Restroom review for Midlands Movies

A young man experiences a series of life changing events inside a public restroom only to find out all is not as it seems.

When a young man (Joseph Sean-Lyons) takes a trip to public toilet whilst out with friends, the last thing he expected was to be trapped in a cubicle when a hammer-wielding madman shows up and attacks a couple in the next cubicle. In a series of events that quickly go from a bit strange to absolutely awful, the man is forced to make a split second decision, only to find that everything is not quite as it seems.

Restroom is the latest short film from writer and director Scott Driver. Inspired by a series of online prank videos, he wanted to take this social media trend and turn it into something far uglier than anyone who has ever seen or even set up one of these videos could imagine it could become. It’s a pretty local project, with three of the four main actors coming from the Midlands and the entire film being shot at an abandoned school in Newark, so really showcases to excellent local talent.

I think of all the short films I have seen over the last year, and bear in mind they have all been so different, this has probably been my favourite. It was really intense! You never knew what was coming next with it at any point. The film started out with a guy sending a text message to his mate whilst on the toilet, and then very quickly went up a gear from there. Suddenly I didn’t know what to expect, and that was a fantastic feeling to get with such a compact storyline.

The setting really helped to build the tension in this short. It felt so claustrophobic, and when the attacker set his sights on our protagonist, I kind of lost all hope for him. Combine this with the number of shots cut together during the initial attack and you quickly became quite disorientated with it all. It all moved so fast, causing some of the panic being felt by the main character to be transferred onto the viewer.

Of course, Restroom is a film that does have some heavier undertones. As pointed out by Driver, his inspiration fro this short came from online prank videos. He wanted to show how they can soon go from a good laugh to something horrendous, and the twist he built into the film right at the end did just that. The film ended so abruptly, and I think this was very effective in the way it kind of prompted you to think, well… what happens now? In all seriousness, this is something that could potentially happen when one of these pranks goes wrong in real life, and the film just makes you stop and think a bit, which is good.

All in all, Restroom is a really great short film that grabs viewers and shakes them into action. It forces you to think about harmless actions and the potential consequences for people if they go wrong – something that can be applied to everything, not the just internet trend shown in this film. It lures you in with a friendly conversation between friends and then it pounces, and that’s when the fun really starts. This is a film that you should see if you get the chance because there is so much to it. For me, it’s a real winner, and my only criticism would be that I didn’t get to see more of the aftermath, even if it was only another 10 seconds or so on top of the rest of the short.


Short Sessions – What Jack Built

What is that thing Jack is building in his cellar? How could such a device be used? Perhaps it has something to do with that creature out in the woods..

What Jack Built is Matthew Mahler’s short film from 2015 starring actor Timothy J. Cox as a man who I can only describe as an aspiring mad scientist type of guy. It is essentially a silent film with a score that really pulls the piece together, building tension when it is most apt, and providing some relief when needed.

The lead and only performances here came from the man who sent me these shorts in the first place. Timothy J. Cox provided an entertaining performance that meant the ten minutes spent viewing this film flew by pretty quickly. He totally nailed the mad scientist/boy who never grew up thing! All the time I spent watching him, I thought he could so easily have been a young lad who was just playing around in his treehouse or woodland den. For me, this is what made the short such good watching.

Now, I can’t not mention the score for this piece. The soundtrack was composed by the film’s writer and director, Matthew Mahler, and it would certainly seem to me that he is a man of many talents. The reason the concept of this short worked so well was because of the music that accompanied it. It may be a long shot to say this, but for me, the music is up there with the Jaws score when it comes to tension building. There were a few shots where I was drawing similarities from the 1975 classic with regards to how well the score complemented the rest of the piece.

What Jack Built is another wonderful example of what you can do with a basic idea and about ten minutes’ worth of footage. Again, it is a film a would recommend to anyone contemplating creating their own short as it provides a good example of the kinds of ideas you can work with when you have only the bare bones of a film set and production crew. This would be an idea that could so easily be scaled back for first-time filmmakers, which is why I would say to spare ten minutes for it.

