Friday, 28 March 2014

Plastic Reality

Director: Tristan Versluis
Writer: Tristan Versluis
Producer: Tristan Versluis
Cast: Andre Gilbert, Jennifer Evans, Jonathan Klahr
Country: UK
Year of release: 2006
Reviewed from: screener DVD

Special effects maestro Tristan Versluis turns director for this imaginative and well-produced 13-minute short, although as one might expect, there’s plenty of effects work on show too.

Set in a grimy, run-down nowhere, our main protagonist retires to a graffiti-covered public toilet cubicle to wash blood and bruises after being mugged. But something is watching, something is in there, and before you know it the protagonist is trapped down and the unwilling donor in that old horror staple, the face transplant. An epilogue shows the face’s new recipient, very happy with her latest addition.

That should be enough to show that there’s very little story here and almost no character - this is an exercise in atmosphere and effects. Central to this is the slicing and removal, using fingers as much as scalpels, of the face, an extraordinarily well-done effect, by which I mean it is appreciable as an effect, rather than being realistic (though it may be - who’s to say?). Suffice to observe that we have come a long way in these matters since Georges Franju.

Plastic Reality is a nightmare, an almost wordless dream in which someone we care about but don’t know is subjected to horrific treatment by ... people? things? You’ll have to see to find out and even then you won’t know. The main (unnamed) character is played by Andre Gilbert who is also credited as set designer and whose other work includes sculpting costumes for Dungeons and Dragons 2. The girl at the end of the film is my pal Jenny Evans who worked with Tris on Evil Aliens. The other credited cast are Jonathan Klahr (a model designer who worked on the Harry Potter films) and Val Oliveira.

The credits are a bit of a British horror who’s who. ‘Doctor Versluis’ (as he styles himself here) wrote, directed and edited - and presumably produced as no producer or executive producer is credited. Alex Chandon (Cradle of Fear) was camera operator while Adam Mason and Simon Boyes (who together made Broken) are credited as runners but, curiously, only on the ‘2 min version’ of the film. This is a much more concise edit, missing the prologue and epilogue entirely, which actually runs about three minutes and is slightly retitled Plastic Reality (Curta Versao). Also on this screener DVD is a three-minute behind-the-scenes photo slideshow.

Almost everyone here seems to be a make-up or effects artist in their day-job. ‘Sound design and score’, for example, is by Ian Morse who helped with prosthetic effects on Doctor Sleep and 28 Days Later while costume designer Jo Glover made creatures for the Harry Potter pictures and was ‘prosthetics technician’ on series two of Doctor Who. Justyna Dobrowolska was responsible for the actual make-up design on this film while Sunita Parmar (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) handled prosthetic effects.

Tristan Versluis has clearly called on his mates to help out with his first film, and why not? His own effects career includes Evil Aliens, Cradle of Fear, Frank Scantori’s still unreleased Warrior Sisters, LD50, Broken, Hellbreeder, Darkhunters and Doctor Who.

As a calling card for his film-making skills, and as a disturbing short horror film in its own right, Plastic Reality works brilliantly. It is available to view on MySpace but of course works much better on a proper TV screen.

MJS rating: A-

Review originally posted 23rd August 2006

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