Jun 29, 2023
Kai Hohman, Lainey Martin, Nick Sugarman
Vultures are famous for picking corpses to the bone, to salvage any bits of flesh they can to sustain themselves in barren landscapes with no semblance of life or fertility. Post-apocalyptic films conveniently feel like an appropriate metaphor given their volume. But thankfully Jacob Thompson’s Vultures does scavenge some meat from the bones to produce an entertaining horror short.
A hunter (Kai Hohman) struggles to cope with a terrible loss in a dangerous world post-societal collapse. Living up in the mountains, he takes whatever steps necessary to survive whilst keeping clear of a terrible, curved-beaked terror. But when he comes across other survivors (Lainey Martin & Nick Sugarman), he is left with a moral dilemma that presents an existential risk.
Both a survival and a survivalist horror, Vultures is an impressive presentation of an actual, genuinely discomforting post-apocalyptic future. Jacob Thompson’s directorial stylings make this far more than a ‘beards and hunting rifle’ zombie action dressed up as a horror. The framing of scenes that present gore and gruesomeness as well as the restraint of truly showing the titular monsters makes the film much scarier than if the film had been designed with a longer narrative or greater budget in mind. Vultures at its best is unnerving and taps into its audience’s visceral fear sensors to leave a lasting impression.
Kai Hohman is impressive as the traumatised hunter – effectively capturing his warped sense of morality, loss, anger and nobility in the face of danger. A straightforward but emotional plotline for the character could have lacked punch if not for Hohman – who convincingly constructs a dangerous and capable yet still vulnerable and empathetic protagonist. Lainey Martin as the (not-entirely-progressively-named) Woman is similarly intriguing in her supporting role. Her enigmatic facials permeating a tremendous uncertainty and risk for the Hunter over whether to aid her from the dangers of the world.
The dialogue is a little ropey, and the concept of the film is not entirely original (although props for finding an all-new horror monster idea). The film’s length feels like a restriction on what kind of commentary or themes the director can explore as opposed to a benefit, and whilst the result is entertaining it does lack substance. There are times when the plot feels like it takes the least interesting path that is seemingly available – and a more obtuse, challenging and morally dubious plot might have been wise given the number of moments in which the protagonist is presented with difficult challenges in such a short runtime.
But the fundamentals are sound, the story is solid and the characters are engaging in an action-horror that does at least find some fun and originality in a barren cinematic setting. Vultures can last over 2 weeks without food. And whilst Vultures is no feast, it should satisfy horror and survival fans for a while.