22 June 2015

Richard Powell's BOX CUTTER Trilogy: WORM (2010), FAMILIAR (2012) and HEIR (2015)

(14minute short)

Canada, 2015
Director: Richard Powell


"Heir" is the third and final entry in Richard Powell's "Box Cutter" trilogy, following seemingly average family man Gordon and his son Paul who embark on a road trip to meet Gordon's old college friend Denis. What Paul doesn't know: Gordon and Denis share a dark and disturbing passion. What Gordon doesn't know: Denis is actually an extremely dangerous monster in disguise...

In Summer 2013, I got the chance to read the script for "Heir". I was surprised about how different it turned out to be compared to is predecessors "Worm" and "Familiar" (see below), but I also got immensely excited for the film because from what I read, "Heir" promised to be a killer of a film, dealing with secrets and lies, pedophilia, and body horror, but this time giving us two characters who try to hide their dark side from the outside world. Hell, I loved the script, wrote an in-depth analysis for Mr. Powell, donated a few bucks to the "Heir" Kickstarter campaign, and counted the days until the film was finished...

...and now that it's finished and I've finally seen it (three times), I'm confused and a bit shocked. "Heir" is not just a surprisingly odd adaptation of a masterful script, it's also a strangely mediocre and surprisingly unimpressive film that totally doesn't fit into the trilogy, mainly because it lacks the sinister tone, tension and atmopshere of its predecessors. The fact that there's no voice-over (like in "Worm" and "Familiar" doesn't help either.

The basic ingredients are splendid: Robert Nolan is back, once again delivering a terrific, yet unexpectedly calm performance as secretive and slightly insecure father. Co-starring is the awesome-as always Bill Oberst Jr. as cynical and super-creepy villain. Camera work is fantastic (Michael Jari Davidson, "Sick), the brooding electro score gets under the skin (Christopher Guglick, "The Last Halloween") and the practical effects are all brilliant.

Unfortunately, apart from the above-mentioned flaws, the film feels WAY too rushed (as if Powell just wanted to get the film over with), the build-up is awkward, and the suspense never gets a chance to properly unfold. "Worm" (21 minutes long) and "Familiar" (23 minutes long) both took their time to give the viewer full insight into plot and characters, while "Heir" (only 13 minutes long!) is over so soon, it's frustrating. Also, after re-reading the script, I noticed several important, pivotal scenes and moments that would have made it so better, as well as at least one scene (decomposing hands) that was a true shocker in the script, but in the finished film, it's almost unnoticeable and has no effect on the viewer whatsoever because you only get to see it for 2 seconds!

Ok, "Heir" isn't a bad short, but compared to "Worm" and "Familiar", it's a massive disapointment. Bummer!

(23minute short)

Canada, 2012
Director: Richard Powell


"Familiar" is the second entry in Richard Powell's "Box Cutter" trilogy, following John Dodd (twin brother of Geoffrey Oswald Dodd, main character in "Worm"), a bored and jaded middle-aged family father, whose extremely negative inner voice tells him to despise, hate and destroy his family, and demands to do awful things to his wife.... but is it really just his own inner voice? Or is
it someone else?

"Familiar" is an intriguing and outstanding little shocker that is basically as mindblowing as its predecessor "Worm". The first half is dark and gloomy, focusing on all kinds of unpleasant things, like boredom, monotony, everyday routine and depression, as well as making an unexpected foray into abortion. In the second half, the movie takes an unexpected turn and suddenly becomes a brutal Cronenbergian body-horror-fest, full of gory, scary and disturbing realistic practical effects. 

Director Richard Powell handles the bizarre but fascinating story with great care and attention to detail. The build-up is simply fantastic and the payoff is absolutely excellent. The characters are interesting and highly believable, and the acting is just amazing, especially Robert Nolan's breathtaking performance and his super-creepy voice-over. I get goosebumps whenever I hear him saying "The world is different when people are asleep... better. I wish they would sleep forever... but they always wake up... and ruin everything."

Camera work and cinematography are super-stylish (Michael Jari Davidson), the eerie music is superb and super-effective (Bernie Greenspoon), and the top-notch editing is just wow (Navin Ramaswaran & Tom Mountain). Final verdict: "Familiar" is a very well made, visually stunning and pretty shocking must-see. One of the greatest short films I've ever seen!

(21minute short)

Canada, 2010
Director: Richard Powell


"Worm" is the first installment in Richard Powell's "Box Cutter" trilogy, following high school teacher Geoffrey Oswald Dodd (twin brother of John Dodd, the main character in "Familiar") who absolutely hates and despises himself and his life, his work, all of his fellow teachers and nearly all of his pupils with an uber-negative passsion that is insane - with the exception of only one of his pupils, a teenage girl he is madly in love with.

Powell's second short film (the first one, "Consumption" (2008), is not a part of the trilogy) is a terrifyingly intense and gobsmackingly powerful shocker, flawlessly written and directed, incredibly tense and atmospheric, with pitch-perfect camera work (Breandan Uegama, "Monster Brawl") and a brilliant score (Bernie Greenspoon). The first half manages to be dark, depressing and entertaining at the same time, while the second half is just grim, grim, grim. I was a complete wreck when the credits rolled

Highlight: Robert Nolan's absolutely gobsmacking performance. My goodness, this guy is awesome! Almost on a level with De Niro or Michael Douglas, Nolan delivers a jaw-dropping performance as one of the most miserable creatures I've ever seen. The negativity of his character seems to be absurdly and ridiculously over-the-top at first, but the minute you realize, how fucked up this guy really, the laughter gets stuck in your throat.
Just watching him saying / thinking things like "I hope your mother and father rot from cancer." or "Thieving pig... keep eating and maybe you'll have the second heart attack." or "I can't wait to see the look on your dirty little faces when your friends' brains splash across your $200 running shoes. Then I'll blow my brains out all over the chalkboard." gives me the creeps.

"Worm" is a stunningly made and surprisingly upsetting little masterpiece, and just like "Familiar", one of the greatest short films I've ever seen!

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