“Ryan Oliver, remember that name – tattoo it across your knuckles if you must, for he is definitely one to watch for the future.”
by Hari Navarro
Something Evil This Way Cometh Air Conditions had its World Premiere at the Muvico 18 Rosemont, followed by a Chicago Premiere at the Historic Portage Theatre as part of ‘Terror in the Aisles 13’.
Rodrigo Corts nailed the entirety of his 2010 thriller Buried inside a box, and then somehow managed to lure the majority of his audience to choke and suffer beneath its claustrophobic grip. Director Ryan Oliver, in this his very first short film, likewise manages to conjure much of the same sense of futile dread with his beautifully desolate offering, Air Conditions.
Though here he inverts his nameless victims cage, choosing instead to tease and torment him not with confinement, but rather a vast and sprawling open jail. He is still trapped, glued to the spot in fact, but the isolation and searing loneliness that he endures is here heightened. For, unlike Rodrigo Corts doomed protagonist, Ryan Oliver amps up the misery of his lead by surrounding him with a vibrant city. He can see salvation, taste it in the wind, though his screams for help float unheard; dulled and dissipating across sprawling rooftops and huge gaping skies.
John Fenner Mays plays, with approachable believability, an air-conditioner repair man whose day rapidly and completely deteriorates before us. As an actor he is always engaging and really embodies the essence of the story, this as his demeanour slowly simmers before boiling over and crashing into abject helpless and despair.
Leo Resudek Jr completes the diminutive cast list, his character seemingly inhabiting an entirely different universe than that of his incredulous captive. Lets just say that there will be severed animal heads, a short musical interlude and a spot of amateur photography before this crazy old coot dissolves into the films final fade-to-black.
Air Conditions is a slowly turning cog, never in any hurry to unravel its riddles as it transports us toward its monstrously looming final reveal. Though this is a pace perhaps perfectly suited for a piece that relies so heavily on creating that sense of inescapable finality. Some may crave an added editorial nip here and tuck there, but personally I relished following its leisurely burning fuse. It put me on that rooftop and gave me time to contemplate just how completely without hope the situation actually was.
Cinematographer Alejandro Garcia is outstanding as he wonderfully complements the journey with some of the most stunningly crisp and majestically framed imagery that I have ever seen in a short of this nature. The lifeless desolation of the warehouse, upon whose rooftop the majority of the narrative plays out, juxtaposed with the frenetic pulse of the city (Chicago) at its side become just as much living characters of this short as their human counterparts.
Strangely for such a horror-laced production little to nothing is left to languish in shadow; here all is vivid and crisp to the eyes. Its a welcome and chilling change to have this darkest of genres attempted in such minute and beautifully clear detail. Ryan Oliver, remember that name – tattoo it across your knuckles if you must, for he is definitely one to watch for the future.