Short Film Review: Stained (2016) Duration: 9 min 57 sec

Stained picWhen your film has a running time of under ten minutes there isn’t a lot of room to flesh out an elaborate story and the entirety of the film is generally focused on the resolution of one central conflict. Stained is no exception to this rule, and the plot can easily be summed up as (sigh)…..a man takes a shit and has to try and find some toilet paper to wipe his ass. Yes, that’s really the plot.

Said man goes by Harris (Mike Shephard) and in addition to being fresh out of TP, he is also plagued by the the incessant harassment of one Fecal George (Chris Spyrides), a human manifestation of shit itself that only he can see. Okay, so it goes without saying that the plot is crass and sophomoric, so the question really becomes “did the filmmakers execute the story they had properly?” Well, let’s break this thing down.

First and foremost, this is a small cast of three actors so the quality of the acting is essential to selling this weird little story. Not surprisingly, there isn’t much subtly to be had in their performances which consist of the kind of broad, cheesy acting you’d find on your typical short-lived sitcom. I recognize that an over-the-top style was warranted in this outlandish story but I still feel that more skilled actors could have delivered a level of subtle menace that would have added complexity to the characters. Though, I can certainly appreciate that having anthropomorphized human excrement shouting at you about shit stains in your underwear probably doesn’t inspire your best performance.

What baffles me the most about this film is why director Phil Haine and writer Mark A. C. Brown felt that, of all the possible stories in the world, this was the one that they would put all their resources into telling. Now, if this had come off as a film that looked like it was shot over a weekend by a couple of drunken college kids, it would actually make more sense. What’s confounding here is the fact that there’s clearly a lot of talent behind the camera.

There are some attempts at very broad comedy that fall completely flat but purely from a technical standpoint the film is very well crafted. The quality of the image is perfect, the sound design is excellent, and the entire experience flows together with the kind of professionalism you’d expect from a multi-million dollar film.

Now, I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it does redeem the rest of the plot a bit as well as provide justification to some points of the film that seemed like simple oversights at first. In addition, it finally tied in the Horror aspect that had seemed to be conspicuously absent from this “Horror Comedy”. All in all, a strange, gross little story but one brought forth by talented people who are certainly worth keeping an eye on in the future.

2.5 Stars Red

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