By Andrew Buckner
**** out of *****.
“Wicked Conclusions” (2016), a twelve-minute and forty-four second short picture from resident Pennsylvanian and co-writer-director Phillip G. Carroll, Jr., is a tense, taunt and thoroughly satisfying horror entry. It tells the tale of Amber (in an always captivating and credible turn from Chloe Hendrickson) and Henry (in a masterful portrayal from Boy-Yo Korodan that treads effortlessly on the line of child-like naivete and unsettling menace). They are imprisoned in the basement of their captor, Ben (in a well-rounded depiction from Erik Searle that conveys the conflicts of his imagined persona in a way that colors him brilliantly as both possible protagonist and antagonist for the bulk of the piece). Such instantaneously garners our attention by opening with a disarmingly light set-up. This includes an unseen individual putting up a sign for a lost dog. During this time, a surprisingly upbeat number pours from the soundtrack. The next scene carries on this impression. Such transpires in a bit which involves Ben making pancakes while casually conversing with an unseen entity. This arrangement is interesting because of the immersive and magnificent angle in which it is shot. It is one which only shows the side of Ben’s face and focuses in mainly on his mouth. Because of this, Carroll immediately defies our expectations. Yet, when Amber and Henry are introduced in the next scene, the invention becomes increasingly engrossing for far more grim reasons. This is as Carroll smartly tackles the afore-mentioned question of Ben’s true intentions. He also engages spectators in a nail-biting tug of war. This is until the rousing, if ultimately predictable, climax. All the while, we attempt to figure out who to root for. This is by mentally reiterating the tagline of the labor: “Who’s the real monster here?”
This is as much a courtesy of Carroll and Roman James Hoffman’s breakneck paced, smartly-written screenplay as it is Carroll’s claustrophobic, stylish and accomplished direction. Carroll seems intent on taking a familiar arrangement, such as the one inherently held in his narrative, and making it rise. This is from its endlessly empathetic shifts in perspective alone. Such twists in viewpoint are administered triumphantly. Carroll and Hoffman’s dialogue also helps matters. This is by being both believably straight-forward and powerfully delivered by those on-screen. Consequentially, the illusion of watching the ghastly scenario that is unfolding before the eyes of the audience is never broken. These items, along with the clues that are casually issued early on as to what is truly transpiring, make the endeavor more clever and easy to admire. But, what works best of all is the masterful handling and staging of the fearful elements themselves. They are beautifully, seamlessly implemented into the account. This is in a manner that never feels artificial. Likewise, it is never as if these pulse-pounding constituents exist to momentarily upstage the character-oriented focus of the exertion. This act itself is something of a rarity in cinema nowadays.
Budgeted at a mere $800, this PGC Studios, Fear Crypt Productions and Frank Horror fabrication also benefits from Sasikumar B’s sharp and assuredly effective music. The cinematography from Ryan Geffert is dark, brooding and impressive. Carroll’s editing is equally striking. Samantha Morris’ sound work is crisp and remarkable. The three-person camera and electrical department further enhance the all-around quality of the enactment.
These components all come together to compliment the unbroken atmosphere of dread Carroll engineers throughout the photoplay. With his tenth stint as behind the lens administrator, Carroll has crafted a balanced, memorable and monumentally mounted fusion of talent. It is one which, in the tradition of the best brief fictions, does not have one extraneous ingredient. Everything directly correlates with the unraveling of the yarn at hand. Most importantly, it does this while being massively entertaining. Carroll has evoked a wonderfully harrowing, haunting, vivid and visceral voyage into darkness. It is one which is also noteworthy for its restraint. This is exemplified via its ability to terrify without ever dissolving into excessive violence. For this, as well as its brash displays of bravado and storytelling prowess, the Halloween day released “Wicked Conclusions” is an unshakably solid addition to Carroll’s filmography. It refreshingly enthralls from start to finish. Simultaneously, it operates as a victorious orchestration of progressively bleak tone. In so doing, it comes with my highest recommendation to genre fanatics. Carroll is a silver screen chairman to be watched.