Those who love short horror films – be on the lookout. Writer/director Izzy Lee has a couple of new shorts, For A Good Time Call… and Rites of Vengeance, playing the festival circuit. They are both socially-conscious tales of revenge, with plenty of style and horrifying imagery.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Montreal (maybe post-Just For Laughs Festival), For A Good Time, Call… is making its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 27. Lee directed a script written by Christopher Hallock.
Rites of Vengeance, which Lee wrote and directed, is playing the Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, Va on July 22 and GenreBlast at the Alamo Drafhouse in Winchester, Va on September 8, and it’s part of the Ehteria Film Night tour, which stops in Long Beach, California on July 29, Louisville, Kentucky on September 2, and Chicago on November 18.
For A Good Time, Call… opens with a man setting up a hidden camera behind a couple of stuffed animals in his bedroom. In those first few seconds, we know what’s about to happen, and we know how we want it to end. As soon as he adjusts the lens and hops back into bed, we know he is about to take advantage of someone, and that we’re not going to like the guy (a shame, because according to Izzy, the actor playing “Alex” the predator, Sean Carmichael, is an exceedingly nice person). Since it’s a horror film, we also know things are not going to end well for him. The only question is how that revenge is going to be meted out. And those are the details no one is going to see coming.
Alice (Diana Porter) enters the room, stripped down to her underclothes, and the man has a very strange vibe. Alex is rough and insistent. Cut to him making excuses to the women he taped. It’s just a thing guys do, he says. He has no idea how it got on the Internet. Which doesn’t stop him from watching it on his phone one more time before he calls the woman from a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. Alice is too nice to say anything more specific than, “I hope something very bad happens to you.”
Ah, yes. Now we’re getting somewhere. Alone at the rest stop in the woods, Alex decides to burn one up in his car, which sends him to sleep. So not only is he a predator, he’s also but of a burnout, AND he wears a hoodie with a sport coat. By the time he wakes up and follows the strange woman in the red dress (Tristan Risk) into the rest stop, we still have almost five minutes of film left, enough for something at least kind of slow and painful to happen to Alex. And that’s when he notices a woman’s number written on the bathroom wall.
I’ve already given away too much of the set up, so I won’t give up the reveal. Suffice to say Alice gets her wish. There is unmistakable sexual symbolism in Alex’s demise, and the one bit of special effects make-up Lee employs here drives shows the power dynamic shifting in a terrifying way. To complete the reversal, Alex’s fate is caught on camera, but the audience doesn’t see it. They only hear it. Letting the audience use their imagination after this particular build-up is an effective device. If Alex were shown getting torn to pieces, it would be a moment of satisfying schadenfreude. But we get to make up that part of the story ourselves while we listen to a soundtrack of screams. Which part of what makes “For A Good Time” such a smart revenge fantasy.
Rites of Vengeance is even tougher to review without spoilers, so I’ll do my best to work around the reveals. The film looks gorgeous. The cinematography, along with the music, establish an atmosphere of solemnity and menace, and important storytelling device considering the film tells its story in just under four minutes. The “vengeance” in the title is brought about by three nuns. When they close in on their target, one is wearing brass (or some kind of metal – are they always brass?) knuckles and holding a child’s blanket with soccer balls and footballs on it. All three nuns are wearing latex gloves, a tip that whatever is about to happen, it will leave their hands dirty. It fits into a feminist theme by casting the nuns as fierce protectors of innocence, even as they are willing to sacrifice their own. And they are not made to look like a posse of badasses. They are not a homogeneous group, and their habits aren’t tweaked to make them look like they are anything but typical nuns in a typical convent. The familiarity gives the proceedings a bit more weight, a feeling that these are normal people reacting to an extraordinary threat. And should we doubt the nuns’ motivation, Lee doesn’t let us, or the their target, forget the victims whose fate triggered the action.
I posted a short e-mail interview with Lee back in October about her film Innsmouth, and I’m hoping to catch up with her for the podcast soon. You can find news and details about her other works on the Nihil Noctem Web site.