Suppose the Grim Reaper, besides being the harvester of human souls, was just like anybody else; suppose he otherwise had a “normal” life like the rest of us, complete with familial issues and fatherhood frustrations galore. Yes, just like so many of us, suppose that his normal life included a typical teenage daughter, detached from everything but herself, attached only to what further enhances herself. (Sound like anyone you know? Maybe, maybe not, but I digress.) Yes, suppose…or, better yet, imagine all of that, wrapped neatly and efficiently into one novel story as well! “Why?” you say. “Why not?” I say. That’s exactly what Peter Dukes of Dream Seekers Productions has done exceptionally well with his latest short horror comedy, LiTTLE REAPER.
From the first moments of LiTTLE REAPER, I was struck with something so rarely found in films today—originality! Yes, I was hit over the head with it so hard that I was nearly knocked unconscious; I would swear that even the reaper thought I was dead for a moment. Yes, I used the ever-scarce word “originality” in an analogy about my own possible death. No, I don’t do that often. But, here I overcame, for a moment, my own fears of mortality to tell it like it is. The Grim Reaper’s daughter, portrayed as the average teenager (albeit with a tentacled boyfriend and banshee BFFs) not wanting to inherit her death-dealing duties, is priceless, breathing life into a sea of too many movie remakes. Yes, no oxygen masks or life jackets are required here; the cinematic air is pure, clean, and fresh!
“I got a dress that matches your tentacles. Do you know how hard it is to find a dress that matches tentacles?” ~ The Little Reaper
Who is the star of the story, shining, ironically, like a sun in the heavens, betraying, in her performance, the hellish darkness of her character’s origins? Athena Baumeister, that’s who! To be blunt, Athena rocks! She is, indeed, the reaper of the movie–the heart and soul herself, grabbing you by the collar, making you watch it to the end; the force of her performance elevates LiTTLE REAPER above what it would be without her. What’s more is that she does it in record time—in little more than ten minutes, with credit time included! Just like a sudden death, Baumeister jolts us with a character we don’t expect; but then, as the opposite of death, she brings it all to life. The Grim Reaper’s daughter (the one in line for the job of taking souls) is sassy, playful, and irreverent, treating calls from friends like emergencies, while using the latest and hippest of acronyms (BOOMS—bored out of my skull). Baumeister’s face, wide-eyed glances, and exaggerated mouth (with the makeup) adds life to death like few actors could. Yes, her face is the focus, and she knows how to use hers here. In full facial makeup (and some of the most unique I’ve seen), Baumeister is the pulse of of the story; personality is projected in sideways glances and coy smiles that intrigue and capture the viewer on cue, every time! Baumeister’s natural charm and delivery of dialogue further adds copiously to the movie’s humorous effect. Dukes was, indeed, casting carefully when he chose her for the role. Excellent! I will certainly look for Baumeister in future films, as I’m sure she has many more to affect with such success!
“You are my only child, and the job must be passed down to you!” ~ The Grim Reaper
To back up a bit (and yes, to keep the review nonlinear and intriguing), where does LiTTLE REAPER begin its tongue-in-cheek tale of terror for the times? Exactly where you’d expect such a story to start (wink, wink)—in a home like any other, in the bedroom of the grounded LiTTLE REAPER herself. What has she done? I won’t tell you that, if it even matters. Until you see the movie (and I know you will), just imagine the myriad things that any rebellious (and again “normal”) teenager might do for parent-imposed house arrest. The disgruntled girl, anxious only to continue what got her grounded in the first place, begrudgingly agrees to sit down for a scythe to scythe talk with the elder of mortality himself—the current reaper, her dad. Yes, if it weren’t for the Reaper’s shroud and morbid makeup, he could be anyone else’s dad, doing…the same thing.
