|Index||7 reviews in total|
Troubled young women. They battle the world day in and day out - anger,
loathing, despair - sometimes they spill over into violence - against
others - against themselves. But what if there's more inside than
seething rage and dark thoughts. And what if the cutting is a desperate
attempt to get it out?
This short film explores those notions across a sixteen minute running time filled with raw emotion, nightmare imagery, some shocking violence, and several chilling moments that had me uneasy for quite a while after the movie had ended. It is all anchored by a compelling lead performance from Heather Dorff as the unnamed lead. She brings a laser focus to the role, jittery with pent up energy and swathed in disdain for the mundane world that refuses to see just what is going on inside her.
I don't want to say too much more as that would only lead to spoilers. The short is well produced; the acting from the supporting cast is pretty good across the board; and director Justin Romine marshals it all to the screen with a fine visual style and solid editing.
The short has been garnering awards at festival screenings all over the place - and hopefully will be available for everyone to see soon - as I highly recommend giving it a watch. My thanks to Heather Dorff for arranging a screening for me!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this recently and I have to say it was incredibly powerful
and difficult to watch at times. When I say difficult to watch, I don't
mean that in a bad way. Heather Dorff puts on an amazing performance as
a troubled and tortured girl. We see many horror films that deal with
demon possession. But in What they Say, we see that there are many
around us with their own kind of demons, who feel that no one around
them cares or wants to even know. Such a great film. My only complains
is I wish it were longer.
As we watch her character struggle, you feel her pain and can sense the struggle and feel it with her. As she cuts herself, inflicting her own pain, you get the feeling she feels some need to punish herself for either not being good enough for others' expectations, or for not standing up for herself. She is trapped in a world of rumors and expectations of those around her and she feels powerless to escape. This is communicated perfectly in this short film.
This short- well- what can I say- I really enjoyed it a lot . Technically what I liked about it was that it was about 16 minutes long, and through it the viewer is able to get the beginning, the middle story , then even the back story and the conclusion - all done very well and not in a confusing manner at all- all of this in 16 minutes- it would have taken me 16 minutes just to get the first scene done!!! They all rocked it ! The editing , to which has won awards, was exceptional, and the directing was teaser enough to cant wait for next project. The cinematography and sound effects- nice!!!!! I also must say- Heather and Kelsey- well, they made a cool writing debut, a kinda already done type scenario but with a fresh perspective- and way to grab you to wanna watch and not be thinking or mumbling "Ive seen this all before" ! Kudos to the two of them - and to the whole crew and cast. The story without spoiling it for you all is something like this- a young girl, once (at least what I gathered)popular, now an "outcast" and having many issues- ones that require in her mind venting in her own way, which is cutting herself with razors,and letting the pain leave her body and spirit in that manner. Heather does an incredible job via her persona , expressions etc in conveying how she is really hurting and even depressed!Kelsey does a great job at being perhaps the critical sister, or the sister rivalry type feel , the "oh get over it " and " she use to be cool" (my thoughts of how she viewed Heather in film) and Kitsie ,well Mom, she played the Mom that seemed very concerned and at times making excuses for her daughter. I could see her saying that her daughter is weird because she is a teen or young adult and having issues instead of she needs to deal with her stuff. Well- as the short goes, you get a chance to see what "her stuff" is- why she is the way she is, and well- the rest- You must watch!! It all kinda took me on a twist- through nook and crannies of inner turmoil while at same time- as soon as you figure it out,a sharp turn- now mind you, this is all in about 16 minutes- this is why I find it done very well,to make this whole story and to make it well and understandable in that short of time! So- I do hope you find this intriguing enough to look for it , to see it at a festival or con near you and to form your own thoughts on it- it is well worth it- and has me waiting and wanting more from these folks in way of a full length!!! So- check it out- and enjoy!
Let me just say that the movie is "SICK". You will be taken by surprise. Very clever writing. There is a complete story packed into this short and some cool gore. I liked that I was able to follow the entire story and understand it completely. The story moves along rather well and you don't find yourself wondering when it will be over. Heather and Kelsey are awesome. They have great chemistry together. It is great to actually find a movie of this genre with a real story line and so easy to follow. They did a super job of editing. Everything flowed together as it should. The photography is excellent. You will love it.
Yes I voted 10 of 10 because occasionally a film comes along that is
evident the story derived and evolved from something deep inside the
filmmakers heart and mind. The amount of passion and hard work poured
into it makes for an awarding winning film. What They Say won about a
half dozen awards at horror film fests including Best Director, Best
Editing and Best Actress. Heather Dorff who won the best actress award
also wrote the film. When she wrote the story it was during a dark time
of her life, so it was only fitting for her to play the main role as
she already was submerged into the character and what is going through
the characters mind. Heather's role (casted as "Unnamed") is dark, sad,
and even brutal, but the scariest part is that in reality there are
elements of her character that are deep inside each and every one of
us, whether you admit it or not.
Her sensual relief comes from cutting herself with a razor, but she also gets the pleasure of when her inner demons visualize slicing up the people around her with a straight razor. Those scenes are gruesome and creative making it obvious why this film won multiple awards
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'What They Say' is a short horror film (2011) directed by Justine
Romine, based on a story by, and starring Chicago's own, the
incomparably talented actress Heather Dorff. It's a trippy film that
warps time and perception as we follow the lead character/narrator who
is unnamed (Dorff) through a downward spiral into madness and
It's clear from the beginning that the main character is isolated and at odds with herself and everyone around her (family and friends alike). The opening credits features disturbing imagery implying she's surrounded by monsters disguised as people. As she finishes a cigarette break under a tree, we follow "unnamed" as she walks across the campus of her school and encounters her classmates.
