Based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". An overlooked associate struggles to complete a corporate presentation as a horrific secret gnaws at her conscience.
From the people who brought you “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Feeding Time”…
Well, last year’s festival darling Feeding Time was a total hoot (check out my full review of that short here), and now those filmmakers have produced a modern-day re-telling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart – throwing the story into a corporate office setting.
And the result is funny, bloody and an example of wonderfully compact storytelling (the film’s just 12 minutes long).
Shelby (Feeding Time’s Stacy Snyder) is an up and coming female presence in her corporate community. But whens she’s thrown for a loop by her female boss Clare (Joanna Sotomura) – via circumstances I won’t reveal here – and must give a Power Point presentation to a room full of jack-ass males – her ineptitude and darker personality will come to a head.
As in Feeding Time, Stacy Snyder offers up a solid performance – with the easy highlight being her first appearance in the film. As Shelby psyches herself up in the office bathroom mirror, applying a fresh coat of lipstick prior to the presentation – Snyder provides Shelby with many levels of anxiety, awkwardness and perhaps something a little more sinister. And the fact that we see all of these varied moods in a short 1-minute opening – not only establishes that Shelby is our central focus, but also that as an actor, Snyder gets it. After seeing her in this as well as the aforementioned Feeding Time, I’d love to see her tackle a feature-length role. She’s obviously got the chops, so it would be nice to see her spread her wings in something more substantial.
And I have to randomly point out — in the “lipstick” still below, doesn’t Snyder’s profile look like The X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson? Just sayin’…
The film’s also timely, certainly in the way that the “boy’s club” in this particular boardroom treat Shelby. I’m sure it’s no mistake that the borderline harassment she must endure is so prevalent in real world headlines today. And so, with this abuse, the film’s also about “karma’s a bitch”. Literally.
The copious amounts of bloody special effects are courtesy of Josh and Sierra Russell; whom I’ve called out in other reviews for their ingenious work (most notably the anthology horror film Southbound from a couple of years back – here’s that full review). Their work is a pleasure to behold, and here, it helps to cement the dark comic absurdity of the film’s overall tone.
That’s not to say some of the violence isn’t disturbing – particularly Shelby’s extended (and frankly painful) interaction with her female boss.
And with that, I can bring up the editing (here done by co-star Matt Mercer). It’s not a spoiler – if indeed you have any knowledge of Poe’s The Telltale Heart, but when guilt starts to brim over in Shelby’s mind – the film editing later in the boardroom scene is jarring and practically perfect. It’s a specific choice which I feel works, and the fact that it never goes too far (or holds back too much, for that matter), tells me that Mercer and the filmmakers are quite adept at timing and getting it just right. To quote The A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
There is a moment later in the film which sort of defies reality. And it’s somewhat acceptable in light of the film’s overall absurd tone, but I would have made a slight adjustment to it. It has to do with character reactions to a violent moment. Why would they do this, when they clearly should have done this…? Vague enough for you?
Again, Heartless is a tightly-wound and compact gem, with strong performances, a strong sense of tone and plenty of wonderfully bloody gore effects. Highly recommended.
The film is about to begin its film festival run, with a forthcoming premiere at the Oxford Film Festival on February 9th, 2018.
Like Feeding Time last year, I have a feeling Heartless will do well on the festival circuit! So keep your eyes peeled for a showing near you!