Directed by Vadym Shapran Starring Andriy Anisimov, Vladimir Zubkov Short Film Review by Monica Jowett
Short comedy that pokes fun at the stereotypes and tropes of Hollywood films, as well as the clichés of a badly made student film, Must Escape, from first time director Vadym Shapran, cleverly uses self-reference to create a comedy that provides many laughs about the conventions of student cinema and filmmaking.
The script makes this short film shine. As the film opens with a narration about Peter (Andriy Anisimov) we could be forgiven for thinking it is just another short film, with noir style black and white cinematography, but that is exactly what Shapran and screenwriter Shaun Graham want the audience to believe.
But as Peter answers the phone and starts talking, we know he too is aware that it is a short film, and the clichés of swearing, smoking and breaking the fourth wall are brought into focus. As the film continues, it hilariously jests about the stereotypes of randomly using a gun, café settings, the protagonist talking to themselves in the mirror and more. As the film continues to be more self-aware and meta, the better it gets.
It is not just the conventions that are mocked, but also the genre. From simply changing the settings, lighting, editing, cinematography and music, Must Escape has brought the clichés of thriller and horror genres to the table too, of which Peter is also aware.
Peter, in a perfect stereotypical way of a Hollywood film, is the reluctant hero and his friend Buddy (Vladimir Zubkov) pushes him into enjoying being part of the film. Anisimov and Zubkov show a great chemistry and comic timing, despite they are doing the film in English, not their native Ukranian.
In addition to the comical side of the film, it is interesting for a passive viewer to be continuously made aware of it being a film. The comments Peter makes about his place in the short film brings the things he comments on into close awareness. The cinematography and editing, all cleverly done, is a perfect reflection of what it is like in a Hollywood film of that genre, particularly the ‘psychological horror’ sequence.
A film that is self-aware can sometimes be hard to pull off, which is why it is not often done in Hollywood, and is frequently attempted in student films. Must Escape seems to have done what many other films fail to do, and the outcome is funny, charming and the filmmakers should be proud of their achievement.