GRAVE INTENTIONS (2021)
Directed by Brian Rish, Jocelyn Rish (“Grave Intentions” Wraparound), Gabriel Olson (“The Bridge Partner”), Matthew Richards (“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham”), Jaime Snyder (“Violent Florence”), Lukas Hassel (“The Son, The Father”), Brian Patrick Lim (“Marian”).
Written by Jocelyn Rish (“Grave Intentions” Wraparound), Gabriel Olson (“The Bridge Partner”), Matthew Richards, Michael L. Fawcett (“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham”), Jaime Snyder (“Violent Florence”), Lukas Hassel (“The Son, The Father”), Brian Patrick Lim, Levi San Luis (“Marian”).
Starring Joy Vandervort-Cobb (wraparound), Beth Grant, Sharon Lawrence, Robert Forster, Catherine Carlen (“The Bridge Partner”), Kevin Dee, Gregory J. Fryer, Raymond Thomas (“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham”), Charly Thorn (“Violent Florence”), Sharva Maynard, Lucas Oktay, Lukas Hassel, Christopher Morson (“The Son, The Father”), Astarte Abraham, Johanah Basanta, Paw Aya Bugarin (“Marian”)
GRAVE INTENTIONS is not as much of an anthology as it is a collection of short films from around the world. It’s hosted by a Miss Cleo-style expert in magic and mysticism named Magical Madame Josephine (Joy Vandervort-Cobb) who opines about good and bad intentions being an integral part of all magic and then in between shorts, she introduces different basic ways of incorporating magic with intentions. It’s an ok framework to the film, but only adds connective tissue and a few insights about magic. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these segments, but they are pretty cheaply made compared to the budgets and scope of some the collected shorts.
The first of the shorts is one I’ve seen before starring DONNIE DARKO’s Beth Grant called “The Bridge Partner.” Grant plays a shy new member of a bridge club who is paired with a well to do club member played by Sharon Lawrence. After losing badly, Lawrence is kind to Grant, but ends their meeting with a threat to kill her. This leads to much paranoia from the nervous newcomer. It’s all well acted and filmed with an elegance that captures the decadence of suburban Americana, but the story really doesn’t lead anywhere and kind of flops over the finish line in the final moments. It is good to see the late great Robert Forster in a small role, though.
Another familiar short shows up in the second spot. “The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” is an Australian short about the titular character (played by Kevin Dee) committing a heinous crime and undergoing a radical punishment program where body parts are taken from him slowly over the course of time. Bingham is forced to go to schools to scare the kids straight, but they don’t seem to be getting the message. Still, the scenes of dismemberment are quite grueling. This is one that’s going to make your toes curl, though Willie himself can’t do so. There is a cold and stark tone to this one, reminiscent of JOHNNY GET YOUR GUN, the film that inspired Metallica’s “One.”
Jamie Snyder’s “Violent Florence” is a tough one to get through. I’m a lover of cats, especially black cats, and seeing the horror that occur in this short are not going to get any fans from the cat lovers. It’s the story of a very damaged woman (played by Charly Thorn) who seemingly saves a cat from kids mistreating it on the street, but once it gets to her warehouse home, the cat’s fate goes from bad to worse. I’ll admit this is well filmed and acted, but the content left me more disturbed than anything. I can take horrifying things happening to humans on film, but when the horror involves animals, I’m out. If you feel similarly, you might want to skip this successfully disturbing short.
Up next is “The Son, The Father” which plays out rather deviously as a twisted mother toys with her son by pretending to be dead when he gets home from school on his birthday. This morbid game really unfolds and unfolds, ending with a shocking revelation. Though there isn’t a lot of gore, the mind-fuckery going on in this little short by Lukas Hassel is top notch. The ending is especially demented and wraps up the story in a deliciously terrifying fashion. The acting across the board is great too, making this diabolical short one of the strongest of the bunch.
Finally, the film wraps up with “Marian,” a Philippine shortie that also tackles some very bad parenting. A little girl named Marian draws pictures of a dark shape in all of her drawings though she seems to be very happy with her mother as she tucks her into bed at night. But what is really going on. This one has some intense scenes and a very creepy spectral figure. The CG is decent and meshes well. I liked this short but sweet little tale as it proved to be unpredictable and ends on a darkly sweet note.
While there are better collections of short films out there, GRAVE INTENTIONS does have some good ones. Some of the films have been collected in anthology films like this before. Others are brand new. While the connective tissue between the tales left me cold, there are some strong short films in this one.