WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
Living in the dark. Speaking more to the state of one’s conscious, soul, and overall manner, the isolation, embittered mindset, and self-loathing can be an overwhelming combination. Yet, once engaged and immersed in it, the habits that form and means by which to embrace the dissolution of one’s identity can take over whether desired or not. Then, the question remains–is there such thing as escape from it? Niklas (Branko Tomovic) rises each night with a definitive purpose but a tortured soul. Packing up a bag filled with items required for his current trade, he heads out to a local hotel, where an associate named Mia (Francesca Fowler) awaits, having brought up to a specified room a drugged man (Danny Steele).
Upon arriving at the location, Niklas assumes operations, quite literally, on the poor unaware soul in front of him lying on a plastic-covered bed. Once having completed his task, Niklas retreats to the bathroom to clean up as well as stare at the monster he hates in the mirror. The following evening, while at the hotel bar, he drink wine while being keenly but subtly observant that Mia is arranging their next target. Yet, this time, he steps outside first to smoke, engaging in somewhat mundane conversation with Mia, who realizes all Niklas wants to get out of the “profession” he’s in. Carrying on the evening, events take a stunning turn, even as the pair’s boss, ruthless crime lord Ed (Dervla Kirwan), shows up with an unthinkable request.
Next, my Mind:
So, we understand you didn’t fill out an organ donor card–or that you’re not even dead yet, actually–but we’re going to abscond with your liver anyway. Welcome to dark underbelly of the criminal enterprise in one of its nastiest incarnations–illegal organ harvesting. Known as the “Red Market”, it represents a vile aspect of even the realms of malfeasance it resides within, and writer/director/producer/actor Tomovic’s 20-minute short film offering more than solidifies why it has this unsavory reputation, even as the gritty narrative delves into the scorched mentality of one of the industry’s surgeons and the horrific toll being involved has taken on him. Actually, surprisingly, devoid of the constant crude language one might expect, the edge and unsettling/disturbing facets of the story are primarily in the multiple “sessions” we are witness to which, given the themes being explored, don’t come across as gratuitous at all, but rather a necessary illustration to put a gut-wrenching punch to the notion of the trade, how it is executed, and the innocent victims unfortunate enough to have been “chosen”. It’s realistically portrayed, the visuals are, as mentioned, freaky, and the film’s final act leaves you even more shell shocked than you already were, which in this case is homage/kudos to the clever writing provided here. It’s intense though, folks, and probably isn’t for everyone.
Tomovic is truly solid in the role of Niklas, a man on the edge and losing his entire sense of self thanks to what he chooses to do, though there are other factors involved that soon explain why he has a tie to the industry and serves it, however begrudgingly. The sheer scariness of how routine doing what he does and his M.O. while completing a surgery is only upped by the raw disdain he has for himself afterwards each time. He knows he must escape the life or lose himself forever, yet finding the way and means to do it is not evident. It’s an uncompromising and graphic existence Niklas inhabits, with Tomovic emotively taking us into it full force and with intended grit. Fowler is also in fine form as escort/victim appropriator Mia, a call girl who simply utilizes the “charms” of her own profession to gain candidates for Niklas to do his job. She does this with impunity for him, all the while being one of the best, if not only, actual friend he even has. Her presence during the surgeries is disquieting in that she simply sits and chews candy while he’s cutting someone open, a non-chalant attitude that very much signals her own disengagement from any sense of care about it or that someone is involuntarily losing an important piece of them. But, we also get the impression Mia has her own forced reasons to be a part of it, even if never disclosed, and Fowler enacts this to a “T”.
For her brief screen time, Kirwan is deliciously and frighteningly fantastic as the utterly unscrupulous, manipulating, cold-hearted, and entirely brutal crime lord Ed, a woman of extreme measures and even more nefarious goals who will not tolerate any disobedience. Plus, the new “job” she requires of Niklas is just plain evil, which sets up the film’s finale. Additional support is provided from Steele and Tom Osborne as victims, Valentina Cartago as Mia’s associate, Nicole Klenk as a barwoman, Stefan Bakic in a pivotal cameo. In total, while dark, brooding, ominous, and highly unnerving in concept, “Red” is a well-done, effective short film that more than gets its point across with a fervent intent and unapologetic delivery made to create a little shock and terrified “AHHHH!”.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!