Posted by Alia Haddad on October 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm
The way a person goes about making a short film is completely different from the way that same person would presumably go about making a feature length film. Allow me to explain. While a short narrative film contains most of the same elements of a feature film–character development, exposition, plot arch, and central themes–the short film has much less time to actually get to all of these elements. While a feature film can take its time developing its story, and not to mention the viewer’s interest, the same does not hold true for a short film. It has to open with a bang and quickly, yet effectively, hit the features that make it a successful narrative.
That being said, imagine my surprise and delight when coming across newish short film by Rocky Curby, Dark Vessel. A quick perusal of his IMDB page will reveal that Curby is not only an established short filmmaker (his They Can’t Deport Us All sounds especially intriguing), but also has made a name for himself in the visual effects department of some of this decade’s biggest action films, such as Transformers and The Amazing Spider-Man. Dark Vessel is Curby’s latest short, an animated horror-esque flick (or a “bloody cartoon” as Curby himself puts it) about a murdered robot who comes back to haunt and kill the robots who delivered his fate.
From its opening shot of a fly landing on some fresh dog poop, only to get crushed quickly and swiftly by an ominous boot, you, the viewer, knows that Dark Vessel gets it right. My interest is already piqued, Curby immediately grabbing our attention with one decisive movement. If the name of the game is simply to hit all the relevant plot points to tell a interesting story, then Curby undoubtedly succeeds. But where Curby’s Dark Vessel sets itself apart from other like-minded shorts is in its pure ingenuity.
That is, my interest only strengthens throughout the film as I start to place the different generic conventions Dark Vessel makes use of: it takes place in 1977 in Waxahachie, TX, the boot that does the fly-crushing is cowboy-esque, and a Native American-resembling robot who speaks of mysticism. And, as if that was not enough for my Western-loving self, there is even a scene of a (bad) robot lighting a cigarette, wearing a stetson in a way that can only be described as strongly reminiscent of Clint Eastwood. But then Curby subverts these conventions. The stetson and cowboy-booted robot is, in fact, bad, the mythical Native American robot comes back to haunt–and kill– his murderers, and, most glaringly, these guys are robots.
Yes, Curby has presented us with a captivating plot, a group of interesting characters, and enough anticipation to get us all to watch his short many times through, but those characteristics are not what make Dark Vessel truly special. Where Dark Vessel shines is in its ability to subvert expectations. How Curby managed to do that in 5 short minutes is beyond me. Maybe you all can get a grasp on it. Watch Dark Vessel here.