Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Directed by: #ChrisKDaniels
Written by: #ChrisKDaniels
Chris K. Daniels is something of a prolific filmmaker, with over 15 directing credits to his name since 2015. The evidence of this steadily accumulating wealth of experience demonstrates itself in his 2019 short film, Squeeze Toy, which tells the story of Adrian (Christian Tabb), a young man seemingly on the run from a mysterious villain named Halloran (Samuel Caswell) and his nefarious intentions.
Squeeze Toy has an assured sense of style which, though reminiscent of the zany comic-book inspired aesthetic of well-known movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs The World, is still distinctive and memorable in its own right. There are several directorial and artistic flourishes which help Squeeze Toy to leave an impression, even when it isn’t absolutely original.
For example, the words which flash sporadically onto the screen are one example of the kind of technique which other directors have used before in crafting this particular cinematic blend of cartoon and real world. However, Daniels employs it smartly and innovatively, using it to reflect the fact that much of the action all takes place in the head of the protagonist, Adrian. Thus, the words are projections of Adrian’s thoughts, just like the scenes.
Meanwhile, the flood of hazy orange which envelops many of the frames involving the sinister Halloran help to give his scenes a sense of otherworldliness. This, in addition to the truly unsettling costumes and make-up of Halloran and his minions, helps to heighten the film’s mania and create an atmosphere of fear and a sense of ominous anticipation in the audience.
The protagonist, Adrian, is one of the most interesting elements of Squeeze Toy. His character’s narration is well scripted, while the words are brought to life excellently by Tabb, who serves full justice to all aspects of his character’s fractious emotional spectrum. He holds our attention with a manic energy which compliments the upbeat, racy electronic soundtrack, composed by Thomas Nielsen. At the same time, Tabb never overacts when it would have been easy to do so with this character.
However, the existence in the script of Adrian’s torn mental state is Squeeze Toy’s most glaring issue. Though this film’s style is genuinely noteworthy, there is not a satisfying balance with the plot content. The all-revealing twist at the end does not come as much of a surprise; instead, it serves merely as a frustrating diversion from a climactic fight scene which has been progressively hinted at from the very beginning of the story but is never actually allowed to unfold. Though the director has noble intentions, it feels as though he has tried to cram too many ideas into too a narrow runtime, meaning that the ending leaves a lingering sense of unfulfilled excitement. Daniels might instead have served the film better if he had focused all of his efforts on building and developing, to the fullest extent, the freakish sci-fi world in which Squeeze Toy’s most exciting, watchable and well-constructed moments occur.