For first time directors, making a short film is the perfect way to get your feet wet and not allow the overwhelming responsibilities associated with a feature film to
Parlour Tricks is the directorial debut of Canadian Scream Queen Tristan Risk. It’s a simple comedic/horror sketch about a grieving family seeking the services of a medium to contact their Aunt Esther on the one-year anniversary of her death. Esther’s nephew (Tyler James Nicol) and two nieces (Mandy and Shawna Mauchline) hope to contact their aunt in the hope of finding clarity regarding her final wishes.
The medium Aleister Crane (Sean Covernton) is more than happy to oblige the family and bridge the gap to the spirit world. All he needs is a small fee, as a personal item from Esther (the collar from her precious pooch), and Crane’s Ouija board.
Parlour Tricks is your basic comedy sketch. There are hundreds of sketches like this on YouTube. Does it stand out from the crowd? It does, and it doesn’t. The open is pretty basic. Four over-the-top characters establish the sketch’s who, what, and why, but the film’s how (the actual events that propel the story) shows enough cleverness to make the short worth watching. And it ends with a nice little punchline. As far as comedy sketches go, it’s above average.
“…a grieving family seeking the services of a medium to contact their aunt…”
As mentioned before, shorts are a great start for one’s directing career, and Tristan Risk does an admirable job pulling the pieces together to produce a professional short film. The production values are good enough to pass the set off as a creepy séance parlor from the 1800’s.
While the grieving family is what you’d expect for a comedy sketch, Covernton’s portrayal as Aleister Crane the medium is the highlight of the sketch. He sets a nice balance between the haunting and comedic. His eyes have the perfect glow in this black-and-white film.
I’ll end with a super-nitpicky comment. The sketch is rendered in black-and-white and takes place in the late 1800’s. It’s also shot with digital cameras so the image is crisp and clean. The images for the time period really should be softened and look old. No big deal, but worth mentioning.
Clearly competent, especially from a production standpoint, I look forward to Risk’s next project.
Parlour Tricks (2018) Written and directed by Tristan Risk. Starring Sean Covernton, Tyler James Nicol, Mandy Mauchline, Shawna Mauchline.
7 out of 10 stars