It's the Christmas season in Los Angeles; a lonely woman goes on a blind date unbeknownst to her that her date is an active and notorious serial killer, The Brentwood Strangler.
Adam J. Yeend
Just because it’s a horror film, doesn’t mean it can’t be sweet, cute, endearing – in addition to bloody and violent, right?
This particular adorable horror/comedy short has been strangling its way (I know that doesn’t quite work, but give me some leeway) across the festival circuit, and I’ve now happily seen it twice (including one screening at this year’s Shriekfest).
It’s Brentwood Strangler, and it stars Cabin Fever’s Ms. “No-Gums” herself, Jordan Ladd (the character, not the lovely Ms. Ladd of course).
Ladd portrays Maggie, a young beauty dipping her toes into online and pseudo-blind dating. And tonight (in the heart of the Christmas season), she’s got a date with Richard (Maximilian Osinki). This film is a cautionary tale (perhaps taking it to a fun extreme), but no less timely. For you see, there’s a serial killer (Adam J. Yeend) on the loose (hence the title) and while on the lam from police, said killer takes refuge in poor Richard’s house – just as Maggie arrives for the date. You guessed it, the strangler takes the place of Richard and the date goes on as planned. Well, sort of…
The highlight of this short is the tongue-in-cheek dialogue all throughout. Writer/director John Fitzpatrick of the Scary Endings series – sets everything up perfectly, and then lets his two lead actors have all of the fun. As the date unfolds, news of another Brentwood Strangler attack hits the restaurant where the date is taking place. It’s at this point where our strangler and Maggie begin a deep (yet flirtatious) conversation on “if” and “how” and “why” they would kill someone. It’s a brilliant back and forth between the two actors, full of violent (rather than the usual sexual) double entrendres – and culminates in a hysterical return to Maggie’s home.
Can’t spoil it, but it’s a gem of physical terror/comedy – and it’s this scene which sells the entire short. It’s ridiculous, but so genuinely part of the world created.
Ladd’s Maggie is a giggly and goofy woman – awkward but endearing in this blind date scenario. We like her immediately, so when we see things aren’t going to go her way (or do they?) we’re scared for her, but we also love to see that vulnerability, heart-on-her-sleeve hope and utter cluelessness.
Adam J. Yeend is the title character. He’s a towering presence at 6’2” and despite the character’s penchant for murder, he’s charming with a natural charisma. Yeend’s knowing delivery of the aforementioned “violent double entendres” is another easy highlight in the film.
There’s also the almost perverse use of Christmas – particularly Christmas carols – as the film’s backdrop. You can’t help but think of Bob Clark’s classic Black Christmas, as timeless carols about baby Jesus and Bethlehem come into direct contrast to the film’s violence and blood – regardless of the humor already employed. It’s a great tool to offer unease – even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.
I hesitate to call the film “cute” or “endearing” (as I already have), because I don’t want to turn people off. It is indeed a horror film (horror/comedy to be exact). But it truly is the sparkling chemistry of Ladd and Yeend, the very clever dialogue and an unexpected climax which make this short stand out.
Brentwood Strangler is far from through with its admirable festival run – having already won many awards – so keep your eyes open for any local genre fests where you might get a shot at seeing this very fun, very funny and very kooky horror short.