Twinkletown (Short Film)

23 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The tagline for the short film “Twinkletown,” written and directed by Scott McEntire, states, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely in a small Southern town.” And knowing that tagline doesn’t make the subject matter for this film seem necessarily “new,” but there is something oddly captivating about a premise that mostly involves greed and power taking over a small (Southern) town almost as if it were a run of the Mob. With that said, “Twinkletown” is satisfying in the way it handles this premise, and is able to overcome its minor flaws.

“Twinkletown” (which is 20 minutes in running time) opens with three men chained in a warehouse, where they are tortured by Eve Wallace (Kristie Pipes), the latest of the corruptive Wallace family, who has run a small town in the Arkansas Delta for years. Eve learns that these three men have stolen Wallace money, as she and her henchmen, including her right-hand man Max (Johnnie Brannon), torture and kill the other two. The last one alive, a young man named Terrence (Dustin Alford, “Foot Soldier”), is given a chance to save himself. But as Eve allows him to settle things, Terrence’s grandfather (Tucker Steinmetz) suddenly becomes involved and this leads to a complicated situation that Terrence must get himself out of before he puts himself in more danger with the Wallaces.

One thing that stands out about “Twinkletown” is that there is a real feel for the sort of system that this town seems to run through. Eve and Max are broadly developed, but that’s what makes them memorable and their presences impactful. Particularly, there’s a scene in which Eve talks with the town sheriff (Don Pirl), and it’s clear where everyone seems to stand in this town. You either accept the melancholies here, or your ass is grass if you’re desperate enough to make the wrong choices in order to escape. No one can mess with Eve, and you’d have to be as crazy as Terrence’s grandfather to go up against her.

But really, what “Twinkletown” fully seemed to represent is an effective metaphor for the differences between the rich and poor in small Southern towns, taken to the level of a crime drama about the Mob, practically. In that sense, it’s more intriguing.

But there is a problem I had with “Twinkletown,” and unfortunately, it had to do with Terrence’s story. Terrence is merely a clean-cut kid who fell with the wrong crowd, and that’s why he found himself in this situation. As a result, the character is not very interesting. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I wonder how it would have been if a member of that “wrong crowd” was put in this situation himself. That’d be interesting because he’d have to rely on his wits and question his own morals and ethics, as well as the Wallaces’. As it is, Terrence is boring (though not exactly the fault of talented actor Dustin Alford, who was great in “Foot Soldier”), but I think his grandfather makes up for it (though that probably has to do with Tucker Steinmetz’s delightful overacting).

Kristie Pipes is enjoyable to watch as this despicable, unsympathetic woman who does anything to get her way and keep the family in power (even to the point, such as the case in the opening scene, of mocking sympathy to toy with somebody in order to receive some answers). At times, Pipes comes close to overacting, but for the most part, she’s quite good here. Johnnie Brannon underplays the role of Max, Eve’s cold-blooded associate. He doesn’t say much, or do much, and yet surprisingly he really leaves an impression. He’s great here. Tucker Steinmetz…to say his role here is more flamboyant than his “Antiquities” character would probably be an understatement. But to be honest, it did sort of grow on me. Sure, he’s over-the-top, but he does put a lot of energy to the role, and I admire him for that.

It would seem as if there are some roles that are somewhat one-dimensional, but there is a twist at the end of “Twinkletown” that changes that, for the most part. It shows there were further motivations than what may have been declared earlier. And without giving away certain details, it does bring the film full-circle in a satisfying way. While “Twinkletown” does have its flaws, it impressed me with its story structure, its moments of humor and danger, and some nice camerawork as well.

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