Today’s film is the 2015 action/horror/comedy short film Stuck written and directed by French born director Benoit Mannequin and starring Tim Hoffman. It is currently being featured on both Fandependent Film Festival and thebestmicrofilms.com. It is in the running for the winter 2017 film festival on Fandependent.
Stuck tells the tale of a overworked and haggard looking man (Tim Hoffman) who has just finished his shift at work and gets ready to go home. Things take an unexpected turn when his office chair slams him back into his desk suddenly as he tries to get up, thinking it odd or a prank he tries to get up again and the chair once more slams him into his desk and traps him there. Frantically the man tries to escape and the seemingly possessed chair chases him around the office before it finally collapses in on itself while the frightened man stands on another chair out of it’s range. His woes have only just begun however as this chair also comes to life and tries to force him to remain at work and he desperately tries to escape to the hallway and freedom.
I was mightily intrigued by this short little low budget film that was Benoit Mannequin’s debut effort. While it is by no means a special effect rich feature it does have a certain charm in it’s simplicity with using old school methods of strings and pulleys to move the chair (and to be honest some elbow grease when it is tossed at poor Tim Hoffman). The comedy of the film comes from the classic method of using prat falls and throws that no mere inanimate object should be able to deliver to the beleaguered office worker and the hilarious facial expressions of Tim Hoffman. It takes a lot of skill to be able to deliver a comedic performance without a single line of dialog and for this being his film debut Tim Hoffman shows he has some raw talent for this line of work. To be honest the slapstick comedy in this film brings me back to the glory days of such greats as Monty Python and Blackadder as well as Sam Rami’s Evil Dead series and this isn’t surprising considering International films often use these classics as inspiration.
The low budget special effects of the film in all honesty adds to the humor of the piece perfectly. Normally in a film when you have cheesy effects it often ruins the experience especially in this day and age of CGI and how critical and knowledgeable everyone is of the film industry’s magic. While likely this was the best he could afford to do on his limited budget anything greater and more in depth would just not have fit in nor been as welcome as the practical effects were here and I for one am glad that it was filmed this way.
The production value of Stuck is surprisingly good considering that not only was this the director’s first film but the first film produced by fledgling company MPC Creative. The visual work on the film is a bit of a mixed bag of good points and flaws. The picture quality is clear but certainly not the best as it has a bit of a dirty feel to the film. This is from a bit of fuzz around the edges of the screen and while this might have been intentional to add a sense of darkness and foreboding it just left me slightly disappointed at it’s presence. The camera itself is stationary and has no annoying shaky cam effect despite seeming to be filmed on a hand held camera (though I am not one hundred percent sure on that) . One further annoyance to me was the fact that whenever the scene was switching directions there was a brief moment of a blackout effect that really breaks you from flow of the film. I don’t know if this was an editing snafu or if it was intended but to me it is a amateurish mistake that could have been done much more smoothly so that the viewer never really had time to register it consciously.
The audio work by contrast is much more concise and professionally handled. While there is no voice acting at all in the film the special effects are heard with flawless perfection and really amplifies the absurd antics happening on the screen. The musical score takes the place of the dialog and really amps up the humor as well as the tension with it’s pounding and driving beat. It reminded me of some of the Video games I use to play that were set in the horror genre when a horde of zombies were about to attack, which is fitting considering the chair was similar to those scenes. This is one of those rare cases where less is more and the grunting and slams heard do more for this film than any terrified cry or frustrated sigh could have accomplished. I do have to give one warning though, at the beginning of the film there is an old school clacker countdown accompanied by very loud beeps. If you are not careful wearing headphones and having your sound turned up will leave you with a massive headache and a ringing in your ears for hours so just be careful when you start this film.
As a first time project I have to say Stuck was much better than I expected and had some funny moments that I really didn’t expect. If this is the type of work we can expect from Benoit Mannequin in the future I really can’t wait to see what he can do with a large budget, that said however Stuck is not without it’s flaws and you should be warned about that going in. If you like comedy that focuses on slapstick prat falls and doesn’t try to dazzle you with expensive special effects but relies on the actor to do the work for you then this film is worth your time at just over two minutes. I would advise any up and coming filmmakers who haven’t put out their first project to give this one a once over to show you that you don’t need a huge budget or star power to make your dream come to life. If more directors just went out there and did it then we wouldn’t be getting the same four movies rehashed over and over again in Hollywood.
Justin’s Notes – I’m not sure why I liked this film so much. It’s silly in every way possible, simple in execution, and yet it really made me chuckle. Something about the absurdity of it just got to me and I couldn’t help myself. I very much enjoyed Stuck.