Written and Directed by: Colin James Starring: Mallory Roach, Maya Tripathy, Carla Duval, Matthew Courson, Matthew Provenza, Shay Guthrie, Giacomo Rocchini, Robert Johnson, Colin James, Thomas Ascenzi Short Film Review: by Chris Olson
Scream meets Stranger Things in this 80’s horror throwback, written and directed by Colin James. Set during the build-up to teenager Jennifer's (Shay Guthrie) birthday party, the celebrations get cut short when a violent menace terrorises the few attendees who are there setting up.
Told with melodramatic performances and an immersive 80’s aesthetic, Birthday Bash falls into several genres. Camp horror, retro nostalgia, black comedy, and silly slasher are just a few. The result for the audience will completely depend on their appetite for some and their aversion to others. Viewers will also be able to find links to a plethora of their favourite films from that decade, in one way or another.
Whilst the plot is pretty rudimental, there is some nice attention to the characterisation which makes the short feel more intelligent than it could have. An array of high school stereotypes rear their prom queen, jock, nerd etc heads, but they are pitted against each other in a rather engaging way. During one scene between newbie Kristin (Mallory Roach) and the birthday girl’s “BFF” Courtney (Maya Tripathy) the latter reveals her true feelings towards friendship and her cutthroat attitude towards getting ahead. This, intentionally or otherwise, was a nice nod of the head to 80’s corporate America with its Wall Street ideals and warped social conscience, and therefore had some rather telling modern relevance.
The idea of identity is an interesting concept in Birthday Bash, especially considering the filmmaker’s decision to adopt such potent and dated stylistic choices. Each of the characters seems to have a strong grip on who they wish to be if only when presenting it in public, and yet when the central conflict is introduced, all hell breaks loose and no is really who they seemed to be.
The most impressive aspect of Birthday Bash has to be the tone. Cemented by a wonderful synth score and the thoughtful costume design, the film really felt like the genuine article when it came to delivering a cheap and cheerful 80’s horror with The Breakfast Club trappings. The atmosphere is tense and unnerving throughout and the elements of peril are done with a formidable amount of skill. There was a particularly brilliant moment in the final section of the movie which would be a shame to spoil, but viewers will almost certainly enjoy.
Far from reinventing the cinematic wheel and instead opting to assemble itself from an array of movie making parts, Birthday Bash is a dark and surprisingly thought-provoking tale of survival of the fittest, that manages to capture some of the violent uncertainty of youth in a society ready to consume them.
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