Frolic, The (Short, 2007)
Directed by Jacob Cooney
Given that my movie tastes lean toward (if not full out sprawl indulgently across) the extreme and taboo, it is not often that a film's content can cause me to pause even for a moment. Of course there are exceptions to most rules, and the exception to mine is violence against children.
Now there are those moments of cinematic delight where a random truck will back over a kid in the street and then the movie moves on without missing a beat, leaving you in stunned stupefaction, or a kid-creature will get defeated in the most brutally comical way and you can't help but laugh. That's not what I'm talking about. What gets me is the pit in your stomach, sick, icky feeling you get when Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene goes missing in Con Air. You know nothing good is going to happen and there's nothing you can do to prevent it. You're helpless...
Jacob Cooney takes those abysmal feelings and amplifies them beyond the screen, delivering them directly into your very being with his short film The Frolic.
The film is based on the short story of the same name written by Thomas Ligotti. It follows an excruciating few hours in a prison psychologist's life as he resigns from his job. His departure has somehow been incited by an inmate patient's heinous crimes and disquieting demeanor. As he arrives home, he is visibly shaken and sets about writing his final report and an explanation of why he is leaving his position so abruptly. The few final moments of The Frolic are gut twisting as dreadful realization sets in.
The tension leading up to the finale of this film is nearly intolerable. For twenty minutes you know what's coming, but you hope you're wrong. When it ends, you want more. Or do you? Would it be better to know everything ... or nothing? Is your imagination sending you to sinister enough places, or is it simply running away with you? Do you really want to see?
The Frolic digs into the deepest, darkest recesses of your soul and remains there like an eternal stain. It sinks in slowly as to not frighten its prey too soon, and then it goes about permeating every inch of you, making your skin crawl and your mind search for a more acceptable explanation. This film's inexplicable sensation of dread is not reserved for parents alone; as long as you have some sense of humanity in you, it is sure to affect you in some way.
The fantastic direction and superb writing are made even stronger by solid performances throughout the all too brief film, the most notable of which is that of Maury Sterling (Smoking Aces). His startling portrayal of the child-coveting murderer John Doe makes your blood ice over in your veins as you listen to him meticulously describe his "special friendships" with the children he meets. You want to strangle the monster with your own hands, but at the same time you're afraid to get too close to him. You realize just how brilliant he is when you can taste the bile rising in your throat that you just can't force back down.
I could probably talk all night about this film, but I honestly don't want to dwell on it for too long. No matter how hot you can stand the water, a shower will not cleanse your soul of The Frolic.
4 1/2 out of 5
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