Todd Densmore’s Cardinal is the origin story of a serial killer. Peter (Andrew Bryce) is a hopeful young fellow who struggles to keep it together after the passing of his mother (Anne Glenn). Imprinted in his memory is the story she tells him of his late father killing a person…accidentally. Now that mom is dead, visions of her haunt and goad him to succumb to his violent urges.
The short film spends most of its time focusing on Peter’s victims. In fact, the short opens with his first, Charlie (Emma Norville), though we don’t know it until…well, you know. From here, Peter’s story jumps frequently and fast between the past and present, and then the narrative chooses to follow a few more potential victims.
These shifting stories are my issue with Cardinal. From start to finish, we’re focusing on one character, then it shifts to Peter, then to another, then back to Peter, and then add a flashback here and there. I know that this is intentional on writer/director Todd Densmore’s part, and as much as I appreciate this unique approach, it wound up being confusing. Honestly, I was continually replaying parts of the short just to figure out what may have I missed.
“Now that mom is dead, she haunts and goads him to succumb to his violent urges.”
What I appreciate about Cardinal are some of the set pieces featuring Peter’s “hunt.” My favorite was Peter stalking an unsuspecting gentleman home, and then planning his…well, you know. But then it jumps to the great outdoors with unsuspecting hikers Laura (Brielle Costello) and Dan (Hubbard Farr). Dan and Laura have a long conversation (that we eavesdrop on), which seems inconsequential to the end. I’m sure there’s a meaning to it, but I couldn’t figure it out straight away.
The story is my only real problem with the film. The acting is superb. The supporting characters are grounded and believable, even considering they are supposed to be “unsuspecting.” Andrew Bryce is excellent as Peter. He has a very creepy/not creepy look to him, which is precisely what a serial killer should look like. Densmore is able to effectively create both creepy and tense moments throughout the film.
Stepping back and seeing the big picture, Cardinal tells an intriguing story about Peter. But the “chapters” of that story feel disjointed and confusing at times. I think Cardinal would have been a much better story with a few rewrites to the final script.
"…effectively create both creepy and tense moments..."