LYCANTHROPY is the latest crime-thriller short from writer-director Alexander Black. The film follows two detectives as they search for a missing girl, and slowly unravel the grim reality of how she went missing. While the title of the short would seem to suggest a supernatural element, the film is largely grounded and alludes to its wolf namesake via stock footage cutaways of an ominous-looking wolf. While these moments certainly add dramatic flair to Black’s story, the overall purpose of the footage remained unclear to me. My best guess is that the wolf is being used as a comparison to our lead character, Mark Kessler – who utilizes his keen, beast-like senses to catch the criminals responsible for the girl’s disappearance.

Overall the short is a rather by-the-numbers crime procedural with enough stylistic flair to help support it through its 15-minute runtime. The cinematography is without question the highlight of the short, providing slick and competent visuals throughout that help keep the viewer engaged. Black’s writing stumbles in places – often feeling exposition-heavy and making interactions between characters feel a bit clunky at times. Still, it’s clear that Black has some raw talent and potential as an upcoming filmmaker. While the film never feels quite as suspenseful as Black clearly wants it to be, there are moments of looming dread that show promise. The camera work and the editing help make LYCANTHROPY a decent watch, but I couldn’t help but feel the short is lacking a good punch. It’s hard to tell if Black intends the short to act as a proof-of-concept, or if it’s simply a one-off tale, but the story could only be helped by more extensive character development and more time to allow such a complex plot to breathe.

Black clearly knows all of the tropes and genre conventions, as he frequently uses them for his own short. Unfortunately, it’s Black’s loyalty to these tropes that keep the film from being something more than a typical crime procedural. There are hints of deeper themes afoot, but they are frequently sidelined to explore other characters. Perhaps the short is over-ambitious in the way it tries to tie all its thread together. By focusing on two detectives, Black loses his chance to critically examine the psyche of our lead detective, and this is at a great detriment to the overall film. While I wanted to enjoy LYCANTHROPY more than I did, I was impressed by the imagery and refined editing work. The short depicts a lot of promise for all involved but could use a bit more development. LYCANTHROPY is currently doing the festival circuit.

 

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