Based on the striking opening images of the new short film How Far, it is easy for the viewer to fall under the quick belief that they are about to be subjected to horrific, gratuitous punishment, typically found in the “Torture Porn” sub-genre.
In a dimly lit room, we are exposed to a beautiful young female, tied up, silenced with duct tape and deafened by gigantic head phones, moments before the title screen appears, breaking the tension and giving the viewer a moment to prepare for the worst. How Far‘s co-directors Jacqueline & Nicole Real (a.k.a The Real Sisters), soon prove they can satisfy even the heaviest thriller fan without the need for gore or torture, executing their premise with masterful technique, performances and maturity. With the familiar ring of a cell phone to end the title screen, the audience is thrust straight into a dizzying Gasper Noe-esque nightmare circa Irreversible, never allowing the tension to ease or break. This is exactly why How Far is a short film worth seeking in the upcoming months.
Without giving too much away, the plot centers around a young man, who awakens on the damp, cold sidewalk in Astoria with a mysterious bag and cell phone. Upon answering that dreaded familiar ringtone, an ominous voice commands our protagonists to accomplish various cringe-worthy tasks in order to retrieve his finance in one piece. Needless to say, things escalate rather quickly and by clocking in at barely thirteen minutes, the viewer feels a white-knuckle tension similar to the exact moment the two characters approach the Sawyer home in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
We’ve seen the plot before, executed in various manners, yet The Real Sisters seem to be more focused on unrelenting suspense rather than giving anything away too soon, or at all. According to co-director, producer and lead actress Jacqueline, the entire process of putting the film together took about three years, beginning by executing a first cut, raising money and eventually creating what is now known as How Far. The Real Sisters are a dream team when it comes to professionalism and style. Nicole, having worked in the industry for nearly fifteen years has trained her sister undoubtably, and through extremely guided direction, yanked a staggeringly incredible performance from her. Between the performances, the skillful editing and sound design as well as the ambitious production design, which resembles a mixture of Ken Russell, Nicolas Windn-Refn and Kenneth Anger, How Far is much welcomed addition to the thriller genre.
Regarding performing in front of her own sister, Jacqueline claims that she in fact had no desire to be in the film, yet behind the scenes instead, but persuasion works wonders. “I really wanted to try out fully being behind the camera,” Jacqueline states, “but when we were talking about what the character of “Alex” had to do, my sister was like, you need to do it! We really want to start exploring female archetypes that are against the status quo for females in this industry. Is she an innocent victim? What secrets is she hiding?”
It seems that the idea for How Far may have come from an inner aggravation in which both sisters, if not a majority of aspiring actresses feel regarding the industry they are hoping to break into. “The idea really came about sitting on a bed in LA. I was really struggling with the non creative feel I was getting into LA at that point, as an actress. Feeling let down by the ‘oh and you can act!’ moments in auditions because at the end of the day they really just wanted to see what I looked like in a bikini.”
Though the theme of the film and the idea that came to fruition are two separate entities, it would be obvious to any viewer that the abrasive and confrontational attitude the film provides, is a certain middle finger to the mostly male-run industry. In the end, we happen to witness our protagonist, a seemingly hesitant and frail male break down, while the female becomes stronger and stronger. It is a refreshing change in a genre which has been so tirelessly played out. The power in which the Sisters are able to capture within How Far is something memorizing, for in just thirteen minutes, you find yourself biting your nails, sweating with anxiety and we can only hope they decide to utilize their talent for a feature one day.
How Far will screen at the New York Short Film Festival as part of the Block 9 programming line up on Sunday night on November 6. Details here.