Two short films exploring the very edge of two people's sanity. One about the obsession that is love, where not getting the person you love can lead. The other about a returning war vet who can't forget the atrocious things he has seen and done, and the people around him that simply do not understand him.
For this review we're doing a double review, actually meaning two short films at once. These two short films were made by young filmmaker Keith Voigt Jr. and his company WINKERLANd Productions company. They will apparently be released by Toetag around Christmas this year, with plenty of extra material, so it did make sense to gangbang these shorts as suggested by the filmmaker, rather than split them up. They are go into some similar areas of the psyche - that of being pushed too far.
"LUST" shows the obession of loving and lusting for someone who doesn't want you and is happily engaged. A girl is working at a coffee shop, and the guy she wants so badly stops by every day and she attempts to get a date with him on every occasion. After a sexual fantasy one night, she realizes just how much she wants him. She can't wait any longer, and does what any sensible girl in love would do - drug him and bring him home.
In "ArME" we go to the classic scenario of a returning war vet who just can't shake off the things that happened. He's young and has his entire life ahead of him, but nothing matters when he can't stop thinking about the war. When people can't see how it has affected him and he's surrounded by people who simply don't care, he's had enough and goes out to buy an automatic rifle.
The stories of the shorts are pretty far apart, but when you think of the psychological development of the two characters it's actually not that different. One thing that differs, though, is what the characters get out of it in the end - how they look at what they have just done. I think together they are pretty interesting, whereas just seeing them individually would lesser the experience a little bit. So I think a release with both of them from Toetag is just the right decision.
Now, you might ask why a company like Toetag would release these? Well, they get pretty controversial. "LUST" is the expected exploitationer where it aims for shock. However I felt this was closer to Eric Stanze than it was to, say, "I Spit on Your Grave". To me that's not a great compliment since I don't like Eric Stanze very much, but I do think there is a similarity in style and feel of "LUST" and his work. Of course, "LUST" is more entertaining and better made, so it is superior. Out of the two short films here, this is the one that would have people talking due to showing full nudity, an aggressive handjob, and the final effect. It's not a shocking short if you've seen the work they're obviously inspired by, but I think it's pretty solid for a young, indie filmmaker.
"ArME" isn't aiming to shock by being graphic (though there is some nudity) but instead it brings up the ever controversial subject of war veterans and their return. In this case a very young man can't handle his return and snaps. We've seen it done for decades, but some more recent attempts that I can't help but bring up are the late Andrew Copp's "Quiet Nights of Blood and Pain" and Toetag's own "Sella Turcica". It goes to show that exploring the mentality of a war veteran is a good setup, though it might need an extra push to find a new direction after that. Being a short film, it's fine that "ArME" doesn't.
While I enjoyed the two short films overall, the acting was rarely on top. "LUST" suffers from a lot of stale "chill" chattering between the woman and her co-worker, but gets slightly better when the scene involves the woman and her "love". "ArME" however has a main actor who attempts to show his insanity in screams and bursts of panic attacks, but you can't help but see an actor trying to think of what to scream and do next. "ArME" is the one to suffer the most, since we're already slightly in doubt with such a young war veteran, but even more so when a scene that could have been very effective - the scene of his personal breakdown - just felt like a break from the rest of the film.
Both "LUST" and "ArMe" are very watchable short films and I'm definitely considering getting the DVD when it's released. They are obviously independent productions and you can tell by the acting, some effects and some smaller details, and I can't deny that they hurt the films. If you let that go, we have two short films surely to please the crowd it will be presented to - the Toetag crowd. As long at that crowd doesn't just expect them to be extreme short films.