Directed by James Ersted
Starring Paul Bergmann
Short Film Review by Lucas Wilson
Among the boxes to tick for a short film, one must surely be to leave the audience un-satiated. Month to Month, James Ersted’s horrors-of-isolation short, uses the tried and tested technique of posing unanswered questions, although, here, they are asked with fiercely original storytelling and in an atmosphere that is unsettled and melancholic. Paul Bergmann ably plays Johnny, an Elvis ogling singer-songwriter looking to make it big in LA. Money is short and dictates that he rent a “month to month” apartment where he begins to dream images of the feminine demonic. Then, in that same apartment, he discovers a painting.
Month to Month doesn’t borrow ideas from The Shining or Dorian Gray as much as it communicates similar sensations. However, the Lovecraftian accent is unmistakable; the juxtaposition of cosmic evil and mundane urban life collides in a way that is troubling and frightening. Although Johnny’s mundane, waking world is black and white, his dream world is shown in slashes of scarlet and, while Ersted (who, impressively, directs, produces and writes everything) only slyly hints at a connection between that dream world and the Hollywood that the film is set in, it’s unmistakably colour and evil that are energised here.
It’s no accident that the dreams are tempting as much as they are ominous, with Johnny in the cross-fire. There’s a semi-suggestion that he’s a little unbalanced and most certainly beaten down by life. Bergmann approaches this with intelligence and convincing subtlety and, if nothing else, Month to Month is worth checking out for the Johnny Cash-inspired songs that Bergmann performs. Elsewhere, the aforementioned colour (the work of Marco Cordero) is driven into a sumptuous cinematography (the remarkable work of Jeffrey Peters) that, at every given moment, works as a series of evocative images which lends Month to Month a nightmarish texture.
It’s this quality that gives this odd, short film its peculiar power. From the moment it begins, it treads through dreamscapes which take turns towards the satanic, embedding itself in the subconscious. Granted Johnny’s dream sequences could have been more threatening but the only real frustration with Month to Month is its brevity. If ever a film had the originality and weirdness to revitalise mainstream horror, a feature length Month to Month would be it. Following its well-deserved reception, a little luck might, hopefully, see a major studio throw in their lot.