New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: SHORT FILM REVIEW: Darcy Collis

Image courtesy of Splatter Brothers

DARCY COLLIS— 3 STARS

Good movie fans know horror movies come in all shapes, sizes, and, most importantly, descriptors. The newest mini-odyssey from the Chicago-based Splatter Brothers filmmaking team, Darcy Collis, lives up to and stamps those three possible measurements. The shape is something reality-based. The size is that of a short film. Best of all, the descriptor of choice for this writer out of all the possibilities is “chilling.”

Christian Dior Creasy plays Cyrus Redd, a fictional social media personality whose specialty is debunking rumors of haunted places and urban myths. Shot with a POV selfie view, we meet Cyrus walking with pep-in-his-step confidence among the three-flats and bungalows of Chicago. He is excitedly recording an introduction to his upcoming audience of his latest mark.

Redd has arrived to interview Olivia Eleanor Hatch, the long-time landlady of an infamous building of haunted apartments. Played with debutante flair by Amariss Harris and perked up by makeup from Antanisha Stokes, Ms. Olivia comes on camera to tell the tragic story of Darcy Collis. With a “I remember that day like yesterday” poeticism, Olivia weaves a yarn of jilted lovers, seedy rumors, and violent endings. 

LESSON #1: LISTENING TO A WITNESS OF AN UNFORGETTABLE STORY– Even with the required immediacy of a short film’s boundaries, the clever script grants Amariss Harris the beginnings of an unforgettable story and miniature urban legend. In between replies, Harris takes drags of a cigarette. They start slick and slowly tremble ever so slighter with reminded pain. What is teased in a few minutes could have easily become an hour descending into more and more sordid details.

Man, can she tell a story!  At some point, Olivia sees and hears a dismissive reaction from Cyrs and pokes back with the line,“You ain’t hearing me.” Harris’s performance is the best hook of Darcy Collis. Yet, in true horror film fashion, her warnings are discounted or dismissed.

After the interview, Cyrus still sees a cake walk ahead of him. He is given keys to the closed-off former apartment of Darcy Collis with the plans of spending a night in the epicenter of the reported evil. He steps into the apartment and, sure enough, the mystery grows from there.

LESSON #2: DON’T BE COCKY– As a means of showing off for his own camera and showing out in a crowded world of click bait, Cyrus either puts on a conceited persona of an expert or builds up his own swagger to look the part. He touts, “I prove everyone wrong” like a cocky boxer who’s never been knocked out. If he’s got the track record to maintain perfection, talk away. However, every cocky person meets their match of something or someone who can crack that self-inflated conviction.

In Darcy Collis, we get to see Cyrus Redd nudged closer and closer to that point. Like a good short film, the Splatter Brothers build the peril in economical ways. In a subtle use of basic props, anything could be waiting under any of the ominous black plastic tarps remaining in that derelict apartment. Creasy’s selfie posturing, steered by director of photography Tracy J. Gardner, selects keen moments of lingering reactions and clever misdirection.

LESSON #3: WAIT FOR IT– Even for a short film, the patience of Darcy Collis is a positive trait. There’s that cook’s expression out there that “a watched pot never boils.” Well, a watched pot never freezes right before your eyes either and that temperature is plenty extreme in its own right. As aforementioned, “chilling” is the disturbing vibe of this short film. Rather than boiling blood with a pounded assault of mood or imagery, the filmmaker chose the very effective route of teasing the underlying evil. 

We don’t know where or when the curdled feeling will crack with reaction. It almost doesn’t matter what object, moment, person, creature, or threat becomes that catalyst. Those who want something more explicit may wonder if enough was shown in Darcy Collis. Those folks become as greedy as Cyrus. This is about setting up the main character for the moment of comeuppance or realization. The fun for all of that comes from the appropriately uncomfortable, frosty build-up, and that’s chosen devil’s playground of Darcy Collis.

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#1029)

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