Directed by Matthew Mahler
Starring Timothy J. Cox, Cameron Rankin & Tiffany Browne-Tavarez
Short Film Review by James Burgess
This is an entertainingly subversive short film, which deceives the audience into foolishly thinking they’re watching one genre, before totally indulging in that classic cinematic trick of: ‘pulling the rug out from underneath’ the audience, and pursuing a completely different direction.
The basic premise, as with the setting, is one that’s complicit in this mundane lull of our expectations. It evokes a seemingly reliable, familiar set-up: the contemporary, corporate sterility and post-modernity, of an archetypal New-York office. All compartmentalized booths and grey, dull, saturated colour-schemes - to connote the hum-drum emptiness of its workers.
Dark Romance's protagonist is Tim, a prime example of one of these ordinary, everyday, somewhat disgruntled employees, who receives unwanted romantic attention, in the form of various surprise gifts repeatedly arriving at his desk, such as a sentimental card and an anonymous bunch of flowers.
The consequences of these mysterious proceedings, are initially played as though they’re comedic. Tim is teased about the plethora of erroneous presents, by young colleague Cameron (amusingly played by Cameron Rankin). There’s a pleasingly recognisable, comic, conversational tone to the film’s early sections, which is more akin to a conventionally light, frothy romance.
However, events soon take a decidedly darker turn, as we enter the realm of that most infamous of sub-genres: the pot-boiling stalker thriller…It proved to be extremely popular back in the eighties and early nineties, with the advent of the likes of Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, resulting in many a ‘water-cooler moment’ the world over, that is now rarely seen. It’s therefore fitting, that the earlier established aesthetic of this film, is one which showcases the aforementioned ‘yuppie-culture’, which was at its excessive height during the period when a lot of films of this ilk were made.
It’s also refreshing to see it in the form of a short, where compression of both time and budgetary constraints, have certainly done little to dilute its impact and innovation. The use of score, or rather, an existing piece of music, is particularly effective; as classical, relaxing strings suddenly adopt a haunting, contrapuntal incongruity, which juxtaposes the chilling horror of what’s on screen. Tonally, it’s evident that its tongue is well and truly in its cheek, with a playful last line of dialogue that emphasises the spirit embraced by the filmmakers, of never taking themselves too seriously. Dark Romance may not break new ground, but it’s simple, funny and knowingly clever in a subtle way.