If there was any argument that programming a series of short films into a feature-length block could elevate or detract from each of the films, it was settled with the Warm-Blood Cold-Hearted series of shorts. The first film, the exceptional “Shattered,” set the bar high, and while none of the ones that followed reached those lofty heights, there were some well-crafted local films that recognized both the limitations and possibilities of a short.
With an off balance washing machine in the opening scene providing a visual and auditory sensation of entering a simmering cauldron of psychosis, “Shattered” features a classic, stylized domesticity that has been rendered to the film’s title. The carefully orchestrated cinematography, editing and sound effects combine for an unnerving, haunting experience. Describing the film as Lynchian seems more appropriate than any other film I’ve seen of the same vein, whether a short or feature length. As the plot progresses, it becomes increasingly unclear whether the wife, husband, or both are at the heart of the madness. It would be a shame if writer and director Edmund Prince and cinematographer Gabe Mayhan didn’t collaborate further on future projects.
“Cain and Abel” is a poetic meditation on one of the most well-known biblical tales, set in a sparse, modern Southern gothic setting. The gray and almost sepia toned backdrop, along with tight shots of the devout younger brother and the visceral, resigned older brother, create both an ease and tension that leads to the inevitable conclusion, although in such a way that it only matches the film’s understated beauty.
Director Trenton Mynatt’s “Greed” seemed to highlight a penultimate scene of a gritty feature length western I would gladly pay to see. A wealthy man and his hired posse flee a seemingly supernatural lawman across the Ozarks trying to escape a fate that history has consistently shown to befall the covetous.
The considered effect of selecting and sequencing a block of short films was driven home in the opening scene of the last film in the series, “Ruthless,” in which a rabid anti-hero listens to a list of charges from a judge and responds with a two word expletive – to which I jotted down “greatest intro ever.” A restless audience responded with a roar of laughter that didn’t let up as the eye-patch-sporting escaped convict hunted down a small-time bookie that had sold him down the river.
“Ruthless” strolls the intersection between the outsized noir of Frank Miller’s Sin City and villainous revenge of Quentin Tarantino films, and not without a touch of campiness, whether purposeful or unintentional. It would be interesting to see director Robert Kirkpatrick push past some of the tried and true tropes of the genre and explore an even sharper, campier edge, which he seems more than capable of doing.
"Arkansas Shorts #3: Warm-Blooded Cold-Hearted" shows Saturday, at Riverdale at 11 a.m.