The length of a short film is both its greatest asset and biggest obstacle. The positive of the brief runtime is that the movie, by necessity, is lean and only has scenes that are 100% required to tell the story at hand. The issue is that contextual scenes for either story cohesion or characterizations are either cut or merely non-existent to meet that length, thus leaving a story feeling incomplete. Unlike a longer narrative, a short doesn’t have the time to make up for these flaws further in its story, be it through other strong aspects, or redressing the original plot hole or lack of character arc.
Carlos Omar De Leon’s Killer Date is the latter kind of short film. Mike (Jonnie Stapleton) and Abby (Desire Jansen) start talking to each other on a dating website. Now they are meeting in a local coffee shop for their first date. It goes well, and Abby invites Mike back to her place for a nightcap. He accepts and once there, she pours the wine, he takes a drink and blacks out. Then, well, the title says it all, doesn’t it?
“…Abby invites Mike back to her place…once there, she pours the wine, he takes a drink and blacks out.”
Stapleton and Jansen, with the only two speaking roles in the movie, are acceptable, if unremarkable. The biggest hindrance for them is an absolute lack of chemistry. Their flirtatious remarks and small gestures come off more as acting than a couple genuinely clicking on a first date. This kills the story, as the audience doesn’t get what they see in each other or buy that they are having such a good time it needs to continue into the wee hours of the morning.
At slightly under 6 minutes, Killer Date finds the time to insert a conversation/dating montage, wherein music plays over the conversation the two leads are having, and the scenes fade in and out to show the passage of time. This is distracting and cheap, given the runtime. It robs the audience of learning anything about the characters. De Leon’s script, co-written by Vorasine Vince Phrommany, continually undercuts any point the movie might be working towards.
That issue is most readily apparent in the opening of the movie. Mike is writing a blog (presumably) discussing how easy hooking up online can be before Abby arrives. He then lies to Abby about this being his first time meeting someone from a dating site. Kudos for applying more logic than the two screenwriters and assuming this would be the basis for Abby’s turn near the end. But, no, this duplicity is never mentioned or brought up again. The audience’s introduction to him is that he’s a jerk, and the lasting impression of Abby is that she’s insane. Since that is literally the only thing known about them, the audience isn’t invested in their fate or understand why they are acting in such ways.
“…feels like an homage to American Mary…”
As a director, De Leon has a solid eye for symmetry but fails to infuse any semblance of atmosphere, tension, or even fun into the proceedings. Killer Date looks fine, if unremarkable. Also, the way the ending scene plays out feels like an homage to American Mary, a much more engrossing horror film from the Soska sisters. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but it certainly shares visual cues and lighting.
Killer Date isn’t long enough for the audience to empathize with either Mike or Abby. Since the writing doesn’t give either of them any good traits, the story proceeds without any engagement or dread. Scenes simply play out, and the audience has no reason to engage with what’s happening on screen. The directing and acting are both fine if forgettable, which sums up the movie perfectly- inoffensive but pointless and bland.
Killer Date (2018) Directed by Carlos Omar De Leon. Written by Carlos Omar De Leon, Vorasine Vince Phrommany. Starring Jonnie Stapleton, Desire Jansen.
4 Gummi Bears (out of 10)