From writer/director Shane Bannon and actress/producer Celina Bernstein comes the horror-thriller short, THE PERFECT PLACE TO CRY which, upon completion, is lowkey brilliant. Clocking in at just under 7 minutes, this short plays with tension, engaging the viewer in a tug-of-war of emotion before its final moment of shock. Just understand that when you think you’ve found the perfect place to pull over and have an emotional moment to yourself, you may not be as alone as previously thought.
The short starts with a lone woman pulling over into a secluded section of woods. Played by Celina Bernstein, we watch as her character, Lyla, steadily breaks down in the car. It’s a relatable moment. We’ve all been there at one point or another. When the tears have a momentary reprieve, she looks up and spies a flashlight shining in her general direction before a bloodied man hazily steps out of the leafy foliage in the pitch-black darkness. From there, Bannon plays with the natural tension the scenario invokes, making sure to destabilize both the protagonist and the viewer in the process.
It is that destabilizing feeling that makes THE PERFECT PLACE TO CRY brilliant in some ways. The screenplay could have easily made this a typical slasher scenario between Kevin Owyang‘s Dan and Lyla. However, in a brief personal moment of kindness (that honestly, when taken into context of the bigger picture, is pretty twisted), both Lyla and the audience are lured into that false sense of security. Sometimes in a moment of vulnerability, we can be easily swayed. And then, the final moment of umph happens, leaving both the audience and Lyla dazed and thinking to ourselves, “Well, f***.”
The song usage at the beginning immediately puts the audience in the headspace of Lyla. Director of Photography Matthew Kleppner shoots the nighttime scenario clearly but doesn’t over-illuminate the space. Instead, he plays with light and shadow, providing just enough dark cover to raise the hackles but not completely drown out the visuals onscreen.
THE PERFECT PLACE TO CRY does a great job from beginning to end hooking the viewer in. There are a few different ways the second half could have unraveled, but Bannon makes a bold choice that pays off in the end. While it could easily be expanded into a feature, with the character Dan proving to be an intriguing villain just with his brief appearance, THE PERFECT PLACE TO CRY honestly may be perfect as is.
THE PERFECT PLACE TO CRY played as a part of “You Only Revenge Twice” – Horror Shorts Block at the 2023 FilmQuest Fest.
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