Last Tenant, The (Short, 2010)



The Last TenantReviewed by Erik Van Der Wolf

Starring Lisa Clifford, Vance Harvey, Caroline Buss, John Hermann

Directed by Michael Halper

Distributed by Ascentia Films


Increasingly, short films are the best way for aspiring filmmakers to get noticed. And with so many film festivals and contests out there nowadays (such as Screamfest), it's much easier to get one's work seen by actual audiences and even industry professionals who are always on the lookout for new talent. So it's no surprise that more and more filmmakers are choosing to make budget friendly shorts as their calling cards, rather than risking the serious money it takes to shoot a low budget feature.

But, while shooting a short film may be more manageable from a financial and complexity perspective, very few filmmakers have the skills it takes to tell an effective three-act story within the confines of the short medium. Honestly, most of them are just plain bad.

Which is what made The Last Tenant such a pleasure to watch. Written by Michael Halper and John Hermann and directed by Halper, the film tells the story of Rachel, who moves into an apartment whose last tenant was a serial rapist and murderer who was eventually killed in the flat by one of his would be victims during her narrow escape. And while Rachel isn't bothered by the events which took place in her abode, she can't help but feel a little disturbed when she finds the killer's journal hidden in a secret compartment. A tome which chronicles every brutal rape and murder in graphic detail and logs every lurid, twisted thought that entered his disturbed mind.

And what is it about the secret compartment it was hidden in? Even though Rachel's training in forensics has given her a more clinical view of the world rather than spiritual, she can't help but sense a negative energy in the apartment now. From the moment she discovered the journal, things just haven't seemed quite... right. Is it possible the events have left their spiritual footprint? Or is it something else?

From the very beginning it's obvious Halper and Hermann have a firm grasp on how to make a film and how to tell a story visually. The only problem is that while the set-up is interesting, the payoff doesn't quite deliver. Which is unfortunate because, overall, the film is actually well made. While there are some lighting issues here and there, the camera work is solid, performances are fairly good for a short film (a rare occurrence), and the production values are at least up to the level of a low budget syndicated television show, which is quite an accomplishment for a short. All in all, these guys are good filmmakers.

Michael Halper and John Hermann have stated that this short piece is but one step in turning the story into a feature film. Based on what they've done here, there's no doubt that it will be well made and worth the watch.

3 out of 5

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