All in all, What Jack Built is a well-coordinated short film that builds tension brilliantly as a result of the coordination between actor and score. The concept is a unique one, and leaves quite a few questions unanswered by the time the end credits start rolling. I would definitely urge you to see this if you are an aspiring filmmaker, or just fancy seeing the early stages of a career belonging to a writer, director or even composer who could one day be a name of some significance in film.

Short Sessions – Total Performance

A day in the life of an actress who gets a little too close to reality.

Cori (Tory Berner) is an actress, but until she gets her big break, the way she makes a living is a little bit different. She works for a company that employs actors to play opposite real people who want to practise a difficult conversation. Whether it be a break up, a firing or an embarrassing confession, the company provides a living breathing sparring dummy for their clients.

The second short film I was sent to review was Total Performance. The premise of this film is quite an interesting on, and while it might not have quite the same substance as the previous short, Dirty Books, it was certainly a fascinating watch.

Tori Berner’s performance as the lead was alright, however I can’t say I was ever really that fond of her character, Cori. I just felt like she was a bit whiny in one of the last final confrontation scenes, and that just turned me off of her completely. Before that, however, I found her to be quite watchable, and her performance was really rather convincing.

Tim was played by Steven Conroy. Conroy’s character was one that I found quite funny. I don’t know whether the level of humour was intentional, but the way he constantly seemed to manage to dig himself a bigger hole to fall into just made me smile. Both that and the fact that he never really seemed to feel comfortable around Cori left me highly entertained. What can I say? I love to see people squirm!

As I’ve said already, I didn’t really find there to be an awful lot of substance behind the story here – I’m not saying there wasn’t any, I’m just saying if there was, it wasn’t obvious enough to me. that being said, for what it was, Total Performance was still an entertaining bit of viewing, and is once again an example of what you can do in the space of twenty minutes or less on camera. I have to say, as someone who is currently going through the process of thinking up ideas for their own short film, these shorts have provided me with some good inspiration, and if how we’ve started is how we mean to go on, I’m sure they will continue to do so.

Overall, Total Performance is an easy-going film with an interesting concept. The performances are of a decent quality, and the plot is attention grabbing. If anyone has a spare twenty minutes during their day, I would say that it would be well spent viewing this film, especially is filmmaking is something you’re thinking of venturing into. 

Short Sessions – Dirty Books

When a high school newspaper is threatened to be turned into an online blog, it’s editor-in-chief seeks out a story to save it – even if the story is completely untrue.

Following an out-of-the-blue email the other night, over the next few weeks I shall be reviewing a series of short film that were sent to me. The first of these films was Dirty Books – a tale of the struggles we can face during high school. I found the film to be quite relatable as it made a statement about the way many teenagers can feel during those tricky high school years.

For me, the film centred around one character, David Burroughs, played by Noah Bailey. David was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that was under threat. I must admit that I found this character to be quite obnoxious, however upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that he is not so different to myself, or in fact every other adolescent going through the latter stages of their education. Personally, I thought Bailey showed the selfishness that covers up all of the other insecurities and anxieties of teenage years very well. He did so in a way that you kind of hated his character at the start, but forgave him when he let down that wall and showed how he really felt. At the end of the day, the one thing that David felt gave him a purpose was being threatened. Without the newspaper, he felt he would have nothing, and would therefore mean nothing to the school, so it’s understandable that he reacted that way.

While the story was quite typical of one where someone’s actions eventually come back to bite them, it was done quite well. Again, it showed something that is really part of the of the whole essence of teenage years – thinking that something is a great idea at the time, but massively regretting it later one. I think director Zachary Lapierre did a wonderful job of portraying so many different aspects of these years in such a short space of time.

All in all, Dirty Books is an honest coming-of-age tale that does a good job of showing the struggles of those high school/teenage years. For anyone who has a spare fifteen minutes, I would recommend they watch this short. It is a wonderful way of using young actors in a context that we can all relate to to some degree.