TAD13 Review: Night Giant (2013)
Last year I was unexpectedly hooked-up with an ‘all access-pass’ to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. That bit of awesomeness resulted in nine films, one film a night, and a finely tuned-routine of vast alcohol consumption. This year, I’m aiming for a solid/even two entries into the realm of cult, action, horror, and ‘Sci-Fi’, but hey “c’est la vie” as they say – Just being able to peep Caradog W. James The Machine (2013) nonetheless, is a given plus in my books. That being said, while I know praise is high on the The Machine (and I get that) I thought it was good, but not great. I was genuinely prepared to review it, but the film that is actually still looping reels through my brain even- more-so than The Machine, belongs to writer/director, Aaron Beckum’s artistically crisp short film, Night Giant (2013). In short, I’d rather burn words discussing the movie (of the two) that ultimately left more of an impression on me.
Clocking in at about (I want to say) ten minutes, give or take five, the truth is I don’t even know because I was so deeply engaged by Night Giant’s adventurously strange tale. Early on, the film’s protagonist, Gene, asks a seemingly cooky expert in the movie’s title: “What’s a night giant?” There’s the physical answer in terms of what we see depicted on screen as quite literally being representative of an unbelievably tall giant at night, and then there’s the existential answer based on how we interpret, or connect, the idea of a Night Giant with the film’s very loose context of a youngish guy, Gene, either on his lonesome-own or admiring the girl he can’t be with from afar at a party. In any case, both of these small-scale scenarios lead to Gene being endlessly stalked by an overpowering force of beastly proportions. Through the metaphorical perspective, I think, Night Giant can be interpreted as the overpowering force of Gene’s indecisiveness or lack of action in his life. That shadowing, dominating force of negative power that is maybe a part of all of us. Just writing this concept out and reading back the inner-layeredness of it all is already making me appreciate Beckum’s ideas even more than I already have. Nevertheless, side by side to the short’s premise, what I truly dig about Night Giant is its unpredictable dry, deadpan humor and adjacent combination of whimsical ‘horror’ and ‘sci-fi’ spurts of action. Also, shockingly enough, considering the film screened after a trailer for an apparently fierce flick about a realistically portrayed twelve year-old child discovering his big-brother to be a mass-murdering psycho… Night Giant was surprisingly restrained of all things unflinchingly graphic, choosing to coast along on this neo-real/tone of witty absurdity instead.
Elements of Wes Anderson, elements of El Mariachi, and a vintage black and white lens that makes me think Fellini or Lynch, these elements make up the film’s style and what floored me even further than Night Giant’s visual sense of things, was the film’s pallet for cinematography and its accompanying methodical and deliberate use of camera movement. A Sergio Leoni smash/zoom here, a Wes Andersonesque frame of manipulation when it comes to camera panning there… a 70’s sized slow push-in – Night Giant is impressively well crafted when it comes to discussing its technical merits, and I truly admired every second of the film’s fittingly controlled execution.
So hopefully you can catch this short somewhere down the festival circuit. I’m almost positive once all (filmmakers) involved have milked Night Giant for all its worth, and they have all moved onto bigger and better things, I’m sure the film will organically find its way online, but until then, and if any of this sounds like your boat to rock in, you can certainly take a gander at Night Giant’s trailer and maybe, like the film’s own ax-wielding protagonist, Gene, stay focused and keep you eyes and ears open tracking down any first signs of Night Giant exposure.