I Baked Him a Cake (2016): Short and Disturbing Horror (Review)

All images courtesy of Samantha Kolesnik

Written by Samantha Kolesnik (proving that “The Price of Bones” was not a fluke at all) and directed by  Vanessa Ionta Wright (who killed with her Stephen King adaptation  of “Rainy Season“) I Baked Him a Cake is a gloriously dark and foreboding bit of short horror cinema that catches the viewer’s interest and holds it throughout.

Starring Fleece as the mother and Lillian Gray (in her third role as an actress) as Lenora, the film does not bode well for the kid’s father, apparently, as the girl’s mum busily tidies up as Lenora bakes her dad a birthday cake. 

From the start, where the youngster goes into a bathroom that looks more like an abattoir,  we are aware that there is much more going on here than just a domestic spat gone wrong. Underneath the stern and somewhat unloving exterior of the mother, there seem to be control issues.

When Lenora wants to use the toilet, mum is reluctant to leave the room. The child remonstrates with her parent and the way she delivers the line seems to indicate that this is a longstanding problem. Just this scene alone brings up all sorts of questions about the relationship between these two.

Before the girl bakes the cake, Mother is industriously cutting up body parts and the shadow work in the one scene is brilliantly macabre. (There is also a touch of dark comedy in this particular shot, with a stubborn bone having to be snapped in two…)

Fleece manages to really disturb as the murderous mum who is not overly loving toward her child nor, apparently, her husband. Gray gives the concerned child she plays a depth that, combined with Fleece’s performance, also leads the audience to wonder what the real story is behind the missing father issue.

At seven minutes,  Kolesnik and Wright pack a lot of nuance and disturbing imagery into a very short time to brilliant effect. We almost begin to fear for little Lenora before the movie finishes as we also question just what really happened to daddy?

There is no clear implication that Mother did the dad in. She just sets about cleaning up a very bloody mess and at one point hands Lenora a black plastic bag full of what we know to be filled with viscous objects from mummy’s “work.” Once again there is that disconcerting feeling that there is much more going on here.

The cinematography by Henrik A. Meyer is crisp and dark. The camera zeroes in on Mother’s face and we see, with his focus on her un-wielding features, that this “working mother” is a very cold fish.

By the end of the film we are more worried for Lenora than we are for “Daddy” and the result is an unsettling experience that titillates and leaves the viewer asking questions about what is really happening here.

I Baked Him a Cake is a solid four star film. The juxtaposition of the child making a cake and her mother cleaning up a homicidal mess is a fascinating one and also adds much to the mystery of how these two female characters really get on.

Kolesnik and Wright make a brilliant team here and one hopes that they produce more films together in the immediate future.

I Baked Him a Cake Teaser from Vanessa Ionta Wright on Vimeo.

The Price of Bones (2016): Diet by Proxy (Review)

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Written and produced by Samantha Kolesnik, The Price of Bones is directed by Brandon Taylor and stars Lisa Dennett ,Summerisa Bell Stevens  and Jordan Anton. The film follows Caprice (Stevens) and Heather (Anton) as they both work to be so skinny that their bones show.  

The film opens with Caprice at home with her domineering mother (Dennett). The young woman does not eat the pancakes and scrambled eggs on offer  and after some pretty heavy bickering, puts the plate in the fridge.

This exchange reveals much about each person at the breakfast table.  Caprice and her mother are both experts at passive aggressive tactics and this war has been going on for some time. Witness the  state of that breakfast; eggs overcooked and pancakes that are flat in texture and  albino in colour. It was never meant to be eaten.

(Later in the film, at dinner, Caprice is served  a steak burnt black with a side of overdone vegetables. The battle continues.)

Caprice runs with her friend Heather and both girls seem obsessed with losing weight. They point out each other’s bones and Caprice makes a joke about everyone being able to see Heather’s.

This is a game, Heather is truly anorexic while Caprice only appears to be.

The Price of Bones is a skillful look at the real problem of anorexia and just how far sufferers will go to be “thin.”   The makeup shows clearly the health problems associated with this disease/disorder. Both the girls have bad complexions, circles under their eyes and “whitish” lips. Heather more than Caprice, it should be pointed out.

They are overly tired and Heather, at least, has self image problems as well.  In this relationship, she is  the weaker of the two.

Kolesnik and Taylor have presented a story within a story here.  There is much more going on than just a fight to be “skinny.” It is about power,  deception and being a predator.  Without giving too much away  just observe the final scenes of the film and all will be revealed.

This is a splendid bit of short cinema here.  On one level it focusses on things that are food related. There is a reference to Sylvia Plath (author of “The Bell Jar” ) who committed suicide by gassing herself in her kitchen oven. The scenes with the mother deal with a parent over-stressing how much her daughter eats.

It also deals with self image and self perception: “That’s what happens when you grow up…you disappear.”  The Plath reference also mentions disappearing as does one of the young women.   

Overall the film looks good. The cinematography and lighting are both dark, till the end, and help set the mood of the film.  The lack of musical score enhances the scenes between Caprice and her mother. It also promotes a sort of fly-on-the-wall feel.

This is easily one of the best short films of 2016 with a dark and multi-layered plot that is truly disturbing on many levels.

The Price of Bones falls just shy of perfection with its opening  “title card.”   A 4.5 star short film that should be seen if at all possible. The Price of Bones  has entered the film festival circuit.

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