Dark Romance (2013) – By Cary Conley

Tim Cooper (Timothy J. Cox) is a veteran advertising executive with a kind heart. He works with Cam (Cameron Rankin) who is a young, up-and-coming ad exec with a bit of a snobby attitude. Tim and Cam share a sweet, innocent secretary named Tiffany (Tiffany Browne-Tavarez) who has an obvious crush on Tim. Soon Tim begins to receive cards and flowers from a secret admirer. As Tim and Cam puzzle over exactly who this secret admirer may be, the gifts take a dark turn with a mysterious package sent to Tim that contains a finger and a snippet of prose from Shakespeare. Tim is obviously upset by the turn of events but Cam tells him to forget about it and move on. But while Cam is able to brush off this weird event and leave the office, Tim stays late to ponder this latest "gift" and try to pull himself together. He asks Tiffany to brew some fresh coffee before she leaves the office but she spikes the drink with a drug so she can unveil her master plan after hours at the office.

According to IMDb, this is writer/director Matthew Mohler’s first filmmaking foray, done for $500 for the 48 Hour Film Project. Mohler seems to be a proficient film director, even including some unique and interesting film angles and shots. One particular example is a shot from inside the bottom of a manila envelope supposedly containing the severed appendage. While the shot isn’t difficult–just remove the bottom of a manila envelope and attach it to the camera, then have the actors look down towards the camera–it is a unique shot that focuses the attention on the character’s shocked expressions as they view the contents of the envelope. Another nice shot occurs when Tim is stressing over the mysterious envelope. Mohler begins the shot off-kilter and slowly tilts the camera from one side to the other. The net effect is similar to a boat rolling in the ocean and really helps the viewer to understand Tim’s feelings of anxiousness. The actors are all solid as well, with veteran Timothy J. Cox leading the way as the older man with an unwanted admirer.

The major flaw in this 8-minute short is in the writing (co-written by Ross Mahler). From the opening scene it is clear that Tiffany is head-over-heels in love with Tim, so the identity of the secret admirer is never really hidden from us, removing any potential mystery from this plot point. In fact, it’s so obvious that Tiffany is the admirer it was hard for me to identify with Tim and Cam as they attempted to solve the mystery of the secret admirer. I was also disappointed in Cam’s reaction to the discovery of the severed digit contained within the envelope. While Tim was genuinely shocked, Cam’s reaction was quite blasé, a very unrealistic reaction in my opinion. At this point any reasonable person would contact the police, but neither of the men do so; Tim just sits in anguish at his desk while Cam insists he should just ignore the finger.

Aside from a couple of plot inconsistencies I enjoyed the film, and I particularly enjoyed the hilarious and inspired closing line by Cam. It’s tongue-in-cheek and decidedly black humor, but it’s a classic line and the film is worth watching simply for this final remark.

Dark Romance has just been released online. For more information about the film, the IMDb site is http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2986682 and to view the film go to http://vimeo.com/67556332.