Let's see what's Out There
Over the holidays, I watched a movie called Wrecked (2010), in which Adrien Brody awakens trapped in the wreckage of a car with no memory of how he got there. Many of its 91 minutes were hardly action-packed, as Brody sat in the car, understandably groggy, but mostly immobile. I remember thinking, "This would have made a great short film."
As if in response to my thought, here comes a 15-minute short called Out There, in which a man named Robert (Conor Marren) awakens bloodied in the woods with no memory of how he got there. But, unlike Wrecked, he's immediately on his feet, wandering his surroundings and picking up clues. It's basically the same structure, only it's compacted into a running time that ultimately results in greater satisfaction.
Regardless of the running time, there are two questions I ask about a plot like the one in Out There. First, if you edited the movie to unfold linearly, would it be an interesting story? To be truly effective, a good story has to be present from the start. The novelty of the way the story is told can't be merely a gimmick to distract from a weak story.
Second, since the story is told largely as a series of flashbacks, is there a good twist at the end? Told linearly, this twist would have come about 2/3 into the movie and the final 1/3 would likely be anti-climactic. So there must be a reason for telling the story this way. There must be significant dramatic impact for the twist to come at the end of the movie.
To answer my questions, first, Out There has an interesting story. Without revealing too much, I'll say that Robert's memories revolve around a woman named Jane (Emma Eliza Regan), either his wife or girlfriend, and a revelation shared between the two of them. There are also hints that all is not necessarily right in the world in which they live. It's simple drama and it's intriguing. However, by the end, you'll have no doubt that you've seen a horror film.
Second, Out There offers a good twist. In a move that reveals his true character, we not only instantly learn how Robert got where he is, but we also might be led to conclude that he's getting what he deserves. Then Out There goes one step further. After the twist that explains what happened, there is a final twist that ties everything together. Normally, the movie would end with the revelation alone, but this one also tells us what happens next.
Filmed in Ireland by writer-director Randal Plunkett, Out There has the look and feel of a full-length "Hollywood" movie. The only area in which it falls short is the acting. Marren and Regan are all right, but a little more heft in this department would have made it a perfect film.
I don't usually watch short films unless they're nominated for an Oscar; however, after watching Out There, it occurs to me that if they're all as entertaining as this one, they're a great way to invest a small amount of time in order to receive a huge emotional dividend. I realize there are a lot of talented short filmmakers out there; perhaps Out There will motivate me to widen my horizons.