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The Independent Critic

Michael Dunn
Michael Dunn, Chris Smith
Courtney Gardner-Stavros, Lou Diamond, Walt Turner, Mat Planet

 "The Bet" Review 

One of the true joys of reviewing short films is the opportunity to view some ideas that would likely be horrid as a full-length feature but excel within the limited framework of a short film. "The Bet," written and directed by Michael Dunn, is such a film.

One of the creepier and more suspenseful shorts I've had the privilege of viewing, "The Bet" is a starkly lit, quiet little film that enters your mind and refuses to leave largely because of what's NOT said in the film. Based upon a short story Dunn wrote that was inspired by his wife's childhood nightmare, "The Bet" simply follows the fate of a woman (Courtney Gardner-Stavros) who is dragged back and forth between two rooms with a bet going on as to which room she will die in.

The two men who control her fate (played by Lou Diamond and Walt Turner) at first seem to be nothing other than pathetic lowlifes. Yet, as the 19-minute film slowly evolves, one can't help but wonder if there's a bigger picture that remains unrevealed.

The performances excel across the board, and Kurt Rauf's cinematography perfectly captures the almost mystical darkness of the situation unfolding. The film's final scene, while will remain undescribed here, is one of the most subtle yet hauntingly powerful endings I've witnessed in a short film. Even in this moment, I see the closing moments unfolding before my eyes.