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Monday, April 18, 2016

A Thin Line Between Thrills & Laughs in Short Film "Fatal Premonition"

"FATAL PREMONITION" (2016)
Genre: Comedy / Thriller
Length- 13:22
Company:  Mind Palace Pictures

Landon (David Esposito) is a young businessman on the rise, and his best friend Ed (Ryan Crepack) is a little bit jealous.  It doesn't help that Landon's a bit of an arrogant four-letter-word about his new promotion.

The thing is, Fate's about to serve Landon a cold slice of Reality Pie in the form of a nasty little nightmare of his own murder.

Will he recognize the dream for what it is, and most importantly can he stop this "Fatal Premonition" from coming to pass?

THREE MAN CREW

David Esposito co-wrote, co-directed, scored, edited, and of course starred in the lead role of this short. Crepack also wore multiple hats, sharing writing and directing duties.  Stephen Lo Biondo puts on the Director of Photography hat and also takes a turn in front of the camera as the woefully underappreciated character of Anthony.  Dominik Zdzioch is credited with the role of Oz.

That's three guys in the crew, plus an additional actor.  No one else is included as running sound, so I'm assuming Esposito, Crepack and Lo Biondo were doing their own sound, too.  That's a lot to try and manage on set all by themselves . . . and the audio is all professionally captured, by the way.  Not distracting, tinny or masked with the annoying echo of many amateur productions.

Many jobs.  Three guys.

That's how it is with low budget films, though -- if a film's completed, more than likely someone, and probably multiple someones are taking on numerous duties.  In this case, I have to say that despite having to no doubt run back and forth between in front of the camera and behind, the picture is remarkably clear and the shots are well composed.  I'm not entirely sold on a few of the directorial choices and some of the transitions seem rushed, but considering how messy it could have been, the film rolls pretty seamlessly.

A LITTLE GENRE MAGIC

So how's it play?

As a comedy, most of the laughs sputter in the beginning, and the tone of the film is too muddy -- we're never sure if we're supposed to be laughing or taking it seriously.  Probably from the midpoint onward, though, the jokes start to noticeably improve.  Crepack has a real John Krasinski vibe to him, and he makes for a good straight man to Esposito's banter.  I particularly enjoyed their final conversation -- that got a real laugh-out-loud from me.

Now, for the thriller side . . . the film never really got to me.  The supernatural angle, the premonition -- it didn't feel real, it felt forced and the shots of the dream came off as silly.  BUT, as the film progressed, there was a real world matter of factness to the events unfolding that was surprisingly effective.

The choreography at the finale wasn't bad, either.  It was slow and forced, but as a fellow filmmaker, I understand how hard it is to deliver a fight scene that feels like a real fight scene.  It wasn't bad, and it did what it had to do.  Good job, guys.

QUIBBLES AND BITS

OK, here's some thoughts for improvement down the road: Landon comes off as WAY too big of a jerk to be remotely sympathetic.  He never shows a single redeeming quality the entire film.  Ed seems like a decent enough guy, if a bit of a pushover . . . so why on Earth is he hanging out with this guy?  I mean, now Landon's his boss, so I guess you could say he's intimidated, but Landon wasn't always his boss.  At one time, there must have been something to this friendship.  Ed must be getting something out of their relationship, but I cannot figure out what that would be.

Without knowing why they're friends, or at least understanding the dynamics of their relationship, we really don't care about what's going on in the movie beyond the surface level of, "Human beings normally should not murder each other."  But we should care about Landon and Ed's relationship, and how it's being changed by the new promotion, and most importantly, we should care about what Landon's death would do to Ed.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 2 / 5.  Not bad jokes, a few that were legitimately laugh-out-loud funny, and some moments of tension.  The character of Landon is too obnoxious to be taken seriously, and the plot as a whole has a definite "been there, done that" feel to it, but it's not bad for a watch on the Internet.
Directing: 3 / 5.  Crepack and Esposito manage a stable visual showing that's entertaining despite both being onscreen almost the entire time, no doubt with the help of Director of Photography Lo Biondo.  A crew of three, they've accomplished a pretty polished piece of work that's an enjoyable to watch to boot.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Some transitions are a bit rushed, and the pacing lurches at times but by and large the film's cut together well.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Esposito scored "Fatal Premonition" as well, and helps to wring out some extra tension from the darker scenes.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  Crepack and Lo Biondo do a respectable job with what they're given.  Zdzioch doesn't have much to do but stand around and look vacant, which he does admirably.  Esposito is very hit or miss, unsurprising given the histrionics of his character -- half of his dialogue is completely unbelievable.

Final Grade: 2.7 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Fatal Premonition" 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!