Category Archives: Short

Darkness Falls (2016, Jarno Lee Vinsencius)

Darkness Falls runs fifteen minutes. The entire short film is set up for its end twist, which multi-hyphenate (including writer and director) Vinsencius hides fairly well. The short never meanders towards its conclusion, instead it just stops and muscles through a bunch of expository dialogue and then ends. The narrative requires newly introduced characters to be stupider than previously introduced characters say they should be. But then the movie stops so is the twist good enough to cover it all?

No, especially not considering how little work Vinsencius puts into establishing the characters. The short opens with Joanna Häggblom waking up an amnesiac in the middle of the forest. Two weeks later, after she’s apparently found her way back to her normal life–without remembering anything except her taste in fashion–Demis Tzivis shows up and tells her what should be a tall tale except for the menacing biker chicks after them.

There’s some kind of a chase sequence–more like a running sequence (well, driving sequence)–that lengthy exposition scene I mentioned, the setup for the twist and then the twist. As a director, Vinsencius does okay with the Panavision aspect ratio. His photography is solid. His editing isn’t, it’s fine but it doesn’t breathe with its protagonist. And once Tzivis shows up, Häggblom is basically just along for the ride. She asks questions and makes inquisitive expressions.

Decent support from Livia Emma Tsirk. Not so much from Niclas Fransson as Brain.

Darkness Falls is never scary, never disturbing; it’s never clear if it’s supposed to be either. But Vinsencius’s photography is strong and his composition’s competent enough. His script just doesn’t go anywhere and he doesn’t find any rhythm with the actors.

1/3Not Recommended


Written, directed, photographed, edited and produced by Jarno Lee Vinsencius.

Starring Joanna Häggblom (Melissa), Demis Tzivis (David), Anna-Sara Kennedy (Margareta), Livia Emma Tsirk (Amanda) and Niclas Fransson (Felix).


Darth Maul: Apprentice (2016, Shawn Bu)

Darth Maul: Apprentice is a fan film. It’s an excellent fan film. Director Bu has a wonderful vision sense–he goes for grandeur and drags it out (the short is an extended fight sequence) but it never gets boring. It should get boring, because absolutely everyone in the short except Ben Schamma’s Darth Maul is lame. Bu’s approach to the villain is to make him into a slasher movie villain hunting Jedi. Except he’s not, so Bu lets Schamma develop throughout.

With no dialogue. It’s all expressions. Much like in Phantom Menace, when the character does speak, it’s lame. Schamma’s expressions, however, along with the astounding make-up effects, make Apprentice an engaging experience.

Technically, it’s phenomenal. Narratively, it’s bad. There’s also Bu’s tendency to beat up on Svenja Jung’s young female Jedi. She’s always treated as weak. When she has her “final girl” moment, she doesn’t even get a good one. Bu gives all the good stuff to Schamma, which makes Jung a red herring. Apprentice is eighteen minutes and a tribute to one of the most disappointing films in mainstream film history, if not the most disappointing. There’s no time for red herrings.

Even if Bu edits it together so well. The way he cuts the character reactions into the lightsaber battle is amazing.

As the short progresses, even as it accomplishes even greater technical feats, it becomes more and more obvious. Bu runs out of good will. It’s a fine run though. Schamma’s great, Bu’s technically great (especially the editing), but it doesn’t work out. It might have helped if you didn’t want the Jedi to get killed off; Mathis Landwehr is really good if he’s suppoed to be really annoying.

I wish I would recommend it, but I’m also glad it’s so technically solid, I don’t have to recommend it.

1/3Not Recommended


Edited, produced and directed by Shawn Bu; screenplay by Bu, based on a character created by George Lucas; directors of photography, Vadim Schulz, Vi-Dan Tran and Max Tsui; music by Vincent Lee.

Starring Ben Schamma (Darth Maul), Mathis Landwehr (Jedi Master), Svenja Jung (Jedi Apprentice) and Lee Hua (Sheev Palpatine).


Ash vs. The DC Dead (2016, Brian Rosenthal)

I don’t want to “geek out” when I talk about Ash vs. The DC Dead. It might be embarrassing someday. But it’s hard not to be impressed with director Rosenthal’s ability to find the perfect combination of source material to reference. While the short has David VonHippchen’s Ash facing off against big blue DC super-anti-hero Lobo (Derek Russo), the most interesting stuff isn’t Russo or their showdown. Russo’s fine, but he’s not great. It’s a bad part. Rosenthal just needs the right antagonist for VonHippchen to make an impressive short–a lot of DC Dead, if it isn’t intentional, is real showy. In a good way. Rosenthal knows what he’s doing and he should be showy, because he’s inviting the viewer to be impressed.

And even though DC Dead references the “Arrow” TV show, the Green Lantern movie, the Tim Burton Batman movies–not to mention Spider-Man (female lead Lindsay Croucher is Gwen Stacy)–the coolest thing about DC Dead is its Evil Dead sensibilities. Rosenthal’s able to get away with questionable effects because he’s doing a low budget Evil Dead movie. You always give those the benefit of the doubt (because you always have).

Only VonHippchen doesn’t get the best arc; Croucher goes from his annoyed sidekick to his savior (with a wonderful, appropriate final development) and she’s pretty good in the part. There’s some inherent silliness it occasionally stumbles over, but Croucher and Rosenthal work through it.

Ash vs. The DC Dead is awesome. But it’s for a limited audience. Rosenthal’s really good at filmmaking, which can be appreciated without understanding the minutiae, and makes it worth a look alone. You just aren’t going to grin as much as you would if you got the references.

3/3Highly Recommended


Written, directed, photographed and edited by Brian Rosenthal; music by Karl Anderson; production designer, David VonHippchen; produced by Duke Stephenson.

Starring David VonHippchen (Ash Williams), Derek Russo (Lobo), Lindsay Croucher (Gwen Stacy), Joshua Borcyk (Green Arrow) and Marian Gonzalez (Cassie).


Ninja Turtles: Veterans of the Night (2015, Miguel Díaz-Rivera)

I can’t rip into Ninja Turtles: Veterans of the Night. I can’t do it. Director Díaz-Rivera’s reverence for the source material isn’t infectious. It doesn’t have me remembering the old comic or the cartoon or the movies or anything with rose-colored glasses. But he does sell it. He sells the idea of this grand, sweeping epic TMNT movie.

Like a martial arts epic.

Díaz-Rivera isn’t good with actors. But he can edit and he can do the CG for the rest of the short. He’s good on both those tasks and they’re what’s important about Ninja Turtles. Díaz-Rivera’s sincerity, enthusiasm and special effects skills make up for a couple significant bumps.

The final sequence is a three dimensional fight scene on pause, the camera flying around, inspecting everyone. It’s great. The Turtles look great (more like monsters). Díaz-Rivera sets the paused sequence to the sounds of the “fight,” only there’s no Turtle sounds. It creates a disconnect. Díaz-Rivera doesn’t let them be characters, not even breathe.

In the end, I recommend Veterans because it’s impressive as heck. It’s not a good narrative, but it really isn’t an attempt at one.

Really awesome end titles too. Absurd, but awesome. Joel Schumacher Gotham meets TMNT set to Yurun Wu’s great music.



Edited, written and directed by Miguel Díaz-Rivera; director of photography, Omayra Espino Vázquez; music by Yurun Wu; produced by Laura Von Ins and Díaz-Rivera.