Directed by Meosha Bean Starring Mark E. Ridley, Richy B. Jacobs, Jeffrey Tymich, Theresa T. King and Rachel Kylian Short Film Review by Catherine Pearson
Hard Requitals is a chilling horror thriller that throws its protagonist into the clutches of a disturbingly charismatic apparent stranger to the backdrop of a soaring and suspenseful musical score.
When Doctor Felix Harrison (Mark E. Ridley) has his morning appointment cancelled he decides to head straight from his regular coffee shop to the park to have breakfast, all the while attempting to contact his wife, to no avail. Sitting down to enjoy his coffee, he is startled out of his thoughts by a familiar face from his everyday routine. This man (Richy B. Jacobs) seems to know why Harrison’s wife is not answering his phone calls and, in this treacherous encounter, explains what he plans to do and why he has decided to take such drastic action.
The title of this short film suggests that an act of retaliation is to come, but in what form and for what reasons retribution will be undertaken is revealed tantalisingly slowly. Much of the film’s dramatic tension and the resulting sense of paranoia is owed to Peaches Chrenko’s original score. The music is at work throughout, from its dramatic introduction of Doctor Harrison as the camera observes him on his journey to the coffee shop to the ominous and chilling individual notes played when he first encounters the seeming stranger.
The camera work creates an uncomfortable and threatening atmosphere for the audience, with a blood-red filter used in Hard Requitals' most emotionally jarring and climactic moments as well as the use of varying camera focus. The audience are offered a clear picture of moments that drive the narrative forward, but when Harrison is uneasy and afraid we are presented with a distorted view; an almost frenzied close up on his face paired with echoing, ringing sound effects that stress his character’s paralysis. In a similar way, the stranger is presented in one key scene with a strobing effect that is both distorting and menacing, another moment that elicits fear with a simple yet effective visual technique.
Hard Requitals’ only notable flaws occur during the film’s first scripted scene in the coffee shop. Whilst the script is appropriately naturalistic for the setting, there is an uncomfortable moment of plot exposition where Doctor Harrison tells his secretary exactly what he will do next over the phone; a cringey line of dialogue that briefly stunts the suspense. Also in this scene, Harrison’s dialogue is inexplicably dubbed over the acting, a post-production decision that makes for an uneven soundscape. The very natural performance of the coffee shop assistant Christine (Theresa T. King) sounds more distant and slightly less clear than the lines of dialogue spoken by Harrison and the lip syncing, too, is not entirely matched.
Richy B. Jacobs is a real talent and puts in a very strong performance full of charisma and dark humour as the stranger on the bench that wonderfully counterbalances Mark E. Ridley’s terrified Doctor Harrison. It is credit to the dynamic between the two actors that the film’s final dramatic kicker is just that; an inventive twist that keeps the audience thinking as the credits roll over the looming, high-contrast stills from the film.
Were there some flaws? Yes. Did I hope for a female character that wasn’t a victim or in a menial job? Sure. Was I gripped by the plot anyway? Absolutely.
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