The Antagonist (Short Film) (2010)

17 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Even though I’m aware that the same filmmakers don’t make all the short films by Spy Hop Productions, I always have high expectations for the newest films every time I go to the yearly T Tauri Film Festival, an Arkansas film festival for young people. I’ve seen a lot of films presented by Spy Hop Productions and they all had intriguing filmmaking styles and a surprising amount of intelligence that comes when bright teenagers, such as the ones who make the films, work together to make a short film. It really feels like the films have real production value.

My favorite Spy Hop production is a documentary called “Touching Sound” (a documentary featuring a deaf boy getting a Cochlear implant), but my second favorite is a narrative film called “The Antagonist.”

“The Antagonist” is a postmodern fantasy in which the “antagonist” is actually the protagonist. You see, the story features a creepy man with a burlap sack over his head, a top hat, a tricycle, and a wooden board with a long nail sticking out of it. He’s like a character in a slasher film. But the twist here is that he really is a character in a slasher film. He’s being manipulated by a young screenwriter who doesn’t know (at least, I don’t think he knows) that his antagonist exists in his world and is being controlled by whatever his writer types for him.

That’s a wonderful premise and the film features the “Hat Man” as he rides his tricycle through town, finding more victims. Meanwhile, the screenwriter takes breaks to ask other people (including a little girl) what they think of what he’s just written. It works for comedic purposes. But then, “The Antagonist” becomes even more special when it goes deeper into drama. The Hat Man meets a woman at a Laundromat and they strike up an interesting relationship. This is even more remarkable, considering what the filmmakers had to work with because the Hat Man has no dialogue. The scenes involving the Hat Man and the woman are handled delicately. And, as you can tell, it gets even more complicated when the writer goes back to manipulating the Hat Man to create his idea of an artful thriller.

For a twenty-minute film, “The Antagonist” has plenty of surprises. It starts as a quirky comedy and ends up being an even more compelling piece of work. I named it one of the best films I’ve seen in 2010, and I don’t care how short it is; don’t ignore it if it works, no matter what the length.

You can see the film at

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