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30 Second Romantic Comedy (2011)
Tonight's Short Presentation


Starring: Jennifer Holloway, Jeff Kongs, Rebecca Holopter, Verity Butler, Ike Amadi, Jimmy Callahan

Written and Directed By: Debra Mategrano

See It Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5GY-USapgg

Production Website: http://www.30films.com

The Story

Her husband (Jeff Kongs, check out our interview) saw the “For Sale By Owner” sign and thought the place was perfect, but the wife (Jennifer Holloway, Because You Deserve It) thinks “it’s creepy here.”  What nasty things will go bump in the night – or in the daytime, for that matter – when he has to leave suburbia for a few days, and will she survive them?  And you thought the housing market where you live was scary…

The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Probably best not to read the date on the bag; not that you’ve got time to, anyway.

Pairs Well With...


Mwhahahaha.  Because one shot is all you’ll have time for before your DOOM!

“Unleash my spirit; unleash the dead.”

They say that one way to cure the hiccups is to give yourself a quick scare.  If you like your scares to come in movie form, they don’t get much quicker than 30 Second Haunting.

If you’re not already familiar with their work, the folks at 30 Films have made it their mission to compress as many different types of full-length genre features as they can down to their half minute essences.  These aren’t glorified trailers, though; they really put the “movie” in “short movie.”  All of it.

There are two distinct flavors of the haunting genre: the stuff from the late 1970s through the early 1980s that features The Amityville Horror as its centerpiece, and the modern “reality” stuff that spammed first the video market and then series television in the wake of Blair Witch.  Wisely, 30 Second Haunting keeps its focus on the classic stuff, and in the course of doing so, it serves not only as a faithful piece of homage, but even delivers the genuine creep factor on several occasions.

That, by the way, is not an easy thing to do.

Think about a regular haunting movie that you’ve seen.  No, no; pick one that doesn’t suck.  That’s better.  In order to get the audience ready for the scares to come, any decent director will spend a whole lot of time – perhaps even most of the movie – setting up an atmosphere that makes everyone feel a little clammy and has people perpetually tensed for the nastiness even when it’s not actually springing out from any of the many available shadowy corners.  Given the thirty second start-to-finish constraint of the film, writer/director Debra Mategrano doesn’t have that luxury here.  This is where real genre knowledge and production tricks make all the difference.

To begin with, the print of 30 Second Haunting has been dirtied up to look like an overexposed Super 8 film, which does two things.  First, it immediately draws the viewers into a period.  It doesn’t matter if people on camera aren’t necessarily dressed for it; the illusion of the film stock is enough.  Since audience members already know the title and can put two and two together, they now have an instantly recognizable reference point that triggers the part of the brain the remembers old movies.  In other words, all of the work done by the directors of the 70s and 80s is setting the scene for this movie by association.  It’s a neat trick that happens to work.  The washed out colors are also off-putting (in a good way) in and of themselves, and I’m sure they added some wiggle room come effects time.

With the atmosphere taken care of, Mategrano is free to go right for the payoff shots, which she does, but not at the cost of telling a complete story.  She still makes time for the setups and the character introductions, and it’s still important time.  Sure, it’s just a little under ten seconds’ of time, with a couple of quick scares inserted along the way, but as is the case with this film’s longer-winded predecessors, that intro work makes the payoff shots that much better. 

The payoffs start slowly.  The sudden discovery of a skeleton key; gorgeously filmed, taking under two seconds for a shot the normally needs to take most of a minute to be done right.  Then creepy people in the yard, and they’re genuinely creepy.  You might actually jump for the mirror shot, and while you’re recovering you may miss the “you’re not alone” shot, which just means that you’ll have to watch 30 Second Haunting at least twice.  The “that’s not natural” stutter motion crawling scene is incredibly well done, with a high quality that no one could reasonably have expected from a production with a budget that can literally be measured on a scale of “allowance money.”  (And it’s not even the best shot in the film!)  Did you check the window when the lights went out?  Might have to watch three times!  Almost a third of the runtime is taken up by the clips that make the final scene, but hot damn, the payoff is huge.  I won’t spoil what happens, but the effect is awesome, especially when you realize, again, that there’s no real budget at play here.  That’s worth another few viewings just for how cool it looks.

The smile as the credits roll is just icing on the cake.

But 30 Second Haunting is more than just camera tricks and well done post-prod.  It still comes down to people, and like any good scary movie, it lives and dies on the strength of the heroine.  Jennifer Holloway delivers, both as the normal suburban wife who moves into the house at the start and as the woman who can outscream most of the “final girls” of the Friday the 13th series from the mirror scene onward.  Indeed, much of what makes the final effects shot so great is what Holloway does to sell it.  Very, very nicely done.

Did I mention that she can scream?

Bottom line, if you’ve got time to sit through the fiftieth repetition of the same damn Visa ad you’ve been seeing all day, you’ve got time to spend better by watching 30 Second Haunting.  Not only is it a fun short film, but it’s also better than a lot of the full-length movies it’s lifting from in the first place.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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