Perfect Machine: Homefront (Short Film)

20 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Originally, Eric White’s short film, “Homefront,” was part of a series of Vimeo videos that served as vignettes that show in more detail the background of the world within Jarrod Beck’s University of Central Arkansas graduate thesis film project, “Perfect Machine.” “Perfect Machine” is a science-fiction story that takes place in a dystopian future where all citizens are forced against their will to comply to the new system of government for a perfect society. Two vignettes show what happens to noncompliants. Another vignette showed how people are matched together. White’s vignette, titled “Homefront,” takes a more dramatic approach, showing two characters on the run from the ominous Administration.

Now, “Homefront” is a stand-alone two-minute short and has recently screened at the Little Rock Film Festival. How does it stand as its own thing? For what it is with its very short running time, and the way it’s shot and edited, “Homefront” is pretty damn strong. Luckily, you don’t have to know about what happens to those who don’t comply to this system; here, it’s hinted with one powerful line, “Is it better to be dead or to not know you’re alive?”

With a two-minute running time, the film is edited like a trailer (though the two characters, played by Johnnie Brannon and Kirby Gocke, don’t appear in the finished “Perfect Machine” film). It’s a story told through music, visuals, and narration, as a couple, living on their own in a secluded forest for some time, consider their future together. We see shots of them living off the land and staying in a cabin intercut with a couple closeups of an approaching militant force’s arsenal. Through it all, we hear Brannon’s voice as he talks about how limited his and Gocke’s choices are in the future. Near the end, we see Brannon and Gocke in the cabin, as he delivers that aforementioned pivotal line of dialogue, as they sit next to two glasses of water with drips of red liquid (presumably poison) dropped into them. What will become of them if they stay, go, or get captured by the Administration? The short ends with a great final shot that allows its audience to think about what lay ahead in their own futures if they don’t control them.

It also caused me to think about it if it was a teaser trailer. If it was, I would be excited to see its finished film. I’d be interested in knowing more about this couple and how they live away from this aggressive society; I would expect a good, gripping story. And maybe that’s the biggest problem with “Homefront.” To me, as a vignette for an upcoming 20-30 minute film (which will have different characters/actors and probably a different situation with elements introduced in other vignettes), it’s too good. Get Eric White and his crew (which includes Beck as cinematographer) to create a longer piece (10-20 minutes, at least) with the premise, and…wait, we already have Beck’s “Perfect Machine” for that (which White is the cinematographer for), minus Brannon and Gocke (though Brannon is working as the film’s casting director and 2nd assistant director).

“Perfect Machine” may turn out to be as good, or maybe it will be better. But that’s not the subject of this review. If I’m going to review “Homefront” as a film, I say it’s effective on its own. It’s well-photographed; it’s well-acted; the music serves it well; it moved me; and it got me to imagine possible outcomes for the characters, as well as look forward to seeing similar elements in the final version, “Perfect Machine.”

NOTE: I was going to link the short at the bottom of the page, but it was removed from Vimeo for the festival. When it comes back online, I’ll attach it.

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