Do you guys have ANY fucking clue what’s going on right now? You just read that post title correctly, and I am reviewing TWO things in ONE post. WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?! The reason for the dual review is that both of these short films, Gless and The Mockingbird, are what some might call “short” films, with Gless lasting about an hour and The Mockingbird only being about 40 minutes. Am I combining ALL short films now? FUCK NO. Both of these films were released by Herbivore Productions, an independent film production company based right here in Chicago. Since they were both relatively short, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, and both films had similar tones and subject matter, so I’m not some lazy dum-dum by putting them together.
A young woman named Gless (Angela Jo Strohm) is clearly in the midst of some sort of psychological breakdown. We see her talking to herself, having strange visions and hallucinations, possibly having flashbacks, all sorts of reasons to believe she’s been through a trauma of some sorts. We frequently see her interacting with “Bless” (Melissa Malan), who we realize is just another facet of her personality, and a much darker version at that. The first half of the film chronicles these psychological issues, when eventually Gless and Bless get into a physical altercation, we see Bless waking up in Gless’s bed, symbolizing that part of her personality has taken over. It’s through this “awakening” that we realize the events that caused this trauma, leading Gless to confront her family about the truth of her past.
Evelyn (Melissa Malan) and Madelyn (Rebecca Steer) are sisters who have come to live together under tragic circumstances. Evelyn has become paralyzed in a terrible accident and the only family who is willing to take care of her is Madelyn, in Madelyn’s own apartment. Madelyn tries to deal with Evelyn’s crippling depression over what her life has become, and Madelyn is also trying to deal with her own depression over being the sole provider and caregiver for Evelyn. Eventually, there’s only so much of this pressure that Madelyn can take, and goes to drastic measures to change her situation. Unfortunately, no easy solution comes without horrible psychological, and possible physical, ramifications.
Before I go any further, let me say that all I do with my life is sit here and talk (shit) about movies, and despite my desires to actually get involved and make some movies, it’s easier to just sit here and complain. Anyone who has the passion and desire to make films to their completion is automatically someone I’m jealous of, even if they aren’t the best movies. Gless was difficult to get through, as the first 30 minutes had lots of intentional audio and visual distortion, which I believe was mostly done in post-production. Unfortunately, this made it almost a physically uncomfortable experience to try to understand the visuals I was seeing as well as hear what the characters were saying. Had that first 30 minutes been condensed a little bit, I think the effect still would have come across and helped establish the trauma which Gless had undergone. Also, by the end of the film, Gless had appeared facially deformed, and I wasn’t quite sure if that was a supernatural element or how that had happened.
The Mockingbird, which I knew ahead of time was made after Gless, showed some growth on the part of the filmmakers, if merely for the fact that the audio/visual elements were a little more subtle and used more sparingly, as well as allowing the viewer to jump into the story a little bit more quickly. Without giving too much away, running simultaneously to the narrative of Madelyn and Evelyn we saw Madelyn being physical tortured, as well as questioned, by some nurses and a facially deformed man. When this physically deformed man first appeared, my curiosity was piqued, but those characters were never quite fleshed out as much as I’d hoped. I liked the supernatural elements of both films, but disappointed that those elements never really went anywhere. I was glad to know ahead of time that The Mockingbird was made after Gless because I was able to see the improvement from the filmmaking standpoint. Both of these movies had decent enough actors, and both stories were contained to either just one apartment or just one setting, so the smaller budget didn’t really show. I like the ideas and concepts that Herbivore Productions come up with, and I think that with a bigger budget they’d be able to make a feature-length film that combined psychological elements with the supernatural with a slower pace and I’d be all about it. I LOVE SLOW-PACED SUPERNATURAL SHIT!
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