Review: Carved (2015)

With traces of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Death Proof, and It Follows, Mary C. Russell’s shocker of a short film, Carved, is a must-see for horror fans who appreciate well-developed characters, a sharp and at times darkly humorous script, fast-paced editing, and gory special effects. In just over 11 minutes, Carved will have your adrenaline pumping and your thirst for blood satisfied with its grisly tale of demonic transference and murder.

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From the surprising exposition to the blood-soaked climax, director Russell tweaks what audiences have come to expect from a horror road movie. In the opening scene, a police officer escorts a handcuffed prisoner to an undisclosed location–only the prisoner manages to escape and attack the officer, forcing the lawman to shoot him. If that prologue sounds somewhat standard, just hold tight. From this point forward, Russell and co-writer Stephen Czerwinski’s smart script throws us wisely off balance. Before he dies, the prisoner transfers a supernatural entity into the cop just as a car full of rowdy young women passes by on the way to Las Vegas. This set-up leaves the audience questioning–to whom does this story belong? The dead convict, the newly-possessed police officer, or the group of women? The answer is not so simple…

A sudden encounter with the rogue cop places the women in the story in dire straits. As the demonic power transfers once again, who will become the next victim to its unyielding force? One of the most enjoyable aspects of Carved is the way in which the possessed characters take on the personality of the supernatural entity. Their language, mannerisms, and behavior all change as a result of this hostile takeover. Prior to their descent into chaos, the women all appear likeable, out for a good time. But as the film reaches its action-packed finale at an abandoned gas station, the clever dialogue and gritty, bloody violence reveal a manipulative demon who delights in forcing its victims to commit ghastly deeds.

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Helmed by Jennifer Balestracci and Melissa Whitman, the special effects in Carved are an absolute treat. Blood sprays, necks snap, and a handful of on-the-fly weapons (including a gas pump) are put to diabolical use. Even with the short running time of the film, the characters feel decidedly real, their lines of dialogue delivered crisply and with pathos. The highlight of the movie comes with the battle between Eboni (Angelica Chitwood) and Eden (Marissa Crisafulli), sisters who will fight tooth and nail to survive. Both Chitwood and Crisafulli embrace their roles to the hilt in a climax far more exciting than most of what audiences see today in commercial horror. When a skillful director and expert SFX artists merge their talents with those of an impressive cast, the end result is a fun, imaginative, and character-driven movie that fires on every cylinder.

I opened this review by referencing films that merge some of the themes present in Carved, but Mary C. Russell’s movie is its own beast, a horror short that delivers suspense, gore, and intelligent thought all in one explosive package. Along with the rest of the horror community, I anxiously await Russell’s next project, and I urge everyone out there to track down Carved and give it a watch. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating 10/10

Josh Hancock is the author of two epistolary horror novels, The Girls of October (2015) and The Devil and My Daughter (2016), both published by Burning Bulb Press. For reviews, book trailers, and convention appearances, please visit www.foundfootagefiction.com.

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