A Shining Example (Fantastic Fest 2023)
Dir. Clarke Wolfe (2023)
A young woman struggling to write a screenplay finds herself drifting into madness.
Writer/director Clarke Wolfe, who most recently had an acting role in Malum, brings us this new short film about a woman, Aiden (Wolfe herself), who is struggling to balance her motherly role with her efforts at completing a screenplay. Burdened by a less-than-supportive husband, Jeff (Andy Cohen), who places his career aspirations (and seeming lack of desire to be a father) above her own, she begins to experience visions of her ungrateful family meeting a violent end. Hearkening back to its Kubrickian forebearer, Aiden is heading towards a breakdown, one in which her victims may very well deserve their fates.
A Shining Example is a pitch-perfect display of what a short film should be. It's concise, darkly humorous, and excellently acted, containing a barebones cast and some gorgeous set pieces that help deliver the film's message in just fifteen minutes (including credits). There are no scenes that don't belong, no scenes that beg to be included, and while I could easily see the film's plot stretched to feature length, it certainly doesn't need to be and never overstays its welcome here. Wolfe is excellent as the star of the short and phenomenal as its director, and she and co-writer Dylan Guerra have left it all on the field.
I was also incredibly impressed by the quality of the film itself. It's rare to find shorts with such high production values anymore, and it reminds me a good bit of the Daywalt Horror shorts that dominated the Youtube horror community years back. Now that everything can be shot with an iPhone, which also happens to be in the pockets of everyone from toddlers to older adults, it's so easy to shoot a film and feel like you're suddenly an auteur. Wolfe shows that it's still possible to direct a short with teeth and something to say, and she does a fantastic job in every facet of this film.
Who this movie is for: Short horror fans, True crime fanatics, Working mothers
Bottom line: A short short that hits to perfection, A Shining Example is just that: a near-perfect example of what a horror short film should be. Writers Wolfe and Guerra are excellent and Wolfe is flawless in her direction, crafting a short that is one of the best I've seen in quite a while. It's premiering at Fantastic Fest this week and is one that will hopefully make its way to more viewers outside of the festival. Check this one out with a quickness.