Directed by: Kalainithan Kalaichelvan
Written by: Kalainithan Kalaichelvan
Starring: Mark Starratt, Peter Valdron, David Richard, Jennifer Ramos, David Parisian, Kelly McDowell,
Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
Having delivered the impressive Stella Maris, short filmmaker Kalainithan Kalaichelvan is a true devotee to the screen. His shorts have a sumptuous power that makes them remarkable and compelling. Inland Freaks, another short film, is most definitely business as usual.
Set inside a regimented treatment program, we witness a group of men in prison-like uniforms go about a series of unorthodox behavioural therapies that include chanting, memory stimulation, and emotional speeches by victims. As a doctor (David Richard) goes about his observations with his clipboard, one of the men (Mark Starratt) wonders why he has found himself in such a place designed to treat men with a particularly disturbing predilection.
Superbly filmed and completely absorbing, Inland Freaks achieves the top tier of short filmmaking. The story is engrossing, the visuals are intelligently crafted, the dialogue is brilliant and intriguing, and the performances are excellent. Every frame of Kalaichelvan’s film is brutally mesmerising, sure to keep audiences darkly fascinated.
Rarely do I pick out the cinematographer first in a film review, but Andrew Lau does such a magnificent job here that he must come to the fore. Using off-centre framing that was reminiscent of a Tom Hooper film, as well as intense close ups and low-angle head shots, it allowed the movie to feel painstakingly constructed. So much so that combined with the unnerving score from Kalaisan Kalaichelvan, the experience feels wholly unnatural for the viewer in a really, really entertaining way.
The two lead performers, Starratt and Peter Valdron are exceptional. There is a scene where the two patients discuss the program and some of the others in the group which is so arresting in its honesty and wonderfully delivered by the two actors, that it cemented the pathos of the entire piece perfectly. Valdron is particularly great when he discusses his son being afraid of monsters, a sublime sequence and a must-watch.
Given that Inland Freaks has such a tense and mysterious atmosphere, reading into the subtext of the piece can be a lot of fun, if you are so inclined, which I am. Taking the prison genre for a start, movies that depict inmates often end up making anti-heroes of their characters, and that is certainly the case here. As the group chants and gets called God’s mistakes, you can't help but feel sorry for them. However, during the memory scenes, there is a palpable unease that envelops the audience which will do the complete opposite. Ultimately, the story is too rich, too complex to fully unpick which is exactly what Kalainithan Kalaichelvan wants to achieve.
A layered, engrossing, lovingly cinematic triumph that takes human discomfort to spectacular heights.
Watch the official movie trailer for Inland Freaks below...