★★ Directed by: Cameron Prudames, Layla Randle-Conde Written by: Michael Habefelner Starring: Sandra Valera, Petr Malinkovic, Eirian Cohen, Chris Dudley, Tshayi Hercules, Sharon Spink, Laurence R. Harvey Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
Low-budget comedy The Night Monica Came Back, is a short film with little in the way of quality or talent but what it lacks in traditional cinematic capabilities it more than makes up for with South Park-esque special effects and a dramatic sound design that would make Meatloaf quiver in his motorcycle boots.
The short film adopts a “now and then” story structure whereby a group of adults are faced with an unexpected arrival from their past (Lawrence R. Harvey in a Wu Tang Clan t-shirt) who forces them to relive a horrific moment from their past in order to ascertain why he is now stuck in limbo. Throw into the mix Monica (Sandra Valera) who was meant to be dead but apparently isn't and you have something in the way of a jist.
The Night Monica Came Back is a cacophonous indie film that the majority of audiences will fail to penetrate unless they have some connection to the movie or cast and crew. It's not a scrappy film that does the best with what resources it has, instead it foolishly mixes together a plethora of poor ingredients with the bizarre belief that all transgressions will be forgiven because they are trying to be funny. For example, instead of opting for a slimmer story with fewer characters and therefore fewer untrained performers, it chooses to amass a gaggle of adults and kids who don't look at all comfortable in front of the camera, achieving the look and feel of a local theatre production at their first rehearsal of a new script. A smaller cast might have meant directors Cameron Prudames and Layla Randle-Conde could have spent time directing the actors and actresses towards something resembling a coherent movie.
The script from Michael Habefelner is at times humorous, although largely lost in the fracas. The Night Monica Came Back scored a couple of points with me simply for sheer front, such as the aforementioned Wu Tang Clan apparel or the inclusion of various popular catchphrases. The laughs are few and far between, though, and each time the movie builds up any kind of momentum it gets squandered by a terrible line delivery or sequence of chaotic storytelling.
From a filmmaking perspective there is a lot to be critical of. Reeling off tons of technical issues would probably do no one any favours and could feel like I'm using excessive force considering this is an indie film but it goes back to my original point. If you don't have the money, skill, or experience to film such a large cast in numerous locations (some of which are outside) then think of a way to get the under control. Do not insult the viewer by including jolting audio that has been patched together or waste time on special effects that contribute little to the already shabby aesthetic.
Flabby filmmaking that's not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. Aside from a few reluctant chuckles, all this will get from you is a furrowed brow as to why the filmmakers kept persevering, and a tragic sense that you have been hoodwinked out of a section of your life. Unless of course your relative was in the film, in which case you of course loved it and will be on your way to stone this film critic to death post haste.