Albert (Martin Pfefferkorn) has a nasty habit of freaking his wife (Jeannie Kempa) out by pretending to die. Whenever possible, he seems to put his wife through the emotional ringer for a dark laugh or two. When she asks him to help her with a chore in the yard, however, his attempts at tragic comedy may have finally met up with the inevitable reality.
Stefan Fernandez’s short film, Play Dead, Grandpa, is mostly a one-note affair, but the creepy, circus-friendly musical score and aesthetic, coupled with the memorable look of its actors, elevates it. It’s a darkly comic “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” starring an elderly couple, and it lives and dies (no pun intended) by that scenario.
There is some unexpected suspense for the audience, as we’re never entirely sure if Albert’s seemingly last death act is real or not. The short easily could’ve gone either way, giving us a dead Albert or ending with a live one laughing at us, and it would’ve worked. So there’s something to be said for crafting that level of uncertainty in the audience amid an illusion of predictability.
I do think it goes on a little long, even for just under eight minutes, but that’s a small gripe. Basically feels like it lingers too long with its middle montage, and affected laughter, but it works within the deliberate pacing the film establishes. Thus it isn’t boring, just perhaps too much of an awkward thing.
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