Short Film Showcase: ‘Ghost Beaver Kick’ and ‘The Tattooist’

Wylie Writes’ Short Film Showcase acknowledges exclusive screenings of short films across Canada.  Short-form filmmaking is sometimes overshadowed by larger projects or, worse, ignored completely.  With this showcase, Wylie Writes wishes to not only provide a unique opinion for filmmakers, but to also spread awareness of these special screenings for our loyal readers.

Ghost Beaver Kick (DIR. Stefan Phillips)

YouTuber-turn-filmmaker Stefan Phillips (The Pasta Killer) returns with Ghost Beaver Kick, another mind-melting homage to vintage cinema.

The Pasta Killer was a brilliant vehicle for Phillips to tip his hat to film noir while also playing within his own inspired brand of absurdist comedy – he found a way to have his cake and eat it too.  With Ghost Beaver Kick (which is also a spin-off on his online web series of the same name), the filmmaker indulges more in outrageous bits than before, but the gags fit well within the film’s satirical science fiction.

Ghost Beaver Kick is essentially Kung Pow: Enter the Fist remade by Bob and Doug McKenzie.  Attributing itself to martial arts foreign imports, the film also wears Canadian tongue-in-cheek influences on its flannel sleeve.  The plot, involving an agile lumberjack defending his territory from an evil organization called the Moonitisu, doesn’t let up in terms of entertainment.  Since Phillips’ main concern as a storyteller is to keep his audience laughing, he maintains a quick-witted and wacky tempo which works wonders.

Since Ghost Beaver Kick made the leap from web series to short film, if Stefan Phllips ever wanted to take the next step and expand on this universe by making a feature-length film, he would definitely need to reevaluate the quirky characters and this futuristic world to find the necessary longevity in the material.  But right now, as a short film, Ghost Beaver Kick is a gut-buster.

The premiere of Ghost Beaver Kick screens at North Bay’s White Water Gallery on Saturday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m and 9:00 p.m. The screenings will be sponsored by New Ontario Brewing Company, and admission is PWYC. A limited number of VHS copies of Ghost Beaver Kick will be available at the event.

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The Tattooist (DIR. Michael Wong)

The Tattooist is confusing, but I think I understood it.  Mind you, I had to watch Michael Wong’s short film a few times to get the gist of it.  Some movie goers may not have that re-watching privilege though.  Hopefully, they’ll comprehend it faster than I could.

It certainly helps to know that The Tattooist has won awards on the festival circuit because it’s been submitted as a trailer – it works better as a faux-preview than its own short.  Resembling one of those memorable Grindhouse trailers, Michael Wong does a very good job teasing his audience with unsettling snippets of a bigger, sinister picture.  The film’s titular villain (Wang Yanhu) is a sadist who captures his clients and subjects them to torture.  By assembling the film in clipped segments, Wong establishes the graphic degree of these heinous acts without revealing too much.  While I wish he elaborated on some of these victims, the undisclosed head count makes matters more disturbing.

The Tattooist has a problem segueing into these gruesome portions though.  Wong’s screenplay begins with an unassuming woman (Lu Li) getting a back tattoo and then, BAM, the audience is dropped into hell.  This creates a disconnect that builds more questions than this narrative can handle.

Who knows if we’ll ever see a feature-length version of The Tattooist, but this project is a great example of a film that benefits from its simplicity just as much as it’s hampered by it.

Keep your eyes peeled for The Tattooist at the Fifth Annual International Vancouver Badass Film Festival (March 29-31)

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