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Blood in the Snow 2013: “DEAD RUSH” & “MR. SPONTANEOUS” (Short Film Reviews)

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Toronto’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival is underway within the Short Film Showcase are a pair of pictures by emerging talents that are well worth taking in. While all are worthy, these two in particular strongly stood out.

DEAD RUSH (2013) Dir: Zachary Ramelan

You wake up on the cold tiles of a public bathroom to discover that you’re covered in blood. Your heart is racing. The buzzing of the blinding lights above you are deafening. The axe beside you suggests the blood isn’t yours, but the memories are foggy. As you stand up slowly and look around, you notice a mutilated body in the corner…

DeadRushThis is where the audience might expect a moment of anguish as our hero discovers a mangled body and realizes what he has done, but with one final swing of the axe and a quiet “I’m sorry”, it becomes clear that this murder is an intentional takedown and there is no time to waste. Thirty seconds into Zachary Ramelan’s frenetic DEAD RUSH and this writer was hooked.

With a first person point of view reminiscent of the most harried moments of CLOVERFIELD, you can’t help but immerse yourself immediately into this world and that of main character, David. The sound design is spot on, shoving you inside David’s head instantly with his pounding heartbeat and ragged breath. Ramelan has made sure that every gunshot, spray of blood and rip of skin is heard as intensely as if you were there, which only makes your own heart beat faster.

David reunites with his friends (played by Charlie Hamilton and Jon Rhys) who use their guns and his axe to cut a gory path through the slow-moving, groaning zombies. Once outside, they jump into David’s car where we meet the injured Meg (Raven Cousens), who looks like she may not have much time left. Aim to get as far from the city as they can before the car breaks down, the group is led to a beautifully run-down farmhouse that should have blown the budget on set design alone. While a moment of calm and a touch of humor inside the abandoned home feel authentic, they also unfortunately slow the momentum down to a crawl. Luckily, things pick back up and move at a breakneck pace thanks to Mitchell Stacey’s FX, which are particularly impressive during a few key scenes of carnage.

Aspiring filmmakers would be wise to take note as DEADS RUSH is a perfect example of how to make a top-notch short without a ton of cash. Ramelan gathered all the right people for this one-day shoot and squeezed more production value out of the $500 micro-budget than should have been possible. While the story may not be new, the intensity of the action through the first person point of view, the amplified use of everyday sounds and the satisfying gore will have your heart racing.

MR. SPONTANEOUS (2013; pictured, top) Dir: Steven Cerritos

Put a yellow bag on your head and get ready to have some fun with the long-awaited Steven Cerritos’ long-awaited follow-up to THE HAPPY FACE KILLER. Beginning almost five years ago, the MR. SERIAL KILLER series continues with a darkly comedic take on the ‘Mr.Men/Little Miss.’ Children’s books created by Roger Hargreaves in the 80’s. This particular installment takes us through the transformation of the dull Mr. Normal into the spirited MR.SPONTANEOUS on a sunny afternoon in Happyville.

Emily Emond’s animation, coupled with the narration from actor Christopher Lee (wait for it!) Grant, flawlessly transport you into a familiar children’s storybook with a few dark twists. We are introduced to Mr. Normal who, as his name suggests, is a rather boring guy. An animated purple blob who lives alone in the small town of Happyville, he is regularly humiliated at work, can’t pay his bills, hasn’t any friends and goes to sleep each night imagining ways to die. Mr. Normal is a pathetic, sad man indeed.

One sunny afternoon, Mr. Normal’s routine finally changes when he accidentally stumbles across The Happy Face Killer sneaking up on a frisky couple and hacking them to bits (the smiley face painted on the yellow bag he wears will undoubtedly creep you out each time it blinks).  Suddenly, we are pulled from our animated lull and thrust into a live-action, super saturated land of bright colors, odd costumes and some good, old-fashioned back alley sex.

While the animated first third of the film does start to drag (Mr. Normal is pretty dull after all!), the Happy Face Killer is a burst of energy and humor. Cerritos has crafted a unique and enjoyable tale that will have you rooting for Mr. Normal and leave you smiling when the blood starts to fly. Thankfully, fans will not have to wait another five years, as third chapter MR.I-LOVE-YOU has already begun the festival rounds.

Catch the Toronto Premiere of MR.SPONTANEOUS and DEAD RUSH at Toronto’s Blood in the Snow Film Festival this weekend.

Both Films: 3.5_skull

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About the author
Cheryl Singleton
Cheryl Singleton joined the Fango team in 2012. She lives and writes just outside of Toronto, Canada.
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