Their reactions range from mockery to outright disdain and it's clear she spends most of her time alone, bitter, angry and suffering as she deals with her classmates. At one point she makes eye contact with one young man and it's immediately clear he's got some amount of regret or guilt in his expression (we'll soon learn why). As they make eye contact, it's clear pain (in all its forms) is a constant in "unnamed's" life.
We then see pieces of her home life and it's just like her school world: a mess. In between, we see flashbacks to her youth, in particular things she saw her father doing while she was a little girl. History repeats itself as the father's pain and self-destructive nature have clearly imprinted on "unnamed" and we watch as her mental fabric slowly, painfully and bloodily unravels thread-by-thread. Before I delve deeper into this film and any spoilers I'll stop you here to say you should definitely see this film!
Throughout the film we witness the self-destructive therapy "unnamed" is engaged in: cutting. We see several instances of the main character cutting herself, remembering seeing her father cut himself when she was a child, and as her encounters with family and former friends continue to be hurtful and damaging, we follow the lead as she retreats repeatedly to her bathroom and attempts to relieve her pain with a razor.
Overall the writing, acting, music and f/x are top notch. The warped faces seen during the opening credits and makeup f/x on Heather during the final scenes are creepy as hell (especially the latter sequence). The camera is essentially always following Heather and she has an intense energy and stare that reminded me of some of the better enraged/possessed characters in horror films. She owns every scene she's in, but when she's looking into the camera full of possessed rage...shivers will run down your spine. You would NOT want to be on the receiving end of that stare!
About the only quibble, and it's a common quibble among indie films regardless of genre, was the ambient sound in a few scenes. In particular a scene where her mom and a friend's mom join "nameless" and her sisters for tea. As the camera moves from character to character, and angle to angle, there is no ambient sound effect(s) or music for parts of the scene. It's probably my surround sound set up, but the ambient background sound varied significantly as the camera shifted and it was a little distracting. Again this is a minor issue which probably could have been covered by some creepy background sound(s) or music.
However, I should point out that the end of the scene erases any memory of this. As the inane conversation escalates amongst those around her, Heather erupts in rage and the sounds and music replace the empty background noise. In other words, unlike many indie films where sound can be inconsistent and an ongoing issue, this was really the only real instance of this problem in the movie.
In brutal detail, we see her lashing out at those present who've been talking incessantly about her as if she wasn't there. One by one she attacks in her mind before coming back to reality or at least that semblance of it that each of us does our best to cope with each day. In the end, the bathtub cutting rituals get more elaborate as "unnamed" fully embraces the one thing that relieves her pain and empowers her.
The ending leaves things open to interpretation which is just fine with me. Too much of art is spoon-fed to the viewer. Leave some ambiguity. Is "unnamed" crazy? Are we seeing what's really happening, are things in her head, or some combination of the two? What I know is that Heather Dorff is a great writer, an amazing actress and the horror genre is all the better for having her.
I highly recommend you find and see this short film and check out Heather's other works such as the upcoming full-length film "Truth or Dare" the first film directed by fellow horror actress, the equally amazing Jessica Cameron. Horror is a very exciting genre at the moment. And a large part of that is the new generation of artists like Heather and Jessica taking the reins.
NOTE: What They Say will begin to circulate throughout festivals later
this year. I received a special screener copy of the short in July
"I've always had a demon inside me" is the first line our lead character coldly states in Justin R. Romine's short film What They Say. The character remains unnamed throughout the entire short, and we see her consistently ponder how normal people can live with themselves, conforming to society and its many bland conventions. But I wouldn't go so far as to dub this a full-on rehash of the "I hate the world" type character.
This character is played effectively by Heather Dorff, who seems to have her whole life planned out. The catch is her life is planned out by her mother, who is unaware her daughter is an unsympathetic, unruly woman possessed by something controlling and demonic. Her only form of solace is by cutting her arms with a razor sharp blade, which eventually leads her to strangely sensual pleasure as the blood runs down her arm and into the bathtub. At one point she wallows in a tub seemingly made up of her own blood, making for one unsettling and shockingly numbing moment.
What They Say could very well work as a piece of Gothic horror; where atmosphere overrides jump scares, blood, and gore, where style and decor become the main points of interest, and serene, crippling imagery is the source of true paralyzing fear. The cinematography, done richly by Nicole Klemens, easily becomes one of the most fascinating things about this short, emphasizing little things such as a dripping faucet and more complex pieces like when the true demon is unleashed with skillful craft and design.
This is one of the few shorts that, I believe, could function well as a feature length film. We can see the transformation of Dorff's character from normal, everyday schoolgirl to a dark, unmoving woman that has difficultly communicating and emoting with herself and others. Relationships with her mother and her sister (played by Kelsey Zukowski) could become more developed and fleshed out, along with more time for some incredibly stylistic scenery. Regardless, this is still one short film that feels capable and professionally developed rather than one long trailer.
Starring: Heather Dorff, Kelsey Zukowski, Tina Renee, and Kitsie Duncan. Directed by: Justin R. Romine.
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