Written and Directed by Jim Rothman
Produced by Jose Alvarez
Starring Andrea Mueller, Zailee Madrigal, Jose Alvarez, Jim Rothman, and Christian Witte
Cinematography by Alex Simon
Music by Tim Beck
Short film review by Euan Franklin
In this stumbling cavalcade of horror movie homages, Scythe follows a fretful American teenager as she is pursued by a local serial killer known as ‘The Grim Reaper’. Set in California, Amy (Andrea Mueller) is chased through a suburb in Pasadena until she finds refuge in her own home. She soon realises that nowhere is safe.
The film opens with Amy and Tracy (Zailee Mandrigal) two teenage schoolgirls smoking weed in a clinically lit bedroom and discussing life after school. Amy leaves and the other turns the TV on to a Breaking News broadcast announcing the escape of the Grim Reaper Killer. Tracy attempts to phone Amy and warn her, but the line cuts out. Amy is left to fend for herself.
It fills a film fan with joy and snobbishness whenever a shot or a scene is visibly stolen from another film. Many directors take pleasure in their thievery, knowing their story will be enhanced by another director’s technique. Jim Rothman, with his favourite horror movies projected across his cinephilic eyeballs, attempts to employ the methods of John Carpenter, Stanley Kubrick, and Alfred Hitchcock into this fourteen-minute short. The methods from the masters work to the film’s benefit, but they cannot support it.
We have the Escaped-Psycho-From-A-Local-Asylum premise from Halloween (1974), replacing the intriguing Michael Myers with the unidentified Grim Reaper Killer. The famous Halloween wide tracking shots are stolen for Scythe during the chase sequences in the Suburban streets, providing an uneasy atmosphere. The cues from Eyes Wide Shut are also noticeable during this scene, using amplified piano keys to heighten the tension between cat (Grim Reaper) and mouse (Amy).
Credit has to be given both to Alex Simon for creating this eerie tone using colourful, low-key cinematography and Tim Beck for his chilling music score – working together to create a half-decent anticipatory sequence. These two artists manage to elevate an otherwise amateur production, scratching the skin of professionalism.
Penetration is stunted, however, by Rothman’s unkempt screenplay, which is simply too long. The film opens with Amy and her stoner school-friend smoking weed in the latter’s bedroom, before the former breaks into a tediously extraneous life monologue in one long static shot. The film continues this trend of superfluity with further shots and scenes that could have been ripped away in preproduction: The chaser in the streets is revealed to be an arbitrary man wearing a hoodie; Amy opening the door to the basement and not going inside; The killer is left unseen, unheard, and unsought until the thirteenth minute. The film runs over fourteen minutes long and feels far longer. Cutting Scythe to half its length would make the story more impactful and engaging than its current manifestation. As it is, I felt slumped in my seat instead of perching on the edge.
If you’re a horror fan and you don’t mind a basic effort (music and cinematography aside), then I would suggest Scythe – but don’t blame me for your inevitable disappointment.
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