Paired with a screening of CRSHN ON U (a 2-minute short described as a “a stylish EDM nightmare date” that you can watch right here) Small Talk marked the opening of the very first Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival, or PUFF.
Small Talk is a decent little genre short in which a phone sex operator starts receiving bizarre and aggressive phone calls from men that turn up dead less than 24 hours later, while she’s experiencing flash-migraines. As the story unfolds and the mystery starts to reveal itself, the pace begins to pick up and the tension rises until it finally unleashes its big effects sequence, which is actually pretty awesome. What they accomplished looked very practical though I’m uncertain how you would pull it off practically, so kudos to them for potentially tricking me with some computer effects.
There are quite a few jokes in this that I liked enough, and quite a few that sort of fell flat for me. The characters are surprisingly well drawn for such a short feature, especially the lead character, thanks to a fun performance from Manini Gupta. But unfortunately, typical of horror shorts, this doesn’t come to much of a revealing conclusion – we know more than we did when the short began, but not enough to flesh out what’s really going on.
What’s going on in the opening? How does it relate to the subsequent flashbacks? The simplest conclusion I can draw is that this would like to be a version of Scanners that’s ultimately about female empowerment. I’m unconvinced it achieves that, though I find the stab at it admirable. Truly, all it would really take is making sure it’s clear that Al, Gupta’s character, masters control of herself by the end to make that fall into place for me. But maybe I’m being picky because I was still able to pull that theme out regardless.
Overall I liked this one alright. It was a good start – I’m excited to see what the rest of the weekend at PUFF has to bring.