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I was fortunate enough to screen a copy of New York filmmaker/FANGORIA scribe Jeremiah Kipp’s most recent short film, CONTACT. While it has a running time of only 11 minutes, the movie feels much more substantial due to its message and depth. Maybe it’s the dark mood, or the powerful message, or its simple horror. Whatever it is that makes CONTACT special, the fact remains: it is a must-see.
Some of you may know Kipp from his previous short THE POD, which, like CONTACT, takes an ambivalent view of experimenting with drugs that can be seen as either anti- or pro-. This viewer understood CONTACT to be about the true ambiguity of such experimentation, the message being that one never knows where it will go. As the Grateful Dead sang in their song “Truckin’,“ “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
And CONTACT takes us on yet another strange trip. Only this time, the focus isn’t only on how the experience affects the user, but how it affects those who love the user—in this case, her family. Drug use is a powerful subject and a controversial one, and Kipp tackles it head on. He tells us, “It’s strange to me, because some viewers respond as if it is some kind of public-service announcement about the evils of substance abuse, while others have found the sequence so provocative and sexy that they immediately wanted to find their significant other and take some drugs. Ultimately, the message of the film resides in the viewer’s response.”
Kipp truly delves into his subject matter, and it feels as if he must have done some extensive research, because everything about CONTACT is striking and realistic. Kipp goes on to explain, “For my part, I found the drugs useful as a way for the characters to open up parts of themselves that are usually unexplored. Acid trips have a way of revealing who the person is under the skin, and some people have an easier time than others when they take the plunge. But make no mistake, it is a walk on the edge. A famous filmmaker I know said to me that if he took LSD again, he would probably wind up ripping his eyes out.”
Other than the compelling story, two of the most prominent and noteworthy aspects of CONTACT are the lighting and the sound. Kipp and his director of photography, VINDICATION’s Dominick Sivilli, chose to shoot in black and white, which right away sets a mood. But the filmmakers employ a special style of lighting as the story opens that creates a foreboding, creepy and almost sad atmosphere. The ominous lighting lets us know we are in for something very dark. And despite the fact that we quickly see a loving and happy couple, the stage has already been set, and my anxiety level was immediately raised.
Nothing moves a film along as much as sound design, and CONTACT’s audio wizard Tom Burns delivers this acceleration for the audience—even though there are literally no spoken words for the first three minutes or so. Sound truly can make or break a film, and the lack of dialogue, along with the haunting soundscape, helps gives CONTACT its depth. The viewer is guided by the visuals and, ambient audio and incredible score (also by Burns); as with a painting or piece of sculpture in an art museum, there is no need for words. Even without them, CONTACT roars. You can experience it for yourself here.
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