Directed by David Chin, Stephen Herman
Written by Stephen Herman
Starring David Chin, Danni Ai
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Slick, stylish, and grippingly tense, short film Message Delivered is a wonderfully atmospheric thriller that capitalises on a strong central premise and excellent performances.
David Chin plays James, a husband frantically attempting to cover up an indiscretion by following orders that come to him via text message. Pretending he is working to his wife (Danni Ai) the SMS instructions take him across town to an abandoned establishment where he is further terrorised by a masked villain. It becomes increasingly perilous for James as he is forced to relinquish more than just the envelope of cash he has brought with him, as the blackmailer takes full advantage of the position of power they hold.
Well-plotted and containing a brilliant use of no spoken dialogue, Message Received creates and maintains a formidable atmosphere throughout its ten minute run time that inhabits some of the best aspects of suspenseful thriller-horror movies. There is a chilling terror to the hidden menace that haunts James that not only gets brilliantly realised physically during the warehouse sequence, but also gets fabulously developed afterwards. To expand much more on the plot but let's just say it's clever storytelling with a terrific aesthetic.
Chin's performance is also noteworthy. Traversing the movie with only body-language was always going to be challenging and Chin manages to create emotional depth and intrigue for his character using only an array of expressions and stances. Whether he would be able to maintain this for a feature length would be something I would like to find out. Although the large quantities of driving whilst texting should most definitely be discouraged!
The sound design was an important part of Message Received's success as a short film. The tension that mounts during the movie owes a lot to the score and the creepy moments are made even creepier by the addition of a few shock notes. A couple of scenes could have been made more effective had the editing been a bit harsher, allowing the burning of some paper to string out for the audience, whilst a nice visual touch, seemed to dampen the momentum slightly.
In all, a strong outing from co-directors Chin and Stephen Herman (who also writes here) who prove themselves utterly capable of grabbing the audience and keeping them stuck to the action effortlessly.