Move over, WNUF, there’s new competition in town. THE EYESLICER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL mashes the nostalgic feeling of old school specials with some of the most original filmmaking I’ve seen in years.
We’re given 12 short films put together on a long lost VHS tape with a few vignettes spliced in here and there. It’s hard to pick a few favorites because this is a rare anthology where every piece seemed to earn its spot on the list. But, I don’t want to give everything away so I’ll just focus on my top three.
“Good Choice” directed by Robin Comisar is actually the first short in the lineup. The setup is a Red Lobster commercial that seems to have been recorded on the tape we’re watching. But what seems like a standard never-ending shrimp commercial soon turns into a chain restaurant hellscape. As the commercial loops on repeat our characters begin to realize that they’re trapped inside a never-ending shrimp loop. This one was particularly special to me as a former employee of Red Lobster’s sister company, Olive Garden. Every night I’d come home and see those fake toothy commercials and want to throw my TV across the room. The writing and visual techniques in this film lend themselves well to each other. The VHS effects aren’t overbearing and are used in a more intentional juxtaposition to the real world that these characters are trying to reach.
“Allen Anders Live at Comedy Castle” directed by Laura Moss is a stand-up special that kicks off at the end of Allen’s set that’s essentially a punchline to a really lame “case of the Mondays” joke. As he exits the stage the emcee announces the next comic, who, turns out to be Allen Anders again. As he takes the stage, you can tell he’s been through this session before. What follows is a fantastic monologue that speaks volumes and is expertly delivered. This is one of the few that retains the VHS quality look to it but it feels like a part of the story instead of just a slapped on retro feeling.
“Steve’s Kinkoes” directed by Emma Debnay is basically what I think would happen if Marc the furniture guy owned a copy supply store. A man desperate to find his lost cat ventures into a late night copy store to get more “Lost Cat” signs. While he’s there he notices a peculiar old man who seems to have physically molded with the set. Visually, this was one that stood out big for me because of its goofy set design. Essentially, each copy station doubles as a “relaxation station” that is surrounded by house plants. It also plays a video on loop of cute and calming images with calming words. It’s basically the opposite of what they do to Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” but equally nefarious.
As I said, there’s not a bad story in the whole flick. A few other notable entries would be the return of indie cult figure, Gwilliam who returns with “Gwilliam’s Tips for Turning Tricks into Treats” and it’s just a gooey as you are hoping for. Comedic flourishes are peppered into most of the stories featured here which gives it that extra feeling of Halloween. And speaking of Halloween, “The Puppet Man” scored by and featuring John Carpenter finds itself among the spectacular line up. This special is nothing but fun and packed full of incredibly original stories that make me want to keep tabs on all of the talent here. I hope this gets a release soon because you guys definitely need to check it out.
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