An obvious criticism of any major social media site (especially Instagram) is its overflowing amount of unrealistic portrayals of perfection— especially for women. From edited and photoshopped pictures of women with “perfect” bodies to endless ads for “self-care” products that wind up serving as cash grabs based on feminine insecurities, we all arguably have succumbed to the pressure of making ourselves appear better in order to keep up with the Joneses (aka our fellow social media users). What we don’t realize, however, is how much social media and/or outward appearances and smiles can cover something far more sinister and sadder than just a filter-covered blemish on a picture. Rebecca Culverhouse’s unique art-horror short, #EATPRETTY may not drum up any traditional horror scares— but it will certainly make you contemplate and mule over exactly what the hell you just watched.
We meet Anna (Roseanna Frascona) a still-life photographer, with a near-robotic and emotionless personality, as she blankly watches TV shows about beauty regimes and Disney-like princes riding on white horses in search of their princesses, and scrolls through the photographs she has taken on her computer. Attractive, yet stiff, Anna is seemingly obsessed with perfection, as she explains to her unsuspecting date in the following scene: “With product photography, it’s all about making things look better than they are in real life…I like to capture little moments of perfection.”
Over the course of the next few minutes, we watch Anna continue to robotically interact with her date, spewing lines of dialogue that feel cut out of an inspirational quote catalogue, and we begin to wonder exactly is going through this girl’s headspace. Not until the moment that we see Anna’s date order a plate of pulsating oysters for them to share (and the fear and dread in Anna’s eyes as she stares down at the plate of food) that we realize that #EATPRETTY is attempting to delve much deeper into the problematic expectations of female perfection than we initially thought. I’ll allow you to connect the dots for yourself after watching.
From a stylistic standpoint, Culverhouse makes interesting creative choices with her frames— in fact, I can’t recall seeing anything quite like it. Every scene consists of a slow-moving, near-still shot (which correctly matches with not only Anna’s character but also the theme that Culverhouse is attempting to make here) with little movement from actors and over-dubbed speaking lines and sounds.
Much like the character of Anna herself, Culverhouse also has an eye for visual moments of beauty within her short film. The close-up shot of Anna’s eyes after the waiter puts down the oysters is beautifully dream-like, reminiscent of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch. Culverhouse also chooses a lovely, innocent color palette for the film, with hues of feminine pastels, pinks, and whites, with accompanying bright lighting and interestingly placed still shots of white pearl necklaces against lavender backgrounds…which sets up the WTF? finale to be all the more unnerving.
Towards the film’s climax, we wonder where exactly this is all heading, but it is deceptive: amongst a backdrop of speaking dialogue during Anna’s dinner date, we can hear the faint sounds of a man begging for his life, as we watch our protagonist (turned antagonist?) create a heart-shaped linzer cookie against the man’s naked chest, and take a huge bite out of it, along with the squishy sounds of blood splatter. Wait— is Culverhouse implying that she just took a bite out of his ACTUAL heart? We’re never quite sure, as #EATPRETTY is over before you even understand what you just watched— which is exactly what makes it so intriguing.
Those who are seeking the traditional horror scares won’t find that here, but as a layered, artistic short film that becomes subtly disturbing, #EATPRETTY is original and thought-provoking. It may benefit from multiple viewings (and, as it is only 3-and-a-half-minutes long, I think you can spare the time.)
#EATPRETTY was recently showcased during The Final Girls’ 2019 “We Are the Weirdos” film collective, and you can currently find it on YouTube.