02nd Oct2015

Grimmfest 2015: ‘The Box’ Review (Short Film)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Dominic Brunt, Joanne Mitchell, Patrick Lally, Roy Bright, Sam Edge | Written by Shaune Harrison, Mark Jones | Directed by Shaune Harrison

the-box-brunt

Screening as part of Grimmfest’s Northern Showcase – a shorts programme celebrating the best “The North” has to offer in terms of genre cinema, accompanied by introductions and talks from those involved – The Box comes from special effects make up man and director Shaune Harrison, and stars Paddy from Emmerdale, aka Dominic Brunt, the director of the fantastic genre films Before Dawn and Bait (both screened to great aplomb at Frightfest and both available now on DVD) and his partner, and undoubtedly somewhat his muse, Joanne Mitchell. And according to the press release, The Box is a real product of Grimmfest, the filmmakers behind this film having all met at Grimmfest in past years!

Running just under 14 minutes The Box is a short, sharp, shock of a film that sees a man purchase a mysterious package online with tragic results. Similar in tone to Paul Davis’ short Him Indoors, and set in a very similar singular location, this short is essentially a one man play. Thankfully that one man is actor/director Dominic Brunt, who gives a tour-de-force performance as Harold, the odd fellow who becomes the owner of the mysterious box. His performance really does run the gamut from cold and calculating to warm and sympathetic, in the space of mere minutes – it’s something remarkable to watch. And if the X-Files/Fringe-esque opening credits don’t set the tone for the films sinister vibe, Brunt’s early performance will.

You see Harold has a rather peculiar attitude, whilst he may seem miserable and lonely, it’s quite quickly established that its undoubtedly down to his methodical, very particular nature. Yet whilst the character starts off that way, it soon becomes obvious – thanks to Brunt”s fantastic portrayal – that Harold is merely a lonely man in search of something… Even if that search brings him a whole heap of trouble!

The aforementioned sinister vibe is all-pervading throughout The Box, from the dramatic lighting of the spare bedroom in which Harold stores the titular box, to the creepy score and in particular the underlying “hum” which persists through the film once Harold has the box in his possession… Yet for all the sinister undertones, this short also has an air of whimsy about it – maybe its Brunt’s performance, or maybe it’s that darn cat. A cat who almost steals the short with his inquisitve behaviour (which apparently necesitated an entire half a days shooting for the feisty feline).

To top it all off there’s a final coda, the post-twist scene if you will, which brings The Box full circle as the aforementioned object is placed in an Indiana Jones-like warehouse, with an ominous reveal of a “return to sender” label. Meaning this box’s journey is not over… and here’s hoping the same can be said of this short, which deserves to do well on the festival circuit and beyond.

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