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Default That Little Monster



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: December 12, 2002

Released by: Elite
Release date: 7/30/2003
MSRP: $9.99
Region 0, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1



inline ImageSurrealism has been a longstanding style of filmmaking ever since the 1920's. The German expressionalist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu kick started a surrealist style that would be later embraced by such visionaries as Luis Buñuel and David Lynch. Paul Bunnell, who began short filmmaking in 1981 with The Visitant, is also a visual surrealist, although he has largely drifted under the radar of popular recognition. Now, thanks to Elite Entertainment, two of his largely unseen surrealist films, That Little Monster and The Visitant have finally been given a single special edition DVD. Let's take a look.

The Story

inline ImageJamie (Melissa Baum) is applying for a babysitting job on a distant planet in the far future. She first meets a comedian named Twelvetrees (Reggie Bannister) who then introduces her to the baby's parents (and a few bad jokes along the way). The youngster's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Willock (Andi Wennings and William Mills) warn her that their baby is a "little monster", but Jamie assures them that she's dealt with bad kids before…however, she was not prepared for the mayhem that would follow.

inline Image The parents leave, and Jamie passes time at their home. She gets the baby formula ready to give to little Willock, but upon seeing the kid, she learns that he literally is a hideous monster. The baby refuses to eat the formula, and gets slightly angry. He escapes out of his crib, and goes after Jamie in retaliation. Will Jamie live, or does that little monster get his revenge?

inline ImageThat Little Monster is a stellar example of style and surrealism. Director Paul Bunnell has a real flair for visuals, and the film is full of lush black and white photography, with obscure camera angles and lengthy steadicam shots. This is a movie not about a story, but about its exposition; more like an exercise in how to tell a story, rather than telling the story itself. The film is designed to parallel the older Universal films of the 30's, with even an introduction in the same vein as Frankenstein. Title cards are listed between chapters to give the film an authentic and dated feel.

inline ImageThe story may be slight, but its presentation is truly accomplished and masterful. In a time when quick cut editing and conventional aesthetic presentations have become the norm, That Little Monster is a refreshing cinematic experience. Bunnell is a dazzling visionary, and the pictures of his film speak for themselves. Don't miss this little seen gem!


Image Quality

That Little Monster is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, and it looks solid. There is consistent grain and specks through the film, but given that the aesthetic style of the film was meant to resemble the older horror films of the past, it suits the film nicely. The film is fairly sharp, and the black and white photography is reproduced accurately. Solid work here by Elite.

Sound

The soundtrack is presented in a Dolby Stereo track, and it serves the film just fine. There are some nice left and right directional effects, and everything sounds clear and understandable. There are some great little surrealist sounds in the film, and this track presents them accurately and effectively.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageElite has given this film a treasure of nice little supplements. Most substantially is a commentary with Paul Bunnell and editor/producer Carl Mastromarino. They are very vocal throughout, and they reveal tons of interesting information about the film and its production. They mention Reggie Bannister's involvement, inspirations for many of the visual shots (including The Shining) as well as what they dislike about the film. This is a very solid track that gives a great background into this intriguing film.


inline ImageAlso included is Bunnell's great first short feature, The Visitant. Running a scant 20 minutes, this film is even better than That Little Monster. The story entails a man visiting a cemetery to mourn the loss of his son, but he soon enters a world of surreal horror. Is all this really happening, or is it just a horrible nightmare? The footage is in weak shape, but gives the film that early 80's feel. Although the acclaimed That Little Monster proceeded The Visitant by a lucky thirteen years, The Visitant is arguably the better film.

inline ImageLast up, we have an 11-minute interview with Paul Bunnell on "The Best List". Bunnell is full of life (maybe too much life) and he yuks it up for most of the interview. There is a funny reference to That Little Monster being "the Heaven's Gate of 16mm" but otherwise this is basically a fluff piece.



Final Thoughts

That Little Monster is a visually stylish and dreamlike experience. This is a film where the style outclasses the content. The audio and visual transfers are good, but the supplements are even better. The Visitant, also included on this disc, is a great little short film that really deserves a look. For only $19.95, this is a recommended purchase for fans of the obscure and of short films.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - B+


Technical Info.
  • Black & White
  • Running time - 56 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby stereo

Supplements
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Bunnell and Editor/Producer Cal Mastromarino
  • Bunnell's first short film, The Visitant
  • "The Best List" interview with Paul Bunnell

Other Pictures

 

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