Dead Flowers is visually beautiful and wholly unsettling, much like its wonderfully morbid poster. I have a list of things to say so let’s jump right into this one.
Directors Pablo Riquelme and Stephen R. Scott have created a nightmarish picture they should be very proud of. Professional, cinema-quality directing is very hard to come by in short films, and, often times, in general, but it seems to be second nature for these two. The harsh tone and dreary look, combined with the relatively slow pace of the film, create a tense and disturbing setting which perfectly mirrors the mind of our main character, Alex.
Anthony Nikolchev, who plays Alex and his twin brother Dani, is fantastic. His ability to act in two completely opposite roles and carry the entire movie from first shot to credits is very refreshing to see from someone I have never heard of before. I’ll tell you one thing though… get this guy on your radar (and if you don’t have a radar then find one) because he’s well on his way to big things. Bravo Mister Nikolchev.
The real awards belong to the music man Francisco J. Mora Garcia, cinematographer Lucia Forner, the sound department, and the aforementioned directors for various reasons I will now quickly rattle off. Dead Flowers is stunning in a dark, horrific way which makes the cinematography/directing even more impressive, especially in the beginning and end with the flower pot and the scene where Alex falls asleep in what can only be described as Charles Manson’s bedroom. The shot of the door swinging closed slowly (pictured below) with a drawn-out bellowing creak laid over a mash of mortifying sounds and music stole the film, and my heart, along with it. Even the door handle itself matches the mood of the moment. Absolutely amazing work.
Lastly, the sound department and Mr. Garcia crush the beginning of the film into oblivion. When Alex and his mother are sitting together in the living room and the sounds of a very faint clock ticking, a light church bell ringing, a small bird chirping, and the mesmerizing piano all mix together, my body filled with sadness and uneasiness. A very misleading feeling falsely setting you up for the rest of the movie and proves even more so that the people behind the camera are all cunning craftsmen at work.
There are many other positives to the film but I am running out of room and I still need to explain why Dead Flowers is a 7.25 rather than a 10. So here we go…
The music, sounds, and background noises, which could have been the most well-orchestrated aspects of the film, reached a pinnacle as the the tea kettle whistles more than 10 full minutes into the 15 minute film. This also happens to be the very moment before the climax. Then, BOOM, the action breaks out and the noise factor of the most dynamic scene is dropped to the level of spectators at the PGA Tour. Almost complete silence. Yes, there was some suspenseful music being played during the scene but it was so quiet compared to the lead up whistling that it might as well have not been there at all. I was extremely disappointed especially after the masterful tea kettle lead up which had my heart cascading into a whirlwind of fear and anticipation only to be let down by a pathetic action sequence.
And the absolute worst part is the action sequence was, truthfully, done very well. The experience of viewing this scene was a cruel mixture of impressiveness with the physicality, and dissatisfaction with the accompanying sound, that I was completely turned off to the most intense segment of the picture. That one instance then caused me to start to nitpick other moments like when the telephone is used as a weapon. It was so apparent the force he was able to generate with it was minimal (I assume for safety purposes while filming, but still), and certainly would not have given him the ability to escape, so why not just show less and conceal the impact to build intrigue? And then comes the scene with the swinging door superbly accomplishing exactly what should have been done with the telephone.
Needless to say, I was very un-thrilled with this part of the thriller because of this one crucial flaw. Honestly, how are you going to have Academy Award worthy audio the entire film and then slack-off in the most vital moments? Frustrating stuff.
Lastly, the writing/story is like a big, old hunk of Swiss cheese. Lots of holes but very interesting. There are a few things that don’t make sense but overall it is a big win so I’ll let it slide. And really, this short film (like 99% of all short films) is much more about captivating visuals and killer acting, accomplished by not going overboard or doing too much, than it is about flawless writing.
Let’s conclude with some final thoughts. This movie is great. Plain and simple. It’s a great thriller that had my heart pounding and filled me with jealousy. I was, and am, jealous of these filmmakers because of their talent. Too many good things to mention them all. And, yes, it’s not perfect, as most movies aren’t, but I promise this is not the last you’ll be hearing of Stephen R. Scott, Pablo Riquelme, and Anthony Nikolchev. I have few doubts they will all be household names one day. So, next time someone asks me, “Hey Kasey, I just stumbled upon an extra 15 minutes in my day, what should I do to ensure that I don’t waste it?” I’ll say, “Go watch Dead Flowers.”
If You Loved Dead Flowers Then Check Out…
Guaranteed Winner: Gone Girl (2014)
In terms of mysterious thrillers Gone Girl is one of the best newer movies you’ll find and all the acting is spot-on. You really can’t go wrong. Don’t believe me? Click on the title and let me prove it to you.
Dealer’s Choice: The Machinist (2004)
Another movie with even more unbelievable acting from the one, and only, Christian Bale. Also, the tone is even more bleak than with Dead Flowers which is hard to believe, but oh-so true.