I came into the work of Jeremiah Kipp through my work on this site – that is to say, I had heard of Kipp and his work before coming to view it, but had not taken the opportunity to, or been given the pleasure of, viewing his work. I’m glad to say that I’ve now seen three of his short films, and if they are any indication of his vision and talent, I’d love to see what he has to offer in a full-length feature. Crestfallen, Easy Prey, and Drool together only make up a running time of 14 minutes, but their short length doesn’t prevent them from making an impact upon the viewer. Read on for the scoop, and click on the titles from links to each film online.
A silent film packed with depth and emotion, Crestfallen is the tale of a broken spirit finding strength to rise again. Starring an effervescent Deneen Melody, Crestfallen relies on its lush visuals, haunting score, and its talented cast to tell its tale, and in this it definitely succeeds. Led with focused direction by Kipp, Crestfallen’s production team has created an atmosphere that is absolutely gorgeous.
To discuss the plot would really do the short film a disservice, but, to me, the tale reads as both a tale of modern female self-empowerment and as a conceptual retelling of the phoenix myth – the total destruction of the self before rebirth and renewal. While the writing of the story didn’t resonate as extremely original or compelling, it served as a great jumping-off point for the film’s creative team, and the story never upstaged the action.
Kipp’s focus and steady-handed direction is only the tip of Crestfallen’s strength. The photography by Dominick Sivilli was beautiful, transcending the usual expectations of the short-film format (simply put, the visuals for the film seem to be that of a full-length, big-budget film). The music, composed by Friday the 13th’s Harry Manfredini, was lush and effective, adding a layer of texture to the already-stunning visuals, nearly serving as dialogue itself. The effects, handled by Arthur Cullipher and his Clockwerk Creature Company, were minimal and effective; the effects served to enhance the drama, not to act as the sole focus of the film, and in this, they totally succeeded. The acting by Deneen Melody carried the story, with support coming from Taylor Metzger, Brigid Macaulay, and Muscle Wolf Productions’ Michael Partipilo.
Simply put, Crestfallen is a simple but effective film, and, in its five-minute running time, shows off the talent of the filmmakers involved.
Making the shift from the drama of Crestfallen, Kipp’s Easy Prey attempts to employ humor and twists to tell its story. Playing with the ideas of eternal youth, the duplicity of humanity, and the simple irony when “the best laid plans” turn out in an entirely unexpected way, I found Easy Prey’s storytelling goals to be loftier that Crestfallen, and I found the results to be less satisfying as well. Still, there is a lot to like with Easy Prey, and in my opinion, others may find the film to be more enjoyable than I did.
To explain Easy Prey in its entirety would rob the film of its revel, which seems to be the point of this five-minute short. At its heart, Easy Prey deals with the relationship between Lucius, an old man in the last of his years, and Victoria, a younger, vivacious woman. The setup is mostly comedy-based, and, due to an intentionally ambiguous ending, the payoff never really comes. The end result of Easy Prey seems to be less than the sum of its interesting parts – and this may be due to the fact that this film was created as part of a film contest/exercise with specific rules/goals (these prerequisites were not made known to me, and quite frankly, knowledge of the basic rules to this film may have helped my understanding/appreciation).
Still, Easy Prey has a lot going for it… and much of this is due to the steady and consistent direction from Kipp. Like the preceding film, Easy Prey has some beautiful camera work, transcending any budget limitations. Pete Barker plays the elderly Lucius with glee, relishing the character’s flaws and the “darker” side of human nature. As the bewitching Victoria, Mackenzie Christine Hawkins does an admirable job of playing coy without revealing all of her cards, but the actress seems slightly less believable than Barker – this may be the result of an underwritten part, or due to the fact that Barker seems to be having all the fun.
I don’t want to scare people away from seeing Easy Prey. I’m a fan of ambiguous endings and unclear motivations, and even though I felt as if these elements weren’t handled as well as they could have been, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the film. Easy Prey is a great example of a work that takes risks, and even if the end result wasn’t as successful as I would have liked, it’s commendable to see a film (and filmmaker) that would rather take a risk than remain in safe (and bland) territory.
From the solid story of Crestfallen to the ambiguous Easy Prey, Kipp’s filmmaking style seems to cover all types of film – and with Drool, Kipp enters into the realm of the avant-garde. More of a meditation on sexuality, birth, and feminism than a straightforward narrative, Drool uses its four-minute running time to make you feel all icky for all the right reasons.
Obviously, tackling an avant-garde film’s “story” seems pretty impossible; an academic read of the film would be a much better approach. I’m not here to toss out spoilers, though, and I’m not sure if a cursory explanation of the action would do anyone any favors. Rest assured, though, Drool is layered with meaning and symbolism – and much of it seems to focus on the life-creating powers of female sexuality, and how the sexuality of men can be a parasitic and devastating element. That may be completely off, but that’s the beauty of such films – what you get out of these films can be directly correlated to what you bring to the table in the first place.
Drool is worth investing the four minutes it takes to view the film, and is even more deserving of the time you’ll spend afterwards trying to sort it all out.
I’m extremely pleased to have been introduced to the works of Jeremiah Kipp. Film fans looking for a new, talented voice in filmmaking need only to look to Kipp’s offerings to date. This is a filmmaker that, in my opinion, has some great work ahead of him, and as a reviewer and a cinephile, I look forward to his future works.
Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.