Monday, November 2, 2015

Theatre Fantastique: A Poem of Poe (2015)

It was when I was reading actress Kelsey Hewlett's Twitter page when I found out about this new short film from Hollinsworth Studios, of which I have spoken of at length on a few (usually angry) occasions. This latest effort is the latest entry-A Halloween special, to be precise-in their intermittent webseries Theatre Fantastique.

A Poem of Poe is less of a movie, short or otherwise, and more of an Edgar Allan Poe collage, and in that respect, it's ok. With that in mind, I won't criticize the jumbled plot much.

The movie is bookended by the cast standing together akin to a curtain call, while 'Death' recites The Conqueror Worm, and features scenes of Poe and his love Annabel Lee at a beach, as well as a brief and weirdly shot funeral scene. Some other stuff happens, then the movie's over. There's use of stock footage from previous Theatre Fantastique entries, which is annoying on principle, especially since this is only a twelve minute long movie, however the choice of footage is at least Poe-related, and thus does fit.

This movie is never really bad, and the only thing that really bugged me was Annabel Lee's death, which is baffling. She reads some of her beau Poe's works, and recoils in horror for no explained reason, dashing across a beach as Poe follows after, and then she runs into Death, who reaches for her, and she willingly goes with him. What?

Ok, time to discuss the aspect about Ansel Faraj's movies that I dread the most-Adaptation! A Poem of Poe is not subject to some of my usual criticisms of other Hollinsworth films for a couple of reasons. First, it being a collage rather than a story or straight adaptation, and second, it's not that bad at being what it is. Sure, it's not that great, and like I said, is a bit jumbled, but it reads some good Poe with some decent presentation. Granted, the use of The Raven is a bit forced. Finally, in the ending credits, it at least admits that it's 'adapted liberally from the works of Edgar Allan Poe'.

The acting is hard to talk about, since most of it's visual, with the players standing around, or running. With that limitation, they're still good. Although your first thought might be "He looks nothing like Edgar Allan Poe", David Gorlow is pretty good, and reads Poe decently, while Elyse Ashton has a nicely ooky presence. Christopher Pennock is sometimes over-the-top, but not bad. At first, I wasn't sure if he'd be the best pick for reading Poe. His usual tone of voice is a bit too boisterous and rambunctious in my eyes to evoke a subtle Gothic tone. So how does he fare? Well it's a bit of both. At the start and end, he comes across exactly as I'd expected, but in other spots, he delivers the prose well. Finally, Kelsey Hewlett is enjoyable to watch, as always. She's the one who has to work the hardest visually, since her character has the least dialogue. She performs well, and my biggest complaint about the movie is that I wish there was more for her to do. That's not much of a slight against it though, as she does still appear plenty.

The effects here are ok. The sets can sometimes look pretty fake, like they're just rooms that've been hastily filled with Gothic decorations, but other locations look decent, particularly the beach, despite its overuse. The make-up that Christopher Pennock's Death has is pretty faded, making it look a bit unconvincing...However, he looks GREAT when he appears at the beach in the black robes! That's my favourite moment from the movie!

The main theme is a piece of archive music (Camille Saint-Saƫns's Danse Macabre), which wouldn't necessarily matter, if it wasn't for the fact that it's pretty unfitting for the atmosphere. The rest of the score is decent. Some spots are really good, but there's not all that much music to be heard.

The direction is ok when the camera isn't unsteady, and Faraj never goes overboard with the dutch angles, thankfully. Some of the imagery is neat, from Poe standing at the edge of the pier, to the ghoulish wedding, and the flipped shot of the two lovers.

I really wanted to like this movie going in, and while I didn't love it, or even take to it all that much due to its confusing nature, it wasn't bad, and that's important for a Hollinsworth film. A Poem of Poe is tolerable, and a somewhat ooky thing to watch for the Halloween season. Plus, it stars Kelsey Hewlett, and that's always worth something...