A man (Luke Banham) returns home to his mother (Nancy Snyder) and sister (Riley Bratzler). The homecoming is awkward and terse, as the man has other business than just visiting, and his family is aware of what’s to come. The man opens the trunk of his car to reveal that he has returned home with a captive (Mark Roeder), who he drags to a building and ties to a chair. As the man prepares to deal with his captive, he watches old video of himself in Little League, when he was known as the “Home Run King,” both for his batting prowess and the fact that he wrote the moniker on his favorite bat. As the video plays on, we begin to understand who he has kidnapped (or thinks he has kidnapped), and the twisted and uncomfortable reasons why.
Home Run King is a disturbing short film that abounds with moral and narrative ambiguity. Just exactly who it was that was kidnapped may have an awful answer, as may the reasons for the kidnapping, but a camera move in the final shot of the short reveals that there’s far more to this story than just revenge. That, taken with a contemplation of the rest of the short, could garner a second watch, though I should warn you that the film doesn’t get any easier to sit through.
The film goes for a very orange-and-yellow, grindhouse-friendly color palette for its exterior shots, which gives an added level of dustiness to the proceedings, in case the wasteland look of the environment didn’t sell you on it enough. For the most part it has that blown-out brightness that sometimes comes from poor camera equipment (or operators), but in this case seems to be borne of the aesthetic choice. Oddly enough, the vastness of the blown-out landscape gives a sense of dread and calm; dread because you know that anything that happens out there will go unnoticed, but calm in that, well, what could really happen in the middle of nowhere?
So the aesthetic choices work, as does the film’s reliance on the aforementioned ambiguity. Often, right before something is about to become explicitly clear, for better or worse, the film cuts away. This goes for the video footage that our lead watches as well as for the violence that is to come. We only get slight hints of how the dots connect, and we’re left to do the work ourselves, which in some cases could be deemed lazy storytelling but in this case succeeds in allowing our minds to imagine things as far worse than what we may actually see.
Overall, this is not a pleasant short to experience by any means. It’s sometimes hard to tell whether it’s mean-spirited or just that there’s no other way to tell the story it’s trying to tell without getting fairly dark. I’m willing to believe that it’s shining a light on those dark places moreso than reveling in or celebrating them, however. These are not necessarily criticisms to the quality of the film, only to point out that the film is not an easy watch for an unprepared audience.
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