Awesome Runaway!! (DIR. Benjamin De Los Santos)
By: Addison Wylie
Benjamin De Los Santos’ Awesome Runaway!! is…well….awesome…for the most part. Inspired by video game combat, Looney Tunes, and the ‘Safe Haven’ segment of V/H/S/2, the filmmaker has conceived a stylistic treat that will surely delight Toronto After Dark movie goers.
From the opening shot up until a final confrontation with an evil kingpin monologuing about nonsense, Awesome Runaway!! plays towards clichés in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The short starts with a bloodied man tied up to a chair, and a villain in a white suit menacingly glaring at him. Soon enough, the prisoner is on the loose and beating up any henchman he encounters. Some of the choreography is executed flawlessly, but other close combat has the leading “bad ass” acting cautiously. Probably because he doesn’t want to knock out the camera following close behind him.
The entire film – impressively – looks as if its been assembled as one shot. If there are minor edits, they are not recognizable. Even the special effects are blended in quite well and earn some admirable laughs.
Awesome Runaway!! is a thrilling ride up until the final seconds. I won’t give away anything, but this choice completely undercuts the film’s imagination and gambles it all for a limp last laugh.
Manoman (DIR. Simon Cartwright)
By: Addison Wylie
Manoman will not only be the talk of Shorts After Dark, but will more than likely ignite the entire festival into a fury of high-strung excitement. Much like the initial elation our main character feels once he’s broken out of his shell.
During an overwhelming experience in primal scream therapy, Glen can’t get ahold of himself. Anxiety gets the best of him and initiates a mischievous little man to escape out of Glen. This buck naked gremlin breaks down Glen’s inhibitions and persuades him to join an unbarred night of insanity that will finally give Glen the strength he’s been looking for. It’s sort of like Bad Milo without the prevalent posteriors.
From looking at stills of Simon Cartwright’s Manoman, I was convinced the short would be using stop-motion animation. To my surprise, Cartwright uses puppetry and tiny special effects to make this world come to life. The rods controlling the characters’ arms are out in the open, yet we see past them. There’s even a fun gag where mini-Glen uses the poles to fight an unsuspecting civilian.
The thoughtful production design and the faithful puppeteers give Glen and his surroundings wild personalities that manage to be relatable while being fantastical. The filmmaker has even pushed himself to expand his own boundaries by showing viewers more and more as the film ticks. The visual jokes are timed extremely well, utilizing jet black comedy with a dash of twisted empathy.
I’m still wrapping my head around its ending – it may be too off-the-wall for some viewers. It makes itself open to interpretation and invites all sorts of theories, although I’m pretty sure movie goers will be too distracted (and maybe put off) by a final lewd gross-out gag to start putting the pieces together immediately.
Awesome Runaway, Manoman, and other short films screen at Toronto After Dark on:
Saturday, October 17 at 4:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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