Directed by: Cameron Currin
Written by: #CameronCurrin
Paul VanDyke plays a prospector who's hoping to find gold amongst the dirt of the Alaskan wilds. His isolation and seemingly fruitless labours, however, are the least of his problems. Will he be able to escape the frontier and the clutches of a sharply clawed woman (Alicia Currin)?
Stories and movies involving the American wild west and frontier have long had a cemented place in cinematic endeavour, as well as literature and television. Kushtaka is loosely based on a book by Harry Colp called The Strangest Story Ever Told, which describes “devil creatures” residing in a small village in Alaska after a landslide killed over 500 natives. Lending itself this degree of fable and authenticity, Cameron Currin is able to immerse his audience into a ferocious narrative that is as thrilling as it is chilling.
VanDyke is a brilliant on screen presence. With very little dialogue and no co stars to really bounce off, he provides a terrific physical portrayal of the lone prospector braving the elements as well as the risk of the psychological distress which can come with large amounts of time spent alone. This balance between real and imaginary demons in the wild is something which makes many classic stories engaging and it's definitely true about Kushtaka.
The #cinematography (also Cameron Currin) was gorgeous at times. His use of the natural landscape was awe-inspiring as well as being formidably terrifying. Choosing to have the short film in #blackandwhite was also an effective decision. It was a shame to see the atmosphere spoiled when a pair of clawed hands were stuck to the side of the camera and chased VanDyke through the woods like a spoof of itself. The menace suddenly felt tangibly amatuer and silly. The hysteria of the scene, however, did lend an increased pacing which allowed the short to reach a fairly satisfying climax.
By embracing themes of greed, isolation, and ignorance through its central character, a greater depth is given to the story of Kushtaka. His increasingly disturbing experience of the Alaskan wilderness is symptomatic of his lack of respect. A cautionary tale, then, for people or peoples who don't fully appreciate the exploratory endeavours they embark on and the societies that let them happen regardless of their history or consequences.
Watch the official movie trailer below.