Directed by David Bousquet
Starring Kelton Roney, Chris Cleveland & Stefanie Estes
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Finding an audience for an original fantasy story can be very difficult. After cinemas have finished the production line of fairytale remakes of recent years (Snow White, Cinderella etc) they simply start up the conveyor belt of reboots and rehashes (The Jungle Book, Oz the Great and Powerful etc). Furthermore, unless your film has superheroes in, is backed by Disney or was written by Tolkien, it’s probably not going to be seen by many people. Now, this trend is not specific to fantasy, but seems far more tragic when a film like David Bousquet’s short Lookouts appears - which is bursting at the seams with fantastic characters and a tremendous visual quality, yet film fans are unlikely to find it.
Based on the story by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, of Penny Arcade, Inc. fame, Lookouts is a wistful and daring tale of adventure and bravery involving some rather terrifying creatures - Basilisks. Having not heard the phrase Basilisk since the Harry Potter films of yesteryear, this film immediately spiked my attention and not in a good way. Very often, short films that venture into the world of fantastical creatures often leave disappointed with their efforts and audience reactions. However, it is my pleasure to report that Lookouts is an immensely entertaining and visually stunning piece of cinema.
The plot follows Pehn (Kelton Roney), who is a scout hoping to become a fully-fledged Lookout, a term given to the Rangers who protect his village from the darker elements that surround their community. As Pehn comes face to face with the threats around him, he confronts his own demons. I will not go into the story any more than that, as audiences should enjoy this film themselves.
What is apparent from the first frame to the last, is that Bousquet never stumbles in his delivery of a great film. There is a brisk pace to the movie, which he controls as Editor, that exudes confidence in the storytelling as well as a firmness to keeping the performances in line with the epic visuals being created (it is worth noting that Bousquet is also the DoP). The use of special effects and slow motion, instead of being jarring like in a lot of fantasy films, are sculpted with care and appear to be of the highest production values. The fog through the trees is a really nice touch and there is one moment where Pehn is stalked by a winged beast through the forest that is hugely enjoyable and thrilling.
Absolute kudos to the three main performers. It is difficult to set up a story as quickly as they do, let alone add a solid level of emotional gravitas to the proceedings. But add it they do, especially child actor Roney, who delivers a noteworthy turn in a scene with his mother (Stefanie Estes) where he questions his fate and abilities. Roney’s interaction with Ranger (Chris Cleveland) also provides some of Lookouts’ best scenes.
With any great fantasy film you need an epic score. The music from Pablo Croissier is as tense as it is rousing. The aforementioned chase scene through the woods is particularly immersive due to the foreboding tone of the music used. The costumes are brilliant, adding to film’s world-building rather than standing out like some homemade threads.
Film fans who are not lovers of fantasy may struggle to thoroughly enjoy the aesthetic created in Lookouts, but not for any real fault in the filmmaking. However, if you are a lover of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Neverending Story and the like, then this film will likely enthrall you. There is a surety to Bousquet’s direction that feels comforting in a classic way, and my only real criticism of it was the run time - I seriously wanted a lot more viewing time. Feature film please guys.
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