Dark Vessel (2012)

Description (from the IMDb):
A hopeless romantic is caught trespassing while trying to woo a girl. Problems occur when the girl’s father forces him to remove a dead man’s shadow. Tragically, the romantic becomes a vessel of death.

Major Cast:
Ed Mace, Tim Simmons

Special Features:
None (Online Screener)

Written and Directed by Rocky Curby

I love it when a movie does things I don’t expect it to.  Whether it’s an unexpected plot twist, or some new interesting camera angle, or some stylistic choice I had not seen before, it doesn’t really matter what it is; if a movie does something new it gets automatic props from me.  That doesn’t always make the movie good, but at least it gets my attention and that’s a good start.  Rocky Curby’s short animated film, DARK VESSEL, does multiple things that get my attention… and it’s good too!

The robot was gone, but his shadow remains

DV is a revenge film presented in some really unique ways.  First, it’s animated, and it’s starring robots… that happen to have gore inside.  Secondly, it is a revenge story with a dark soul exiting its body to revenge its murder (not all that original), but it jumps not into the body of its new host, but into its shadow (now that I have not seen before)!  Finally, DV is actually able to build some decent plot and character development even though it is just barely longer than 5 ½ minutes long, and that is a very impressive feat.

Stylistically, I loved DV.  It is filled with play on light and shadow, and the colors are beautifully selected and rendered.  DV is just a pretty flick to watch, even when you’re watching entrails spilling from a robot!  The film is presented in alternating palettes of hot and cold, which keeps the visuals fresh throughout.  The design of the robotic characters are very cartoony and almost seem juvenile, until the subject matter and violence establish DV as definitely NOT a children’s film!  This juxtaposition of childish and adult adds another layer to the film that I really enjoyed; it is really surprising to see the level of violence – presented with full-on horror movie gore – with such “cute” characters.

Robogore!

I was also very impressed with how much plot, background story, and character is built into this less than six-minute film.  Sure, there’s not really a character arc to speak of, and we don’t get the whole back story of what happened to get everything to the point presented in the beginning of DV, but Curby does give you just enough to get a good understanding of that history, and to make the characters have some emotional resonance.  It is hard to do that in a long film, but all the more impressive to establish that feeling in such a short film.

DV had some drawbacks to it as well.  The sound design was pretty good, but also felt pretty generic, as if a lot of “stock sounds” were implemented in the foley.  The voice acting was again pretty good, but the Father character really came off as laughably gruff in his presentation, and I didn’t feel that DV was supposed to be funny (other than the occasional sight gag).  The animation was really good for the most part, but like the sound there were some bits that came off as very stock, for example: the fire.  DV has a very strong style sensibility built in, and the fire effects are just very plain and normal, and did not really fit that style.  However, all of these faults are very minor in comparison to all of the things DV does right.

Even robots need a cemetery…

Overall, I really enjoyed DV.  It was a great story, presented in a really compact way that didn’t waste any time.  The revenge was brought about in a fresh way, and the images presented were very original in their own right.  I can see that Curby has a great level of talent, and with how much he was able to do in five minutes, I’d love to see what he could do in a more expansive film.

Overall 8 / 10

DV on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2296705/

DV is not for sale.

DV does not appear to have a site.

Dark Vessel (2012)
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