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Screw Loose short film review

★★

Directed by: #DominicField

Written by: #DominicField

 
Still from Screw Loose
Still from Screw Loose

In 2011, Jason Zada directed Take This Lollipop, a short interactive horror film released as a Facebook app. A user would connect the film to their Facebook account and watch in distress as a stalker scrolled through their profile before uncovering their home address and apparently pulling up outside their house. It was a cautionary tale, and chillingly effective. Dominic Field’s short film Screw Loose is in a similar vein. Whereas Zada left what happened next up to the user’s imagination, Field elects to show his audience exactly what happens once the stalker corners his victim.

The young unnamed man (Dominic Field) at the centre of Screw Loose is obsessed with someone (Anthony Field). He stalks his Facebook account, finds his mobile number and tracks his phone. Then he packs a bag (bringing along a hammer) and sets out for his victim’s house. Violence ensues. All this is set to a Petula Clark soundtrack. While the lesson is undoubtedly important, this is hardly the first time a film has endeavoured to teach it. Additionally, we are offered no real explanation for the stalker’s actions. The narrative seems to suggest that the victim was randomly selected, and perhaps partially to blame for his fate, having shared too much personal information online. Although Petula Clark singing ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love’ implies rather a lot, the stalker’s actions at the end cement his choice of victim as arbitrary. The film’s real problems, then, begin with its title; the stalker simply has a ‘screw loose’, and Field unfortunately chooses not to explore this any further.

There are fewer issues on the technical side of things. Some choices show Field’s desire to make the film more visually ambitious. For example, when the stalker and his victim meet, their confrontation employs POV shots, which definitely make the scene more visceral. However, switching between the stalker’s point of view and the victim’s muddies things somewhat. The rest of the film puts us in the mind of a violent obsessive, and this sudden shift to seeing things from his victim’s perspective lessens the impact. In addition, while the film’s final shot is admittedly striking, it was clearly set up to be memorable rather than logical.

Overall, this cautionary tale seems less interested in teaching a lesson than it is in exploiting its generic ‘crazy stalker’ trope, and it certainly has no interest in making any kind of commentary on said trope. There is no backstory, no attempt to explore his psyche; our unnamed protagonist simply has a mental health issue, and that alone is enough to make him dangerous. And not only is he ‘crazy’ (whatever that means) he is also – if the film's ending and musical choices are to be trusted – implicitly gay, which apparently makes him even more dangerous. Hopefully Field is neither actively suggesting that people with mental health issues are innately violent, nor that gay men are a threat to other men, but these are both pervasive beliefs in fiction and elsewhere, and at best, the film's narrative is tediously familiar.

Screw Loose tells a story we have heard before, and sadly there is little here to set it apart. Luckily, we have Petula Clark, who is a welcome presence.

 

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