Directed and co-written by Matthew Mahler (What Jack Built) Dark Romance is a quirky horror film with elements that disturb. The main plot deals with an office manager who has a secret admirer. What starts out as an amusing event soon turns nasty and then deadly.
Timothy J. Cox is the “nice guy” manager of a small office team of three. Cameron Rankin is Cam, Tim’s low key co-worker and Tiffany Browne-Tavares is the office secretary Tiffany. She has eyes only for Tim, bringing him coffee and ignoring Cam’s request for a bagel.
Tim’s secret admirer escalates things. At first it is a letter professing love, the second item; flowers with an odd note and finally a severed finger. The secretary calls the police. Tiffany then brings Tim a coffee, “Just the way you like it.”
While the office manager may be a nice chap, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to his colleagues. Clearly Tiffany is the one with a secret crush. Tim and Cam discuss the notes and the flowers and Tim believes that they come from a blonde in the building.
Things do not end well and perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the entire film is Cam’s reaction at the end. Without giving anything away, his attitude is “tres blasé” to say the least.
Mahler, who did such a brilliant job on his 2015 short film “What Jack Built” tells a good story here. Sadly the film is let down with sound issues. There is a lot of “white noise” in the dialogue sequences between Cam, Tim and Tiffany.
This interferes with the storyline and makes it difficult to hear the actors. It is also intrusive. Despite this issue the film is enjoyable. The mix of characters makes everything work. Cam’s laissez faire attitude; first evidenced in the “parcel” scene, provides great signposting for his reaction later.
Tiffany’s over attention to Tim also makes for a good payoff to the tale. Cox and Rankin interact very well and Browne-Tavares does well in her role as the obsessed secretary.
The camera work on Dark Romance looks crisp where it needs to be and the editing is spot on. Mahler is another “cottage industry” filmmaker who does his own camerawork and edits the final product. This was Mahler’s first short film and it shows the promise evidenced in his later effort with Mr. Cox in 2015.
At just under eight minutes the film manages to fit quite a lot into the time frame allotted. Dark Romance entertains and tells its story very well despite a somewhat rushed feeling. The sound issues hamper the film a bit as it detracts from dialogue meant to move things along.
Dark Romance is a solid 3 star effort. It tells its story and even manages to add layers to its conclusion. One does wonder, at the end, whether Cam played more of a role in the proceedings or not. This subtle suspicion alludes to a depth that is admirable in such a short film. Keep an eye on Matthew Mahler and specifically notice the strength of his latter films.