Film is primarily a visual language and if you want to convey something to the audience in under three minutes then your visuals need to be on point and memorable. Such is the case with White Willow which deftly communicates a gruesome little story about self mutilation that won’t soon leave your mind. The film’s sole performer (Emily Lamberski) turns in a solid, compelling performance which is further enhanced by the excellent SFX work by makeup artist Jess Marie. Writer/director Ryan Swantek’s quick cuts and eerie ambiance create a jarring, unsettling experience while establishing a character who I would be happy to see more of in a feature or another short. A fun, nasty little piece that’s sure to get under your skin.
Availability: Widely Available
Full video can be watched on Ryan Swantek’s YouTube Channel.
Ambiguity in film is a difficult needle to thread, holding back just enough information to give the audience something to chew on afterwards without omitting key details required for supporting the action onscreen. In under fifteen minutes, Kiddo establishes a very intriguing world brought to life by excellent acting, a great visual style, and some nice moments of brutality. The sense of dread is palpable right from the beginning as we join middle-aged woman Kiddo (Lisa Howard) on a bus full of teens, all of them clad in matching pink jumpsuits. As the bus winds lazily through the bucolic countryside, it’s very clear that all is not right here and it might have something to do with the couple of rough-looking guys on the bus who aren’t dressed like the others.
I can’t go into more detail than that without getting into spoilers but suffice to say Kiddo has a very solid concept and executes it perfectly from a technical aspect. The only points where it falters slightly are a few moments of illogical character choices and some aspects of the world-building that don’t quite connect the dots. It’s still an incredibly accomplished piece of filmmaking and something that I would very much like to see expanded into a feature. This would provide more time to delve into the larger story and answer some of the burning questions about what is really going on to firmly solidify the reality of the world it created.
Availability: Upcoming Release
Film will be premiering on Alter on 12/29/22.