Carpenter’s classics such as The Thing, Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York are all undoubtedly wonderful, but some of my readers may have forgotten that before he declared himself ‘king of the world’ with Titanic and made more money than most countries with his blue-skinned aliens in Avatar, Cameron put together some seriously kick-ass flicks. The Terminator and Aliens are two of the greatest sci-fi action movies EVER, and both contained more than their fair share of horror elements.
So why mention these film geniuses? Because I recently discovered an amazing short that completely conjures up the feel of both men’s work at what was arguably their greatest era.
Oh and it’s about a murderous shopping trolley…
SHARP SHOCK SHORT: KILLER KART (2012)
Dir: James Feeney
Starring: Christine Rodriguez, Ray Bouchard, Elly Schaefer, Britt Michael Gordon
SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short so I’ll try not to spoil too much, but read on at your own risk.
Cass (Rodriguez) works in a local supermarket and, as the store closes for the evening, she is feeling nervous about her first night as closing manager. As a handful of staff get set to restock and properly clean and prepare the shop for the following day.
However, as Cass, her boyfriend and stock-boy Ryan (Gordon), fun cashier Bailey (Schaefer) and grizzled caretaker and maintenance man Hale (Bouchard) set about their business, they soon realise that something else is stalking the aisles of the supermarket.
Something murderous and thirsty for vengeance…
Something with wheels…
WHY IT WORKS: Killer Kart is a work of genius. It’s all too easy to assume that a short film about a shopping trolley on a murderous rampage will be a terrible dud — but you are wrong. In less capable and assured hands, it would be, but Feeney and his crew are brave enough to do this right. You see, the reason this outlandish premise works so well is because the film is played entirely straight. There are no corny one-liners, silly winks to camera or deliberate tension breaking gags — the film unfolds like a straight up horror story. The cart is treated like any other slasher villain, with no trace of irony.
The short is hilarious, precisely because it refuses to compromise its central premise, playing it straightfaced with all the gritty energy of a real low-budget Eighties movie.
Feeney obviously knows his stuff and the film is LOADED with references to the classic films I mentioned earlier, with a soundtrack that sounds like it could have been lifted straight from a Carpenter cult classic and plenty of cool setpiece nods to Cameron’s first (and my favourite) Terminator movie.
That isn’t to say that the film is just a collection of scenes cobbled together from other directors’ greatest hits — far from it. Feeney shoots this film with a steady hand, cranking up the tension like a genre veteran, turning the supermarket into a dangerous and frightening place. He uses lighting and framing to give the flick a proper horror atmosphere and he has written a snappy story with a bunch of likeable, well-rounded characters.
As a lead, Rodriguez is excellent. It must be very difficult to act terrified by a shopping trolley but she nails it. Of all the characters in the film, Cass has the most complex arc and Rodriguez is well-up to the task. She is an accomplished actress and I very much predict that we will see plenty more of her in the days ahead.
Speaking of acting terrified by a trolley, the likeable Gordon and Schaefer do great jobs. Schaefer gets the role down pat — she is a budding scream queen in the making and I look forward to seeing her return to the genre.
Finally we have the veteran Bouchard — and he’s absolutely fantastic! Bringing a gnarly charm to the role, much like Robert Shaw’s Quint, he even gets a great and chilling expository speech about what happens when a cart goes wild. He’s a complete, no-nonsense badass and was easily my favourite character, beautifully realised by Bouchard’s performance. Kick-ass work, sir. Kick ass.
With a great list cast and some skilful writing, we actually find ourselves caring about this group when the blood and guts start flowing. And do they ever start flowing! The gore effects are great, with plenty of grue to keep the gorehounds happy!
Finally, the trolley. Is it daft? Yes, of course it is.
Does it work? Somehow, it really does!
The titular Killer Kart is filmed brilliantly, making it seem genuinely menacing in some scenes (trust me here) and using some more fine special effects and wonderfully clever camerawork to bring it to life as a bona fide movie monster. Perhaps that is the biggest and brightest achievement that this already sterling short manages. I doff my cap to the filmmakers and I whole-heartedly encourage you, my readers, to check this short out ASAP.
SO WHERE'S IT AT? Well the lazy among you can watch it right here!
The short is STILL hitting the odd festival too, so be sure to check out the short’s official Facebook page to see if Killer Kart will be coming to a screen near you soon. Give the guys behind this masterpiece lots of love while you’re there too. I’m sure they’d appreciate some feedback!
10 WORD WRAP UP: Fantastic throwback to the glory days of Carpenter and Cameron
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