"We serve a God of second chances." Does that sound familiar? It's from the bible story of Jonah and the Whale, which is the primary inspiration for this short film "The Screaming Worm of Tarshish" by filmmaker James Ristas. The film opens innocently enough with a man screaming that the end is coming while wearing the required body card and gesturing wildly to anyone who will listen. As it turns out, the man, Jonas, is just an actor preparing for his role, but soon enough, that won't really be the case.
Jonas is thrown over a bridge and, after floating around for three days, arrives at his destination, and at the same point, Ristas movie takes a turn of the classic kind. Black and white, constant backing score, and title cards in place of regular dialog. "The Screaming Worm of Tarshish" is an exercise in experimental and old-school filmmaking. There are color segments at the start and end, but mainly, this film is designed to look like it came out in the twenties or thirties. It's an interesting hybrid using an old-style look with modern (semi) props and surroundings. I can't say for sure how accurate Ristas' film is compared to the source material, but I assume it hits all the right notes. This is an odd film full of imagery, symbolism, and an oddly creepy rotary phone. Was it worth my time? Absolutely. This may not be the cat's meow of the low-budget film world, but it's definitely not without its awkward charms.
At only around twenty minutes, "The Screaming Worm of Tarshish" never overstays its welcome, which in my opinion, was a good call. The film starts up by hooking you with its unusual style, tells its story, and is done just as your second cup of coffee is down the hatch. I wish I could write more about the acting but honestly? There's a lot of flapping around, over-the-top portrayals, and title cards, so forming an opinion is a little complicated. But it all works in the end, and that's important. What I can say is that I loved the over-exaggerated flailing and flapping around, especially from Jonas himself. It added an extra layer to the old-time visuals of the film. There's hardly a scene where he isn't madly strutting about arms a-flap, and I loved every gesture. Style and style and style - that's what this movie is all about.
That about sums things up. "The Screaming Worm of Tarshish" is a slightly unusual short film that wears its style on its sleeve. Some may politely pass, but it's their loss, really. Filmmaker James Ristas reminded me that art really does come in many forms, and this particular film was an interesting but overall delightful experience. Three stars.