Barber Chop (Short, 2011)



Barber ChopStarring Cedric Ido, Hugo Malpeyre, Maud Matton, Frederick Mahe

Written and directed by Benoit Boyer


As mentioned time and time again in reviews here, crafting a short film is hard. Telling an effective story in the short form requires not only a command of story structure but also a unique concept or twist that makes the viewer’s time investment worthwhile. Sadly, Barber Chop contains none of those things.

Written and directed by Benoit Boyer, the film opens in a nondescript sterile-looking room where an unconscious man is tied to a chair. Moments later another man enters carrying a black case – the Barber. He opens the case with exactness, a sense of ritual, revealing all the tools of the barber trade: straight razor, scissors, etc. He then proceeds to give the unconscious victim a shave and a haircut. When the victim eventually stirs awake, he clearly has no idea where he’s at or what’s going on but never says a word or struggles to get free during the entire experience.

Once the shave and cut are complete, the barber reveals new tools in his case. The tools of torture. And just when you think something is finally about to happen here, most of it occurs off-screen or is obscured by showing the unfolding events in reflections off door knobs and the like. If that’s not frustrating enough, there’s also the use of multiple split screens which do nothing to enhance the telling of the story and seem shoved into the piece to try and add a sense of cinematic style. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

The victim eventually succumbs to the torture and the Barber leaves. After a moment another man enters the room, disposes of the body, cleans up the mess, and then brings in the next “customer”, an unconscious woman who will soon suffer the same fate.

Sigh…

While it’s clear this film is intended to be an experimental exercise in nail-biting tension, it barely piques interest. It never creates a sense of mood or dread (not even by the use of lighting), and the time invested by the viewer is never rewarded with anything even remotely resembling a payoff. You’re left wondering “What the hell did I just watch? And what exactly was the point?” The last thing you want an audience to be asking.

While the attempt to leave more to the imagination by having the torture acts occur off-screen is appreciated, it simply doesn’t work here, especially when you have nothing else to offer the audience such as a plot or some kind of reveal. There are absolutely no surprises here. What you see is what you get, and it's not much.

However, the film is technically made well, which is why it gets...

1 out of 5

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