Mallas, MA: Ghost Busted

Directed by Sean Meehan (who co-wrote the film with Daniel Bérubé) Mallas, MA is the Audience Choice Award winner of the 2013 Boston 48 Hour Film Project.

Mallas, MA screenshot

Directed by Sean Meehan (who co-wrote the film with Daniel Bérubé) Mallas, MA is the Audience Choice Award winner of the 2013 Boston 48 Hour Film Project.  The seven minute film is about a pair of con-artists who are playing ghost busters for the benefit of a small Maine town and inadvertently get busted.

The two use rigged equipment and intend to fleece the town by “falsely” investigating a haunting. Brian Higgins (Timothy J. Cox) and his ghost investigative partner Maria Snyder (Maria Natapov) show up at a location and pretend to go through the motions of finding evidence of hauntings. 

At their first location, while fabricating ghostly evidence, they stumble across a young girl in a bright orange dress.  The two decide to use the child to provide the proof needed to get Mallas, Ma to pay for their services. Maria cannot get the girl to understand what they need, but Brian develops an instant rapport with he child.

He and the “ghost” girl set up lots of different photographs to “sell” to the locals. Brian’s connection to the child is so complete that he does not notice the oddness behind the “scenes” that he and Maria set up with the girl in the orange dress.

Cox comes across very well as the “genius” who invents the equipment and then interacts so well with their unknown “ghost girl.”  His partner Maria is the more cold hearted of the two, as evidenced by her inability to meld with the child.

The ghost busting pair rush to complete the needed photographic evidence for a local television show.  Once the program starts,  Brian has an attack of conscience…

Sean Meehan, whose short film Total Performance (his ninth picture as editor and eighth as director) proves here that there is no shortage to his story telling talents.  Shot on (estimated) low/no budget of $5K and turned out in 48 hours, this festival favorite looks brilliant and is amusingly presented.

Higgins, slightly pompous and full of technical know-how that enables him to fleece the innocent and the completely disinterested , and disassociated, Snyder have obviously done this scam before and it is only the relationship that Higgins develops with the “girl” that changes his direction.

Cinematographer Rick Macomber makes each shot pay off with all the right hues and shadows for the film’s theme of “ghost buster” being busted by their own hubris and a surprise element they never intended to find.

The entire “TAPS” ripoff has a sort of community television feel,  with public access channels made by the local denizens with focus on items from the mundane to the weird. Daniel Bérubé gives us two con artists who are dissimilar and despite being comfortable working as a team, do not, it seems, appear to like one another very much.

The fact that the male of the team easily connects with the girl they find hiding in the basement yet cannot really communicate with his partner speaks volumes about the dubious duo.  Even though the film only runs a little over seven minutes, the story is told concisely enough that nothing is lost by the end.

Mallas, MA is another delightful example of the work done by Sean Meehan and Timothy J. Cox.  Keep an eye out for this clever little film and prepare to be thoroughly entertained. While not as in-depth as Total Performance, this short film is just as much fun to watch and contains a pretty good message.

This is a 4.5 out of 5 star short film, it provides a great twist and splendid storyline and all put together in a 48 hour time period. Great stuff.

Total Performance (2015): Rehearsing for Life

Tory Berner as Cori Sweeney Total Performance

With a plot that could have been lifted from Noriko’s Dinner Table (Shion Sono 2005) Total Performance, written and directed Sean Meehan, follows actress Cori Sweeney (Tory Berner) who works for Total Performance; a company that helps people to rehearse for real life “problem” scenarios.  A relationship in trouble, cheating spouses, a man wanting to fire an old friend, and in a nasty twist of fate, a cheating boyfriend who wants to ditch his girl.

At the start of the film Cori is explaining to Tim (Steven Conroy) how the job works.  As an actor, she sees it as practice, she fills in for the person who the client  needs to interact with. In the first scenario a man wants to confront his cheating wife. 

In the second, Walter Baron (Timothy J. Cox) wants to practice, or rehearse, firing a dear friend from his company.  In the third scenario, Cori learns that Tim wants to leave his girlfriend. 

Somewhat like the Shion Sono film, the actors in the company fill in for lovers, partners or friends. As Cori tells Tim earlier, they are “sparring” partners for the client.

Meehan has given the viewer a serious/comic look at relationships, lies and people’s inabilities to deal with difficult issues.  The idea of a practice run for emotionally fraught interactions is brilliant. In Noriko’s Dinner Table, the premise was filling in for missing family members rather than providing a sort of “counseling” service.

(It should also be pointed out that in the Shion Sono film, this was a subplot used to caveat the main plot line, the film, a “J Horror”  was not about the actors but a follow on to another earlier horror film.)

As the female lead, Tory Berner is everything one could hope for.  With eyes that captivate and yet still manage to convey rage (in the scene with Paul Locke, as Bruce,  her eyes combine teary anger with an impressive intensity) where needed.  We believe in this performers role as sparring partner and we also feel for her later in this short film.

The supporting players; Locke as Bruce, Cox as Baron, all feel as real as Tory’s character. Cox always delivers in his roles and his portrayal of the boss who must practice firing a friend is touching as is it amusing.

While the allusion to Noriko’s Dinner Table may only exist in this reviewers imagination, Meehan has given us a world where people have become incapable of either telling the truth (Tim) or handling the more unpleasant aspects of their lives.  The fact that a company of actors have come up with a business based on this issue is brilliantly funny and says something about modern man’s inability to cope with real life issues.

Cinematographer Chris Loughran does an excellent job of matching the camera work to the mood and the sets all look spot on. Both the camera work and the set pieces combine to make the film feel like a slice of white collar Americana.

This is Meehan’s eighth effort in the driver’s seat as both writer and director and it shows. Total Performance is a delightful gem, a well crafted humorous and ironic tale of one actress’s “Day” job. The small slice of Cori’s dilemma is well presented and we feel for the young woman by the end of the film.

A 4 out of 5 stars for giving us characters and an outside the box storyline that is comedic but also touching. Bravo.