Short Film Review “Lookouts”

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First, the Recap:

Courage. Bravery. Stoutheartedness. Heroism. When traits such as these are expected to dwell within a man during the most perilous of encounters, it is his longstanding knowledge, experience, and training in his duty that brings them to bear in the face of danger. But when you are only a young boy, driven to become as such from a tender age, confronting ones fears isn’t so clear cut. For newly dubbed Lookout Pehn (Kelton Roney), trepidation and anxiety are paramount as he flees from one of his land’s greatest terrors, the Basilisk, a haunting creature able to turn its prey to stone with but a gaze. Finding what he hopes is a suitable hiding spot, Pehn’s apprehensions fade to recollection.

In his mind’s eye, Pehn wanders through his small village to the hut he called home, with words and tales containing guidance from his mother, Kliea (Stefanie Estes). All young children are needed, specifically trained to be Lookouts, protectors of the village, and are expected to be steadfast and hardened fighters far sooner than most would think feasible.  Their greatest test, to hunt down and destroy the Basilisk. Also ringing through Pehn’s shaken thoughts are the words of challenge and warning from his mentor and instructor, The Ranger (Chris Cleveland), who advises all the Lookouts as to what signs to watch for when hunting the legendary creature. A shrill cry shakes Pehn from his reverie, and with a newfound fearlessness and daring, he emerges defiant to face his foe.

Next, my Mind:

Brilliantly transporting the viewer to the fantastical world of Eyrewood Forest and the dangers found within, director David Bousquet and wife/producer Kristin Bousquet deliver a truly crisp, clean, well-shot short film effort that leaves you flat out wanting more. Accurately described by the Bousquets as having reflections of classic, old-school feature efforts such as “The Dark Crystal”, “The NeverEnding Story”, and “Labyrinth” thanks to its utilization of practical, real world-based cinematography and special effects, including a superbly impressive puppeteer-driven Basilisk,  the narrative flows along with intent and poise, leading to a finale that simply begs for feature film treatment. Visually lush and presenting an appropriately affecting musical score, this is honestly young adult fantasy filmmaking at its best, away from the overabundance of CGI-driven efforts found so often in contemporary movies.

Roney is a young marvel here in his role as Pehn, a boy so innocent yet made to become a man far sooner than should be practical. His flight in the face of fear is realistic and, frankly, expected, as even with his training and fellow scouts being present, it doesn’t immediately curb his utter terror at having to comprehend a dire fate so early in life. Roney effectively takes the character through this emotionally-charged internal battle, making the newly acquired fortitude, audacity, and boldness he discovers heartfelt and resolute–aka: the stuff “rising to the challenge” moments like it are all about. Estes emotes well as Pehn’s caring, devoted, and appropriately worried mother Kliea, who wants her son to excel, yet longs for him to be home and safe despite knowing the duty he is destined to accomplish. Cleveland likewise delivers a solid performance as The Ranger, whose responsibility to train such young apprentices is both fulfilling yet thankless.

Supporting turns are provided by Jack Estes, Charlie Ibsen, Kyle Walz-Smith, Justin Camera, and Lillian Lachman as Pehn’s fellow and ill-fated Lookout scouts, all seen with the bravado that makes them the warriors they are to be, yet remain potent reminders of the loss of youth. In total, “Lookouts” very much stands as an engaging, magical, first-rate journey to yesteryear’s filmmaking style and execution, which this reviewer certainly relates to, and that leaves you hoping beyond hope that a full-length project might just manage to find its way to the screen and our highly anticipating eyes.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


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