Last Resort written by Karen Wilmer and nicely directed by David Schneiderman is a fresh new short film that played today at Screamfest, bringing something new to the table of horror comedy offerings. Yes, this is another story in which we are made to wonder what is real, what is not. Yes this is another story that tempers the trills with self referential comedy. However, it is the framing device of the story that delivers humorous new perspective that keeps things wholly entertaining.
The 13 minute story opens as Rafa (Reinaldo Zavarce) and his girlfriend, Mel (Karen Wilmer) are headed to an all-inclusive, fully immersive horror resort for the weekend. Mel is not just a horror fan, but a horror freak with an insatiable appetite for bigger and better scares. Rafa, on the other hand, is no fan of horror. Nervously wincing and giggling at the “great weekend” the two will have Rafa is as much trying to convince himself things will be fine as he is eager to prove he can handle it.
The couple arrives at a remote, cliched cabin in the woods and settle in. They do the typical things, unpack, shower, order take out, then things begin to get weird. As the proprietor Tom (Matthew John Armstrong) arrives to goad things along, Mel’s excitement continues to rise. Rafa, of course plays the foil to all of the excitement, reacting to everything like a good sport. But wait. Are they at the right cabin? Is this even the horror resort? Could they be, willingly giving themselves over to an actual murderer in an actual cabin?
All is revealed, but you have to catch the short in order to find out what happens.
What makes this movie work is not the tried and true gimmick of, “it’s real!, JK it’s fake, JKJK it’s real again!” It is the motivation of the characters. Rafa skittishly played by Zavarace is the picture of an unhappy participant. Real or fake he would prefer to be no where near any of these scary hijinks. His goal is to connect with Mel, but at what cost. Wilmer’s Mel is a boisterous horror aficionado who would prefer to believe all is an illusion, throwing caution to the wind. There is also something to be said for the slick direction that Schneiderman gives the script by Wilmer. It is goofy but never slips into the realm of camp. A nice tightrope walk that pays off.
Look for Last Resort on the film festival circuit. It’s is a quirky, funny short that feels like it has feature film written all over it. I would actually like to see where the story goes, and the higher stakes Rafa will endure just to spend time with his girlfriend. This was a fun diversion and I hope to get back soon.