DYSTOPIA STREET (2011)
Running time: 11mins
Directed by David Cave
Written by David Cave
Starring Danny Shayler, Freya Parker and Shaun Lavery
I got chatting to the David Cave, the director of Dystopia Street at this year’s Grimm Up North 3 film festival, where Dystopia Street was holding it’s World Premiere screening. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the screening but David kindly gave me a copy to review. Having watched the trailer but pretty clueless as to what was about to unfold, I popped the disc into the DVD player and sat back.
The short film starts with a phone call with a frantic voice saying “To find the answer, keep hold of the key”. As the phone is put back on the receiver, the camera reveals a naked man (Shayler), living in a dingy, grubby flat. We don’t know much about this man and we never really find out, but we can tell he’s in a bad situation and it can only get worse. A knock at the door reveals a bald, overweight disabled man in a wheelchair (Lavery) who hands our mystery man a parcel. He curiously takes the parcel and after a second inspecting it, looks up to find the disabled gentleman has disappeared and in his place are disgusting maggots, writhing around on the floorboards. Re-entering his flat, the mystery guy opens up the parcel to discover a VHS video cassette. Instead of putting it into the VHS player, he smashes it up and finds a key. Snatching it off the floor and into his pocket, the man wanders out of his flat and down the corridor, in search of an answer and a way out of this hellish torment.
Blurring the line between reality, unconscious, fantasy and nightmare, David Cave had produced a piece of film that would make any viewer’s skin crawl. He uses interesting camera angles that emphasise the nasty freakiness of the uncontrollable nightmare that the man is going through. Maggots, exposed brickwork, wallpaper and plaster peeling amongst the decaying surroundings are just some of the things that inhabit this godforsaken world. Not to mention the characters in it. One particular scene where a bald headed young woman (Parker) with her eyes sealed shut exposes her breast and asks the man to touch it. Without hesitation, he does as she requests but is horrified when the woman suddenly becomes the disabled man and is groping a man boob. Hideous! However, with the ever changing environment, it is clear it is the man himself who holds the key to his fate. Rather than submitting to each and every opportunity that he comes across, he could decide himself what to do next, rather than follow what he’s been told.
The director uses disturbing visuals as the focus point in this dystopia and parts of it reminded me of scenes in Silent Hill, where out of darkness you’d be attacked at any moment and that the quiet, lightless environment proved to scare you witless purely by your own fears of what ‘might’ be out there. David Cave adds that Dystopia Street is inspired by the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg and this short is a suitable nod to both their works yet remains original. Rather than hand the story on a plate to the viewer, they themselves must interpret what is going on in the film. I see it that everybody makes their own luck and fate only exists if you let it. Nothing in your life is set in stone and you have the power to change it…if you want to. I suppose it could be interpreted that the man is trapped within his own brain, maybe through a mental illness such as depression or maybe the film is symbolic to the lifestyle he is leading. This is what’s great about these films. Each person has their own perception and nobody is wrong.
It’s great to see the UK film council has helped to fund David’s short film and I only hope the UK continues to support David in his efforts as Dystopia St is a warped vision that is the first stepping stone in David’s promising film career.