There was something disturbing that happened only moments into Jeremiah Kipp's latest film, the 11-minute short The Minions, a short film billed as a film about witches.
We are not talking about Glinda here. We are not talking about anything you might find on Bewitched or any other broom-riding, evil-eyed woman with a pointy hat and pointier nose.
These witches? Indeed, I could be so lucky. Or maybe so unlucky.
The disturbing thing that happened only moments into The Minions?
Are you ready?
Free hugs. Yeah, I know. Bizarre, right?
I sat there watching the always mesmerizing Lukas Hassel as William, a young man increasingly caught between fantasy and nightmare and somewhere in between. There was something about the way Hassel moved. I'll confess. It made me chuckle amidst the increased anxiety. I thought of that long-haired guy named Juan Mann whose Free Hugs movement set to the tune of "All the Same" by the Sick Puppies captivated the world for awhile.
Weird, eh? What's even weirder is it seemed to fit rather abstractly and jarringly within the fabric of Kipp's shadowy, dark, and uncomfortably intimate film about this guy named William whom we meet as he converses with a woman off-camera (Lauren Fox). It is a conversation that feels almost as if it could have taken place in an acid trippy variation of Into the Woods, yet another bizarre and disjointed free association I had while watching it all unfold. It's unclear if it's real and it's never really clear and it never really should be clear. The same is true for William's recollection of his urban encounter with a seemingly despondent woman names Sarah (Cristina Doikos) trying in vain to help her drunken friend, Katrina (Robin Rose Singer), return home. She seeks William's help. William is hesitant, but there is something beyond that hesitation that will not be denied.
So, he helps. We watch it all unfold and, as Kipp plays our own Minion, we are seduced inward toward the film irrevocably.
The film is written by Joseph Fiorillo, whose style of writing fits perfectly with Kipp's directorial vision. The language is simple, at times seemingly mundane, yet it is deceptively so and always shadowed. Brian Dilg's lensing is dark and intimate and suspenseful yet never truly horrifying. It's the worst kind of scary really, because there's a complete and utter normalcy about it all.
That sums up the film itself, really. There's a normalcy to it. Yet, we know it's not really normal. Hassel excels at playing characters who are layered and here he's both angel and devil in semi-peaceful co-existence.
The Minions is perhaps a more subtle voice than we're used to from Kipp, less hardcore intensity and more subtle lingering of mood, atmosphere, word, and action. It's jarring. It's honest. It's intimate. It's normal.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic