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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking a Hacksaw to Grandma: Dark Comedy & Plenty of Laughs in Award Winning "Grandma's Not a Toaster"

"GRANDMA'S NOT A TOASTER" (2014)
Genre: Dark Comedy
Length- 9:54
Company: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Production Company
Website: Facebook

Grandma (Eileen Lacy) is practically catatonic in her rocking chair, hooked up to a respiratorThat's bad enough.  But worse yet for Arnie, Susannah and Eddie (Academy Award winner Shawn Christensen, Mara Kassin, and Michael Drayer) -- she wrote them out of her will!

In most cases, writing family out of one's will would be a horrible, horrible thing to do. 

But when you meet these people, you just might reconsider.

BIG BOOTS


This dark comedy has shown at numerous film festivals, including the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, and won Best Comedy Film at West Chester Film Festival 2014.  It comes from director Andrew Napier (Mad as Hell) and Christensen, the same team that brought Oscar Award winning short "Curfew" to audiences worldwide.

Understandably, there are some pretty big expectations on this short, but "Grandma's Not a Toaster" clearly has its own agenda and stands tall on its own two feet as a story of one bad grandma and the thieving grandchildren out to profit from her death.

GRANDMA RAGE

As a dark comedy, "Grandma's Not a Toaster" features largely unlikeable characters doing despicable things with hilarious results.  Where this short film differs is its incredibly light and playful touch.

Napier utilizes a first person point of view style, telling short overlapping sections of the story.  The result gives the written material immediacy it wouldn't have had otherwise, but the problem is that we revisit, revisit, revisit -- experiencing dialogue we just saw literally seconds ago, but now from a different perspective.  This happens three times, and the repetition drags the pacing down a little and eats up an awfully large chunk of the film's brief running time.

HACKSAW OR NO HACKSAW
 

But that's all visual -- where the film shines is in its acting and writing.  Christensen's script has witty dialogue aplenty and I found myself laughing throughout.  The production itself is also squeaky clean with solid sound design and appropriately amusing soundtrack reminiscent of goofball comedies and film noir pictures. 

The acting is also solid across the board.  Christensen, Kassin and Drayer all have great senses of comedic delivery and they milk their lines for all they're worth.  Lacey has no lines, but she performs well with what she's given.

All in all, "Grandma's Not a Toaster" is a laugh out loud dark comedy influenced by old time Hollywood.  I enjoyed watching, and Napier and Christensen obviously know how to cook up a good story and present it on the screen.  I might not have liked the POV, but it didn't ruin the film for me by any means.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4 / 5.  Some of the dialogue was a little clunky, but overall Christensen's script was funny and witty.
Directing: 3 / 5.  I am not sure if the script was written with the POV approach, but I thought it was distracting switching perspectives four times over the course of the film.  Since it was all told from POV, there wasn't much opportunity for unique direction or shot composition from Napier. 
Editing: 3 / 5.  The editing worked, but having to watch the same events but from different perspectives made the pacing on this film lag.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  I enjoyed the unique soundtrack by Darren Morze.  The sound design was also top notch on this production.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Our three leads really pull this film together and make it what it is.  The script is funny, but their spot on delivery of the jokes makes everything ten times as funny. 

Final Grade: 3 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Grandma's Not a Toaster" on Vimeo and follow the film's progress on 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!