SHORT FILM REVIEW: Friends and Other Spooky Things

  (Image courtesy of George Sourile)

(Image courtesy of George Sourile)

FRIENDS AND OTHER SPOOKY THINGS-- 3 STARS

I must say, “spooky” is an underused word in the moviegoing vernacular.  Put it right next to Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane teasing Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent for saying “swell” in Superman: The Movie 40 years ago.  More people than not veer to “weird” or swing all the way to “scary.”  The first word is always too vague and the second one is likely too much hyperbole.  Folks skip over the fluffy middle ground that is “spooky.”

LESSON #1: THE DEFINITION OF “SPOOKY”-- The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “spooky” in its second definition to mean “nervous” and “skittish.”  That doesn’t mean brain-melting bizarre or limb-dismembering violent.  It’s a nudge or notch between “placid” and “spine-tingling,” and that’s all it needs to be.  

The same cadence of thinking can be extended to the upcoming short film Friends and Other Spooky Things by local Chicagoland filmmaker George Sourile.  He chose the right adjective to include in that title because spooky is the proper wavelength of charm that makes something small and DIY like this work.  It’s a nudge of an easy stroll that tip-toes rather than stomps and a worthy notch of greenhorn accomplishment, and that’s all it needs to be. The film makes its world premiere and public debut on September 21st with an 8pm screening at the Maggie Atcher Theatre at the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Friends and Spooky Things follows odd-bird-on-the-outside Missy (Avalon Dziak), a real estate office underling that is teased often by her pushy and pretend-classy co-workers for her borderline gothic appearance and wardrobe.  A benevolent workmate named Patsy (Amelia Bethal) gravitates to Missy’s exclusion and offers kindness amid those negative peers. Bonding over a lunch that reveals similar tastes and personalities, the two become fast friends before being given a weekend work assignment out of town to inspect the supposedly haunted Summerdale property.

LESSON #2 : GIRLS DIG GRAPHIC NOVELS AND FANTASY CONTENT TOO-- The eclectic tastes within fantasy fiction are not exclusive to men.  Ladies can equally enjoy the quirky creativity and engaging spirit with equal enthusiasm.  Between Missy and Patsy, their shared interests in comic books, mystery novels, and more have created new kindred spirits within a guy-centered culture scene.

A thief on the run from a pair of criminal knee-breaker lackeys named Lex and Mel (Tony Cousine and Brad Summers) stashes a memory card with incriminating evidence into a paperback novel at Unicorn Comics in Villa Park before being pinched.  Unknowingly later that day, Patsy purchases the book and takes it with her and Missy on their work excursion. On orders from the big boss Delgado (Gary Murphy), Lex and Mel follow the ladies in hot pursuit to possible peril, based on the rumors about this big house.

Jack-of-all-trades George Sourile wrote, directed, and edited this film using location shooting out in the western Chicago suburbs and clean camerawork from directors of photography Lance Catania and Kirby Fong.  Sourile gamely fills his cinematic short story with a wealth of speaking parts that assist the main narrative with flavor and character. He cruises with a steady pace to always move forward towards the next proverbial breadcrumb or dropped shoe.  Little lag exists, which is a compliment to diligence above amateur level. The accompanying songs from Brad Summers and musical score from Kevin MacLeod amplify the atmosphere, particularly in the second half where the air of mystery thickens.

Those modest ingredients work for the atmospheric vibe needed for Friends and Other Spooky Things to live up to its title.  The final top trait making that happen is the friendly chemistry and repartee between Avalon Dziak and Amelia Bethel as Missy and Patsy.  The two wear mannerisms and confidence as the targeted freaks and geeks that push back against their obstacles and opposition, large or small, loud or quiet, and real or imagined.  Perfect for the times, it’s encouraging to see two female leads translate their personalities to play curious and capable females comfortable in their own uniqueness.

LESSON #3: GIRLS NEED TO STICK TOGETHER-- Through Avalon and Amelia, Missy and Patsy are the linchpins to keep Friends and Other Spooky Things rightly casual.  Friendships like theirs help reduce work stresses, social fears, secrets, and other shared experiences.  The two are downright adorable, and it is easy to picture yourselves in them going through the minor threats and haunts with their desire to support each other.

  LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#722)

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#722)