Short Film Review: ‘Dark Tenet’ Doesn’t Finish What It Starts

August 31, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Three friends sit relaxing and enjoying the tranquility afforded them by the secluded location of their cabin. Suddenly the serenity is shattered by frantic screaming and banging at the cabin door. When they open the door to see what the commotion is all about, a young woman stripped down to her undies runs inside seeking shelter.
They get the girl a blanket to wrap up in and try to get her to calmly explain what’s going on. As it turns out, this young woman, named amber, has just escaped from some people who ha abducted her for some sort of ritual. But during her escape, Amber may have led her captors right to the place where she has sought shelter, potentially putting everyone in danger.
Jonathan Lanz directed this short from a script Aaron Lloyd wrote, based on a story by Jesus Navarez. It feels like a throwback to eighties horror, and has a tiny touch of Race the Devil, without the cross country trek by way of RV that is. It’s not really clear what Amber’s abductors intend to do, but it seems implicit that it’s likely ritualistic in nature. It has a total run-time of 6 minutes and 18 seconds (5 min 10 sec without credits), so there isn’t much time to craft he story. The majority of the time is spent on set up without much payoff at the end…it just felt incomplete. Personally. I saw a couple of different ways to flesh it out further and bring it to completion, while also doubling or tripling the total run time.
The performances were serviceable and were basically on par with most 80’s genre films. The most notable of these performances was given by Julia Farrell, primarily due to the frantic and terrified nature of the character.
Another aspect that lent to the 80’s feel was the appearance of the film. It had a kind of VHS look, and it was shot in warm low key lighting. It could have taken place any time between the 80’s and now,as there are no real time indicators, save for when the characters try to use their smart phones. The film’s audio quality, however, left something to be desired, as it was very tinny and hollow.
I can speak from experience when I say that it isn’t easy to create a lot of story in such a tight time frame. But unless it’s a film class assignment or film festival that dictates as such, there is no rule that says a short needs to run under 10 minutes. It’s something I’ve seen quite a bit in short films and independent features, where filmmakers handcuff themselves with incredibly, and unnecessarily, short durations.
Just as this film began to pick up it abruptly comes to an unsatisfying conclusion. It more closely resembled a teaser scene from a longer, feature film that would be released prior to said film being shown in theaters. That combined with the fact that there’s little explanation of what’s truly going on or who he antagonists are makes it mysterious…but unsatisfyingly so.   In the end 80’s VHS nostalgia rally didn’t save it. 5 / 10

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