I watch and review a lot of short films. So many, in fact, that oftentimes I feel like I’ve seen the same thing time and time again. That is not to say that I do not get the opportunity to see some wonderful films—on the contrary, I probably view more awesome and inspiring short films than most do in their lives, and I’m really grateful for that opportunity.
There is, however, a repetitiveness that comes with watching a lot of indie productions; great films that follow a strict formula that is—for the most part—aimed at pleasing festival judges or making selection. While most of these films tend to be well made, each with its own clever twist or flashy concept, the formula can become…formulaic.
Mute, for better or for worse, throws this entire tried and tested truth right out of the window. The cinematic feel is—for lack of a better descriptor—old…the film could have easily been set yesterday, yesteryear, or even decades ago. Whether purposefully done as an homage or unintentionally aged, the production feels dated, but not in a bad way. It piqued my interest from the start as it had what I personally look for when assessing these short films: uniqueness.
It gets better from there. There is pretty much a single act; a story in one part. While we may jump back and forth between events that happened in the past and the now, it is all a single serving—easily digested and cleverly told. The story itself is plausible enough and sounds like something that happened to your uncle’s friend’s brother, your second cousin, or Bridgette from badminton. We’ve all heard of or known someone that’s been through a bizarre situation and can therefore empathise with the protagonist, at least on a basic level.
And it is original. It was for me, at least. I’m sure that something similar has probably happened at some point, somewhere…and that’s exactly why the film succeeds. It’s believable, well told, simple in its construction, and entertaining in its entirety. Mute also stands on its own legs, refusing the regular formula of successful festival submissions and telling a story its own way. It was akin to reading a crime novella more than it was an indie horror film and I’m totally fine with that. I’m always begging for films to push the envelope and be their own thing rather than copy what has worked before and Mute does exactly what I wish for time and time again.
This is not a “GASP!” film or something with a twist that will leave you slack-jawed. It isn’t jump scares, footsteps, creaking doors and creepy children laughing from the shadows. It is a cleverly put together, original tale spun through a somewhat old-feeling film style. It has religious elements that some may find archaic or unnecessary, but even as a stout atheist, I found the Catholic elements necessary for the storytelling and background of the characters. It just all works well together.
Mute has recently dropped its teaser trailer which you can watch below, but it still needs to do its festival runs so it won’t be available publicly anytime soon. We will update you as soon as this changes. Read the directors statement at the end of this review and watch out for Mute once those festivals are back up and running! Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
Mute is an adaptation of a Stephen King short story for his Dollar Baby program. I selected this story because it has that classical hitchhiker tale, but with a little more backstory. The hitchhiker is a deaf-mute and the person who gives them a ride is a mild-mannered travelling book salesman, who slowly begins to take advantage of the company he is in. I love how the story mainly deals with giving an act of kindness to someone, and that person may repay the favour in their own act, but it may not be of “kindness”. The film also has a great deal of deception and there is a hint of that common term “be careful what you wish for”. Our main character, the book salesman, is already thrusted into the story with a chip on his shoulder after finding out about his wife’s love affair, and from what it seems would be better off without her. And as the story continues we realize that our book salesman may have spilled a little too much information to this passenger, that he figured couldn’t hear a thing. To me this gives off a vibe like an urban legend does, and when horror stories are more or less cautionary tales, it lingers with you a lot longer.
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