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Hell in a Handbasket - Short Film Review

★★★

Written & Directed by: #LeeChambers

 
Poster for Hell in a Handbasket

Dale Borger, a lonely research scientist in the Arctic, struggles to maintain his solitary existence. With the world failing from a global pandemic, all hopes fall on Dale’s shoulders as he represents the last stand for humanity.


Make way for another short film made within the crippling tight-grip of a global pandemic. Hell in a Handbasket implements said pandemic into its story; a research scientist is working by himself at a small stationary lab with little to no contact from the outside world in the distance surrounding him. Cold, sparse and covered with snow, the Arctic is quite the place to be stuck in on your lonesome. Dale (Robert Bryn Mann) is a clumsy, quite frustrated man who seems bogged down by the pressures of his position. We’re introduced to him as he meddles with a gas gauge before he receives a live call from another scientist (Hoyt Richards) alerting him to ensure data is backed up as London, Rome and New York stations are down. The COVID vaccine couldn’t be in more slippery hands as Dale’s clumsy mistakes prove to be worrying for the fight of humanity’s fate.


It’s hard to tell exactly what tone this film was aiming for. In some moments it seems genuine, like a thriller. In others it comes across as comedic thanks to the sort of cartoon-like performances from Mann and Richards. When the film opens, Hell in a Handbasket seems to feel very grounded and crisp in its technical achievement. But then when the two actors converse and interact with each other via webcam from their respective stations, a flimsy cheapness fills the atmosphere. It’s tricky to pinpoint what writer and director Lee Chambers wanted to provoke from the audience with this one. Nonetheless, it is still pretty well crafted. The visuals look sharp, as do the visual effects in creating realistic snow covering the empty plains in the exterior scenes. The interiors feel more like independently made sets, which suits the weird tone created by Chambers’ writing and those previously mentioned performances.


Ticking along with the story is a very “sciency” music score written by Charlie Fisher, who takes an ambient approach; slow burning airiness that builds and builds and then becomes something of an audible explosion as the film cuts to black. It’s a simplistic bed of music that is really only there to support the visual rather than add anything in particular that could assist the narrative. The camerawork is pretty solid also; I found the exterior scenes were the more enjoyable to look at visually. Very cold colours and the close up of Mann after fighting with the gas gauge was very nice.


Hell in a Handbasket is entertaining, but it would have benefitted from a tighter script and a clearer execution of tone. The performances, music, locations and sets look and sound great, and the concept (though becoming tired already — perhaps because we’re all sick of the pandemic now) worked well enough. Certainly worth checking out, though nothing to rave about.


Watch the trailer for Hell in a Handbasket below.

 

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