Along with Baumeister as Little Reaper, we have the reigning spectre himself played by John Paul Ouvrier. Ouvrier plays his paternal part with the frightful sternness we expect of a dad from the netherworld. When being the typical father is not enough, Ouvrier knows how to strike fear in even those beyond death, with a supernatural stare and presence to match. He plays the role perfectly adding what we expect to the story; even though he is the secondary character, he delivers a primary performance. Yes, Ouvrier sustains the soul of the movie–just like a good reaper should. 😀
Making a cameo appearance in LiTTLE REAPER as “Banshee #1” is Katy Townsend from The New World (also reviewed here on Space Jockey Reviews). Katy, although she has no speaking part, again commands attention with her striking presence alone…of course! Sorsha Morava also makes an impressive “Banshee #2,” even with equally minimal screen time, and again…no dialogue. Allisyn Ashley Arm, as the Little Reaper’s goblin friend, adds the perfect comedic touch to the Baumeister’s appearances begging for a “banshee moan.” Always impressive it is when actors are memorable even with small parts. These three ladies make good use of short time, and do exactly that. As for Townsend, I already know what she can do as an actress, carrying a movie to success on her own; As for Morava, I look forward to seeing more from her.
“Hey guys. Could you, like, show us a banshee moan? Just one…really quick?” ~ The Little Reaper’s Goblin Friend
Dukes made another excellent decision in shooting the film in black and white. The monochromatic tones emphasize makeup effects, adding surrealism and greater impact to the mix. I imagined how it might look in color, and I like much better what I see without it. The original music by Giona Ostinelli is also perfect for supporting the whimsical, comical tone needed in this otherwise horror-themed film. Great choices all around!
No review of LiTTLE REAPER could be complete without praising the make-up work of Jeong-Hwa Fonkalsrud. Her creativity and use of contrast in creating reaper faces (particularly that of Baumeister’s Little Reaper) is nothing short of fantastic! In each scene featuring Baumeister, I was captivated by the scene, not just for the engaging plot, but as much for the stark effect of Fonkalsud’s use of make-up. Yes, if ever there was a case of a make-up artist being a main spoke in the wheel of success, this is one for sure. Kudos to Jeong-Hwa-Fonkalsrud for a job more than well done!
The ending of LiTTLE REAPER is one of the biggest endings I’ve yet seen in a short film. Yes, if ever there was ever cause for a sequel, it is here, screaming as loudly as the victims of the event. Yes, it’s big budget apocalypse on a short film set for sure, fading to black with humor to match. What is it! You’ll have to see for yourself, being glad you’re only a viewer, safely at home, on your couch, protected from the world…but not the reaper. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) 😀
Oh, and do I have a favorite scene in the movie? Yes, I do! (WARNING: Since a possible spoiler is ahead, you may want to skip this paragraph.) Without a doubt, it is when the Little Reaper raises her finger to stop her dad’s diatribe, saying “Hold on! Favorite part!” as she (and he) waits for her “favorite part” of a song to finish! Priceless, I say! And no, even if you read past the warning above, don’t worry; I haven’t really given anything away. The caution was included only for the most sensitive of among us. Trust me! Nothing has been “given away,” until you’ve actually seen it. Why did I even include a description of this favorite part? “Hold on! Favorite part,” Chris Rennirt echoes, with self-indulgence!
LiTTLE REAPER is a movie that made me smile (and even laugh) every time that I thought I was expected to do so. All too often, in films with similar intent, the result falls short, leaving me feeling empty, rather than humored. LiTTLE REAPER did the opposite; it never takes itself too seriously, and stays well within its chosen place as a horror comedy. Yes, the movie knows what it is, and never gets confused. Embedded within the humor was also effective social commentary for the times, making the impact more ironic and yes, even more humorous. Let’s face it, the Grim Reaper’s predecessor, distracted and disinterested by social media and cell phones is a serious crisis in satire, as much as it would be in supernatural reality. Think about it, and by all means, feel free to laugh. Think about it, while watching the film below too. Just hope the Little Reaper is still grounded or too bored to do her job! Oh, and now that you’ve read this, may you still rest in peace. 😀
Check out these great LiTTLE REAPER movie stills, alternate posters, behind-the-scenes photos and more! 😀
And now, for the feature presentation! Enjoy! 😀
For a description of Rocket Rating 9, click on the Rocket Meter above!
While you’re at it, also check out the 2013 directing reel for Peter Dukes! Great stuff here! If you ask me, this reel is a work of art unto itself, and YES, it will make you want to see more of Dukes’ movies! 😀