6.7/10
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Black Button (2007)

A man is given a choice between salvation and damnation. What will he choose?

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Cast

Credited cast:
Hayden Grubb ...
Jeffrey Roberts
...
Man Behind the Desk
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Storyline

A man, at a first look held against his will, is given two simple options: push a black button which will kill someone, somewhere in the world, but also bring him ten million dollars, or just leave, but without the money. The situation turns out to be more than it initially seemed as his choices could bring him either salvation or damnation. Written by Julien M.

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Plot Keywords:

money | purgatory | accident | devil | greed | See All (5) »

Taglines:

What Would You Do?

Genres:

Short | Sci-Fi

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Details

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Release Date:

30 January 2007 (Australia)  »

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Box Office

Budget:

AUD 200 (estimated)
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(MiniDV)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The two actors in the film are in fact father and son. See more »

Connections

Version of The Box (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

The good idea and story deserved better delivery (and potentially a credit to the source?)
21 February 2014 | by See all my reviews

This short film sees a man (Jeffrey Roberts) in a room with a stranger. A suitcase of a million dollars is on offer by the stranger if Mr Roberts will simply push a button and cause the death of someone, somewhere in the world. If Mr Roberts doesn't push the button? Well, then he is free to leave but without the million dollars.

Before I comment on this film as a film I think I should at least comment on my surprise that such a familiar idea should not have any credit or reference to the Twilight Zone story to which it bears a striking thematic resemblance. The story "Button, Button" was paired with J. Neil Schulman's Profile in Silver when it was made for television in the 1980's from an original short story. While the detail may be different, the central idea of "push this button, someone somewhere dies and you get rich" is identical and it made me pretty uncomfortable when I watched this to see that there was no mention of this connection and instead the concept was presented as a wholly original one which was thought up by Grubb and Crandles. A few years after this short, the film The Box did the same idea again but at least that gave credit where it was due – Kelly's screenplay was credited as being based on Matheson's short story. I know this is a small short film put up on YouTube but still, it seems dishonest to me that no connection is made – although part of me wants to believe that Crandles and Grubb really had never heard of this story and genuinely think they made it up themselves.

This aside the film itself is one contrasted between the hook of its good idea and the ham-fisted manner of delivery. The idea and scenario is a good hook – it asks questions, it challenges the character and viewer and, most importantly, the ending is pretty good and I enjoyed it as short film idea. Problem is that the limits of the film are evident throughout and aren't helped by how poorly deployed those limited resources were. The white room is a good clean space of mystery, but the decision to have Roberts in a white shirt means visually he blends in and is hard to see and hard on the eyes. The simple set means problems with this are reduced but technically the film is weak. The sound quality is poor and the shot selection and overly dramatic editing is too much and hurts the atmosphere a great deal. In terms of performance, Grubb senior is actually pretty good but Grubb junior cannot act; simple lines at the start are terrible and dramatic ones at the end are even worse. Again I know this is essentially a home-made film for YouTube and I should be grateful it is not just another cat video, but considering the film is just a scene between two men that is idea and dialogue driven, having one sounding like he is reading every word off a cue-card without any context or expression is sort of a big problem.

Overall the weaknesses and limits of Black Button overwhelm what is actually a good concept with a clever ending and it is a shame because the material deserves better. The material also appears to deserved at least an "inspired by" credit, but again I do not know the details so all I can say is that it seems very similar to Matheson's idea but I presume that Crandles and Grubb genuinely thought that the "push this button, someone dies but you get money" idea was wholly their own (in which case they must have been royally annoyed a year or so later when it would have initially appeared that a major Hollywood movie was ripping off their film).


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