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Monday, March 24, 2014

This Is What the End of the World Sounds Like: Post-Apocalyptic "Relic" Thrives on Sound Design and Brilliant Locations

"RELIC" (2013)
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Action
Length - 8:32
Company: EDGE Films
Website: YouTube Channel

* Please note that I am assuming the cast list in the credits is "in order of appearance".  Many apologies if I give the wrong name for the lead actor.

Post-apocalyptic stories are hot right now, and short films are just as much a vehicle for that particular genre as any other.  Sam Jordan-Richardson's "Relic" takes this story format -- which is quickly becoming a new stereotype -- and tries to find something new.

But is it possible to find something new when we've already been to this well thousands of times?

YOU KNOW THE DRILL

The story of "Relic" is a simple one.  A 15 year old boy (a suitably grimy William Callard) is one of the few survivors of some horrific unnamed disaster.  He spends his days prowling abandoned city streets and stealing food from empty homes. 

Unfortunately, our protagonist is far from alone -- roaming gangs are also picking through civilization's carcass for food and shelter, and they're not interested in sharing.

It's not hard to tell where this is going, and it winds up pretty much exactly how you'd think it would, but the thing that differentiates this film from so many others is its apparent production values.

First of all, almost the entire film takes place OUTSIDE.  I say this again and again, but when a short film features external locations, it opens up the story and makes it feel more like a "world" that we are inhabiting, rather than a short film made in Grandma's basement.

Next, the streets and buildings we see on screen look exactly the way they should: they're broken down, covered in cobwebs and dust and in total disrepair.  The streets are overgrown. Bricks lie randomly in the grass.  For all intents and purposes, this film takes place in a REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC LOCATION.

By utilizing locations that fit their story to a T, "Relic" creators Sam Jordan-Richardson and James Coughlin effectively create the universe of the story with visuals that immediately speak to the audience. 

Add to that the fact that the actors are by and large pretty good at emoting with their expressions alone, and you have something special.

ENJOY THE SILENCE

Another interesting decision is that "Relic" has almost no dialogue at all.  Without any speech whatsoever, every scene has to speak for our protagonist and those pursuing him.  The sound design on this film is rock solid too, and it makes every quiet scene so much louder and more affecting than it has any right to be.

In the description of the film on YouTube, Jordan-Richardson states that this is the first short film he has made.  "Relic" is beautiful to look at, and its impressive sound design makes an otherwise pedestrian plot compelling.  At times, the shaky cam became a little much for me, but overall "Relic" is a real accomplishment, particularly coming from filmmakers this fresh.

"Relic" marks the arrival of bright new talent, and EDGE Films is only going to get better.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 2 / 5.  There is not much going on, and what does happen, we've seen done bigger and better in a thousand other films.  It's your basic "after the end of the world" story.  The ending didn't do it for me, either -- it felt like the filmmakers just didn't know where to go with it so they just stopped writing.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  The shaky cam was a bit nauseating after a while, and at times it felt like the shot was wandering a bit too much, but the frantic movement from shot to shot was enough to convey panic and at other times absolute desolation. 
Editing: 4 / 5.  The film builds up a kinetic energy of its own over the course of the picture, all the way to the finale.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  The sound is amazing on this film.  You hear ambient sounds that capture the locations perfectly.  Thanks to no dialogue, it makes the audience pick up every little nuance of the sound design, and adds in a special kind of tension.
Acting: 3 / 5.  For the most part, acting with your expressions is simpler than trying to mouth dialogue.  Still, the actors were all decent here, with a special tip of the hat to William Callard, who somehow managed to look world weary at age 15.  Bravo, good sir!

Final Grade
: 3.3 / 5

I highly recommend you check out "Relic" on YouTube -- and don't forget to follow Sam Jordan-Richardson on Twitter and Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!