team Living Dead and said serial killer will meet his or her well deserved fate at the hands of a product thrown his or her own creation.
Sadly, the story here is plastered on the wall in bold letters (not to mention a lot of this is given away in the promo materials), which is unfortunate because the craftsmanship in Risen indicates that Kurczynski is capable of much more. The film is well shot and well edited and Kurczynski handles directing duties quite effectively. The problem is it’s just not well written. There’s no sleight of hand or nuance, and this is a story that definitely would have benefited from such. Especially given the heavy emotional core he’s ultimately aiming for.
Performances are so-so as they tend to be with short films. Normally you just accept that as part of the low budget territory, but in this case, the lack of caliber actors hurts. The roles get pretty meaty in the finale and the actors aren’t really able to “get there” as they say. Still, they give a solid effort and the “cat and mouse” scenes in the bar actually play quite well. Not surprising as this is the better part of Kurczynski’s script.
All in all, Risen is well made and crafted with all the right intentions; it just falls a bit short. But not by much.
2 1/2 out of 5
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