This year marked the third year of the Bloody Mary Film Festival in Toronto. The festival was created by women and highlights the works of female-identifying filmmakers of genre films, including horror and sci-fi. One of the short films showcased this year was TICK, written and directed by Ashlea Wessel (Ink).
TICK transports audiences to a post-pandemic world where vampires, also known as “ticks,” are hunted by those in charge. Young tick Nishiime (Ava Close) watches her sister gets taken away, only to later be captured herself. The question is, why is the new world order after vampires, and why do they want to take them alive?
The most successful aspect of this unique short is that it portrays vampires as the victims. The new world order has the feel of a futuristic Nazi regime where the vampires are rounded up, terrorized, and kept segregated from the rest of the population. TICK forces the audience to sympathize with the vampires by focusing on a young girl just trying to survive. The humans shown are all militant soldiers trying to round up the “ticks.” It is a premise that works quite well in a short film.
The short also leaves room for the filmmakers to expand on the plot if they ever decide to make a feature length film. It would be interesting to see how the world came to be like it is in this short. There is one thing I wish the filmmakers had elaborated on more; it would be interesting why the humans take the vampires alive. The soldiers are shown taking blood from the vampires, which is an inventive switch, but it is never explained why humans need the blood of a vampire. It is the one open ended question I wish had been answered.
The entire cast of TICK delivers excellent performances, but there are two that stand out. The first is, of course, young Ava Close in her first film role as Nishiime. Considering the film is less than 15 minutes, Close takes us on a true transformational arc with her character. She goes from being naïve and hopeful, to doing what she can to survive, to fighting for her life. If this performance says anything, I think we will see great things from Close in the future. Another strong performance came from Alexander De Jordy (Between) as one of the soldiers, Johnny. This is a rather sinister character and De Jordy plays him very well, making his fate all the more entertaining to watch. Together these character create an interesting juxtaposition; the innocent and childlike vampire vs. the crooked and heartless soldier.
This short film provides some great visuals as well. The practical effects in the form of scars, wounds, and gore are very well done. There is also an absolutely stunning scene that blends reality with a hallucination to create a hauntingly beautiful image. Even the wardrobe department had a hand in making this short visually interesting. Specifically, an outfit Nishiime wears creates is an iconic image that makes her look almost insect-like. One could even argue it is a look that resembles a tick.
TICK is a stunning short film that flips the script on the traditional tale of humans vs. vampires. It is a nicely contained short that offers compelling characters, a unique plot, and beautiful imagery. Close and De Jordy both deliver memorable performances that blur what audiences know as what is good and what is evil. While I appreciate the filmmakers leaving aspects of the plot open, in case they ever make it into a feature-length film, I wish there had been more explanation into why humans want the vampires. Overall, this short film by Wessel packs a punch and will leave audiences wanting more.
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