It's rare for a short film to get a commercial DVD release. Playing to accolades on the film circuit, and a certain amusement in the length of it's credit block (by my calculation nearly a 3rd of the films short run time), former Rue Morgue editor Jovanka Vuckovic's debut short film gets a fully loaded special edition DVD that acts as more as a film school than simply delivering the film itself.
A tranquil, domesticated park, shows a couple caught up in their new infant, while their six year-old daughter (round-faced Skyler Wexler, clad in white satin and bows) draws pictures with chalk on the playground. The establishing shots are held just a fraction of a second longer than perhaps necessary, which is unsettling in and of itself before black ooze burbles up from cracks in the brickwork.
The Captured Bird does what a horror film should do. That is to say, it makes your skin crawl and devours a tiny piece of your soul; all this as it postulates a warped beauty about the destruction of all things innocent. Jovanka Vuckovic's handsomely produced short pays homage to Lovecraft by way of its imagery, but diverges from the Miskatonic Master in that its own 'forbidden knowledge' - that which exists just beyond the boundary of familial safety for the pretty young girl - is far more feminine in nature. One might read the film as the loss of innocence from childhood to motherhood (and beyond) played out in the span of eight disturbing minutes. The discovery and awe of a city-like castle, the tentative touch of a tentacle, the flow of fluids, and the eventual release of parasitic spawn into the world are ripe with metaphoric possibility. Life is full of wonders and the discovery of new things (including offspring) is chief among such wonders. Yet the shadow-side of all of this joy in the human experience is the anxieties which drive our nightmares about the unknown of what lies ahead. The Captured Bird places a tentative finger on that pulse, and might, for a moment or two, quicken yours.
Because of the plethora of support and mentor-ship received by Vuckovic during the pre-production (and for that matter, post-production) of the film, there are a number of short interviews labelled "Horror Film School" which were original sent out to crowd-funding donors, but are now all collected here. George Romero (and his pretty green budgie) offers advice on 'just hanging around film sets' which are then echoed by Mick Garris. Karim Hussain (the versatile cinematographer behind the bubblegum technicolour of Hobo with A Shot Gun and stark white sterility of Antiviral) offers a number of ways to get professional level shots with a lower budget and tight time constraints. Creature designer Paul Jones (Nightbreed, Silent Hill, Ginger Snaps) gives an overview of the practical effects and creature design (and the eventual conversion into a piece of art hanging in the director's household. There are a surprising wealth of nuggets into kicking off an effects laden short film buried within, useful even if one does not have the extensive rolodex of Ms. Vuckovic. Debates on the effectiveness of story boards, as well as the value in those conversations on mapping things out in the first place are particularly interesting.
Buried in the interviews and commentary track is some elucidation of treasured Toronto shooting location Valley Halla (used prominently in John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness) and the integration of those amazing matte paintings to give it an otherworldly vibe.
The audition tape of the very young star, Skyler Wexler (apparently, soon to be seen as younger version of Chloe Moretz in the upcoming Carrie remake) not only espousing her love for Joe Dante's Gremlins, but also giving a very convincing rendition of Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."
Capping it all off, you can watch the director literally tear her face off in the TIFF Talent Lab short film, Self Portrait, which is included as a bonus short film on the Disc.
The DVD is available now
, and will also be available VOD on iTunes in June 4th.
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