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.

Rainy Season (2017): Stephen King Short and Oh So Sweet (Review)

Rainy Season poster

It is all too seldom that one finds a short, or any length, film based upon a Stephen King story that immediately grabs the viewer and says, “Yes!” King wrote Rainy Season back in 1993. It worked, as lore would have it, as a cure to the author’s writing block and it is a sharp and concise homage to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” but set in King’s beloved Maine.

Vanessa Ionta Wright, who wrote the screenplay, gives us a film that does justice to the King short story and looks, quite simply, stunning. Everything about the film screams big budget, the sound, the colors and the sets all feel about as mainstream as you can get without the big price tag. 

The storyline follows King’s; a young couple head to the town of Willow, Maine to stay in an old boarding house. The husband is writing a book and the couple may be young but they have a disturbing past together that is only hinted at.

Anyone who has read King’s short story will remember the climax and the very “Shirley Jackson” feel of the somewhat random unfairness of it all. Wright’s intimate cast of four let us in on that theme and they all fit perfectly.

For example, the barefoot old man (Kermit Rolisonrolling his bugle cigarette sounds like he is reading from a script; because he is. The young couple do not heed the muddled warnings from the older couple (Rolison and Jan Nelsonbecause they are distracted by their recent past and their discomfort at being outsiders.

Brian Ashton Smith is John Graham and Anne-Marie Kennedy is his wife Elise. They have an uneasy chemistry.  Holding hands like a full grown Hansel and Gretel entering the scary woods, the pair clearly love one another but there is something dark underneath their affection.

Both actors show the pain beneath the surface very well and this also helps to sell the final moments of the film.

Above all else, though, Wright spoils us with an almost perfect cinematic version of the short story. The greens are vibrant, the sounds of the countryside are alive and, almost, overbearing and the house is a perfect fit for the tale that is told.

The film’s effects are all, from the look of it, practical and they work brilliantly.  Between cinematographer Mark Simon’s skillful avoidance of catching the creatures full on and the sounds being made by them,  we can identify the things immediately.

Rainy Season is low key horror that builds steadily and the director uses sound masterfully to provide an almost perfect payoff at the end. Just as the country noises punctuate the film’s events, they also work to make this low budget “Dollar” production practically sing.

This is easily one of the best adaptations of any Stephen King story on offer. Wright, who wrote and directed the film as part of the author’s “Dollar Baby” program, obviously “gets it.” She is clearly a fan of King’s work. Take the start of the film as an example.  The camera zooms in on the radio as John Graham fiddles with the knob.

The car’s make is in  big cursive letters on the front of the radio, “BUICK.” This has to be a huge nod and wink to King’s “From a Buick 8.” It could be said that this reference is a connection, of sorts, to the things found in Rainy Season

Buick

Rainy Season is hitting the festival circuit at the moment (2017/2018) and it is our prediction that this will be a massive award winner. Wright, who was the Graphic Designer on the superb 2016 short The Price of Bones, is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

This film is a full 5 star offering. It is a visual treat as well as a splendidly paced and plotted dramatic horror film. We would be willing to bet that Stephen King must love this adaptation.

Have a look at the trailer and see what you think.

Official 2017 Rainy Season Trailer from Vanessa Ionta Wright on Vimeo.