Weird and wonderful, Eli Powers atmospheric Skin & Bone is an unsettling short that isn’t afraid to hold its card close to its chest. Amanda Seyfried & Thomas Sadoski excel in a film that commands your attention.
Director: Eli Powers
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Thomas Sadoski, Nick Verdi, McCaleb Burnett
After taking a job on a farm run by the reclusive Serene (Amanda Seyfried), drifter Christian (Thomas Sadoski) begins suffering from visions of men trapped inside the bodies of animals.
Skin & Bone is also pretty refreshing for a film that hints at a woman luring unsuspecting men to horrible fates. However, serene doesn’t use her sexuality or craziness to be a sign of weakness. No, for all intents and purposes, she is someone who could live alone and tend to her animals without ever needing for anyone to disturb her. She is seemingly normal for a recluse, and other than being quite defensive (because she is a lone woman alone with a man), you wouldn’t think anything of it.
The chills for Christian instead come from elsewhere around him, he hears voices, but in the barn where he is sleeping, it is just him and a goat, and outside a gorgeous white stallion. Night after night, and soon the voices begin to get to him, scratching in his head where the visions come, all the while the calm Serene watches on and, in fact, act like the concerned employer. Do we want to learn more about these characters? Almost certainly, but this short is about getting the basics right and taking us quickly along. There is little fat here, with every line, moment and scene having an integral meaning to the film.
Seyfried and Sadoski provide strong performances in Skin & Bone, both bringing their A-game here. Seyfried’s understated Serene never raises her voice, even during a tense confrontation, distracting you from any of her possibly sinister intents. Sadoski’s portrayal of a man losing his mind feels true if a little sudden; Christian is a character who is clearly already carrying some mental anguish with him. The more he struggles with what is happening to him at the farm, the more of a danger he feels. He is losing himself, and he doesn’t know how or why.
On top of the excellent performances is the terrific sound design, the voices are barely a whisper, but they are enough to work on you as they do, Christian. You want to move in and hear what they have to say. To see if you can work out between all the ambiguity and what is going on before it is too late for Christian.
In his latest film, Powers uses everything in the rulebook to creep under our skin. During the day, he distracts us with the beauty of the countryside that our characters reside in. We, like Christian, are given a false sense of security here and for that security to fall away like a multi locked door one by one is fine filmmaking. He also instead focuses on the psychological horror aspect instead of the physical. Christian is being worked carefully to fulfil whatever need is wanted of him in an insidious manner.
Once the film finishes, you realise how smart it was; an example is that opening scene where Serene asks Christian specific questions about himself. However, it is only at the end that we realise why she asked those questions that everything fully sets in. Skin & Bone is an exceptional film from Eli Powers, and it will result in you trying to find more of his work immediately.
The annual Academy Awards® Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival will celebrate its 18th year August 11-20, 2022. HollyShorts (HSFF) brings together top creators, industry leaders, and companies and has launched many filmmakers into the next stages of their careers. HollyShorts, a regular on the MovieMaker Magazine Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list, also engages its community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels, and networking events.
The most recent edition of HollyShorts had six selections nominated for Academy Awards this year with two wins for Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye and Ben Proudfoot’s Queen of Basketball.
HollyShorts Film Festival will take place in-person at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, and stream via Bitpix TV, with the annual Awards Gala set to take place on August 20, 2022.
For tickets to the festival please click here.
For more of our reviews of the festival, please check out below:
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