Short indie film round-up: Stalled, The Exit Plan, Yardbird

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A trio of short films available for you to watch online and for free: here’s our round-up and a few more details as well.

Welcome once again to the deepest of dives into the weird and wonderful world of indie short films available to watch for free, championing talented movie makers and trying to buck the trend of the almighty algorithm.

This week we have an arrogant businessman at war with himself in a time-travelling toilet cubicle, a government assessor knocks on the door of an elderly lady in a world that’s overpopulated and gets more than he bargained for, finally a young girl unleashes her terrifying powers on a gang intent on causing havoc in her father’s outback scrapyard.

Stalled (Dir. Matt Black)

In this sharp-witted time travel caper starring the excellent Jacob Daniels, written and directed by Matt Black, a nasty businessman on his way to a vital meeting gets trapped in a time loop in a public bathroom. As he wrestles with the paradoxes — and literally himself — his ruthless business persona is challenged.

This short shows what can be achieved with an excellent script, a great performer, and a simple special effect: split screen. The whole thing is helped by a sizzling soundtrack by Ben Worley who also does the sound design. DoP Kyle Sanders and colourist Cody Strout give the film a Matrix/Fincher look. Overall this is a polished, slick production. The University of Texas’ department of Media Arts, which gets a credit for location use, runs a youth media lab for kids interested in getting into film.

What’s brilliant is how the central character eventually becomes two very distinct people, one seeing the other for who they really are. It really takes the idea that, ‘in order to change, a part of you has to die’ to new levels. Does he see the (fluorescent) light in the end? Well you’ll need to watch to find out. Slightly more complex than Back to the Future (1985), considerably less complex than Primer (2004).

The Exit Plan (Dir. Angus Wilkinson)

Set in the near future, when the world’s resources are stretched by overpopulation, this sobering dystopian tale written by Ella Cook warns of the dehumanising effects of government bureaucracy much more than any impending existential crisis. A government official pays a visit to an elderly widow to confirm that she is being cared for by a relative. In this future, anyone over eighty without a carer is ‘exited’.

Jon Muschamp’s austere cinematography sets the bleak tone of the film, as does the music overseen by Edward Sokolowski. This is a slower, more meditative film than the previous one but it still has a sting in its tale. The spiky dynamic between the government man Zeke (played by Paapa Essiedu) and the stubborn window (Marcia Warren) keeps the tension very taut. This is an interrogation, not a friendly visit.

When the film suddenly shifts at the midpoint, taking a more nightmarish tone, even darkly comic, it really takes off. It becomes both thriller and social commentary, never straying too far one way or the other. Zeke’s loyalty to the government and its policies are tested to breaking point. This film really strengthened my belief that it’s people that matter, not numbers on a spreadsheet.

Check it out here:

Yardbird (Dir. Michael Spiccia)

It’s difficult to talk about this downbeat Australian short without giving too much away so I’ll just say it’s about a girl with a significant supernatural ability that benefits her father and leave it at that. What it’s really about is the isolation and abuse that talented people often have to suffer.

There is a very brief scene featuring animal torture, but it is by no means explicit and the cat in question is rescued by the girl. All the cast are strong in this (in particular, Wade Briggs as the vicious bully ringmaster Jed) and the cinematography captures the hot dusty environment, giving it a modern western vibe not unlike Logan. It can be quite a tough watch as the trio of bullies ratchet up the abuse until one vile act takes things too far.

Ultimately this plays like an origin story flashback with an open ending that could lead the story anywhere. Largely it’s a very straight, no frills story with one great VFX set piece for the pay off at the end. Possibly not for everyone due to sensitive subject matter as stated above, but for a hard-hitting drama about a girl with a gift who is pushed to the limit by a sadistic, ignorant group of bullies, this hits all the marks.


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