Why would anyone work at a liquor store in the middle of the desert? These isolated locations have statistically higher rates of violent, cinematic crimes compared to real isolated locales. Either way, this is where filmmaker Filippo Savoia’s Modern Animals begins. This 10-minute short film opens with a stressed-out young man (Travis Nevin Tendler) immediately going into a verbal assault on an older woman (Beverly Crain) behind the counter, when she says about his soda, “Great choice. I love grape.” So much for a little friendly chit-chat. The stranger immediately starts into a diatribe about how the artificial sweeteners in soda lead to diabetes and to death.
The two quickly change the subject to a newspaper headline about the murder of a French tourist (Virginie Claude) not too far from their location. She feels sad for the young woman, and remarks about her youth and beauty. He goes on about the details of the tourist’s demise. He knows way too many facts, which doesn’t bode well for our liquor store clerk.
“The stranger immediately starts into a diatribe about how the artificial sweeteners in soda lead to diabetes and to death…”
Modern Animals is primarily a debate about the nature of being human. For the young man, death is a natural part of life, like breathing, while killing is just a means of survival. It’s in our base, primal nature. The woman, on the other hand, believes that the difference between humans and animals is that we don’t have to succumb to our animal instinct but can choose to be better, to be different.
Filippo Savoia has bundled together himself an excellent short. The production and visual qualities feel cinematic with a subtle noir style. He composes visually appealing shots from start to finish. It would be interesting to see Savoia push his shot composition even further in future films. The performances are a little stiff, but passable for a cast who is working to fill its IMDB profile. The edited dialog comes off a little awkward at times, which is usually a sign of heavy editing in dialogue (not a bad thing) or the need for more rehearsal from the leads.
In terms of story, Modern Animals starts as one of those talking movie, where the psychopath has a lot to say. Savoia’s short is no different, but he brilliantly reigns in the dialogue rather than allow its protagonist to pretentiously drone on ad nauseam. Though there is quite of bit of talking and pontificating, our short-fused man gets the point with the right amount of words. The ending is sure to please audiences who love tense thrillers.
Modern Animals (2019) Directed by Filippo Savoia. Written by Guillermo Noriego, Filippo Savoia. Starring Travis Nevin Tendler, Beverly Crain, Virginia Claude, Christopher Cotton.
7.5 out of 10 stars