★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
Directed by Paul Christian Glenn.
Memories. Moments in time that are etched into our brains allowing us to revisit them again and again. We collect them, savor them, and share them with others as we live our lives and then…?
First time writer/director/editor/everything Paul Christian Glenn leaps into the independent filmmaking fray with his short film, Ens Rationis (2019). With its roughly 15 minute runtime, Ens Rationis envisions an alternate use for memories; past experiences of a person’s life being used as a kind of currency. Or bartering for services rendered might be a better way to look at it.
When the film starts we catch up to Vivian Gladwell [Janell Wolford] who’s on her way to a secluded hotel out in the middle of nowhere to meet with a man for reasons even she doesn’t fully understand. What she does understand is the threat this man made against her family should she fail to keep this mysterious meeting, so here she is.
When the man [Charles Schlussel] shows up in his tattered suit, his eyes obscured by a roiling blackness as he drags an old wooden box behind him, it becomes clear that this isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill kind of meeting. Rune stones are arranged, discussion ensues, and both are dramatically changed by the encounter.
To be honest, once I started looking into the nuts and bolts of Ens Rationis and discovered that it was reportedly made for about $1000, I was surprised. Granted, we’re only talking about 15 minutes of film here, but I’ve seen directors do a lot less with a lot more. The special effects are minimal, of course, but they’re convincing and well done. This is obviously a director who already knows how to set his expectations according to his budget. And, in the low-to-micro-budget indie arena, that’s a skill that’ll serve him well going forward.
When you don’t have the budget for effects, you have to rely on your story to keep the audience interested and Ens Rationis scores here, too. Obviously, we’re still only talking about 15 minutes here so there are tons of unanswered questions swirling about. In cases like this, it’s the skill of the writer that determines how the audience feels about those questions; there can be a fine line between piqued curiosity and insanely irritated. Glenn deftly walks that line and leaves the audience wanting to know more. Especially about Charles Schlussel’s character, “The Blank Man.”
Acting-wise, it’s pretty standard for a film full of newbies. The dialog seemed a bit forced or stilted at times, but not so bad that you’d want to poke your eyes out so that was good. And the Blank Man’s distorted voice was distracting at first. I was glad I could watch the film twice so I could make sure I hadn’t missed anything he’d said while I was imagining him singing lead for Cannibal Corpse.
Overall, though, Ens Rationis is a great first effort and well worth seeing if you have the chance. “But, Robert,” you say. “We don’t know where it’s playing!” Fear not, Scariest Readers! All shall be revealed in… well.. just like a couple lines farther down.
Also, a big thanks to producer Patience Glenn for bringing this fun little film to our attention and giving us a sneak peek!
Ens Rationis is still dashing around on the festival circuit. Here are the next few places you’ll be able to catch up to it:
- The Scarefest XII Film Festival (September 14, 2019)
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
- Widescreen Film Festival (September 26, 2019)
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
- Northern Frights Horror Festival (October 19, 2019)
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
- H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival (October 4th-6th, 2019)
Portland, Oregon, USA
Review by Robert Zilbauer.