J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SIFF ’12: The Small Assassin (short)

Ray Bradbury is cool. His story of infant paranoia first hit the pulps in 1946, decades before Rosemary’s Baby and the subsequent raft of rip-offs. Though mostly likely not supernatural per se, it is definitely a tale of ominous dread, nicely captured in Chris Charles’ faithful short film adaptation of The Small Assassin (trailer here), which screens Monday as part of the 2012 Soho International Film Festival.

Alice Leiber had a rough delivery, culminating with a caesarian section. Exhausted, she is convinced her baby was deliberately trying to kill her. Dr. Jeffers warns her husband David she is still a bit overwrought, but assures him it will pass. Of course, her obsessive terror gets progressively worse instead. Yet, there are signs her fears just might be justified.

Again, it is important to emphasize Bradbury staked out this territory first. In fact, the smaller, more intimate scale of the Grand Master’s story is arguably more disconcerting than the satanic horror cranked out by Polanski imitators. Charles and cinematographer Kevin Moss give it an appropriately moody noir treatment that is rather stylish. Indeed, it is quite a handsome production, well appointed with rich post-war pre-Mad Men period detail.

While there might be more is-he-or-isn’t-he ambiguity in the original story, Charles still builds the suspense skillfully. Most importantly, he has a shrewd sense of what to show and what to leave unseen.

A festival circuit road warrior finally arriving in the City, Small Assassin is well crafted short-form dark thriller that effectively demonstrates the talents of Charles and his filmmaking collaborators, while highlighting the depth and diversity of Bradbury’s literary oeuvre. Recommended without reservation for genre audiences, Assassin screens before a feature this coming Monday (4/16) during the Soho Film Festival (at the Landmark Sunshine) and will be available to a wider national audience later this year through the Shorts International and IndieFlix distribution platforms.

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