Just Say Nooo!: ‘Contact’

It’s always impressive when a director can imbue silverware with horror.

Jeremiah Kipp’s stylish short Contact renders family drama and drug experimentation with the suspense and dread of a demonic possession film.

Contact packs two narratives into ten minutes. In the first, a dour older couple anxiously set the table for three, giving the placement of their cutlery as much attention as spoon-bender Criss Angel. Their expressions and the ominous score suggest preparations for a wake rather than a meal. The second narrative follows a young couple as they visit a drug dealer, score a crack-like substance, then trip, an experience that gives the woman horrific hallucinations (flesh-tearing is involved). The two stories join at the end.

Black and white cinematography, disorienting editing, and sparse dialogue lend the film the atmospheric, uncanny quality of a dream (or nightmare). Brief glimpses of other action interrupt both stories, and make it unclear which narrative unfolds first. Are we seeing flashbacks, foreshadowing, or the stages of a repetitive cycle that mirror the contours of substance abuse?

Kipp and cinematographer/editor Dominick Sivilli make the most of the black and white, widescreen format. Scenes are blocked beautifully; the camera tracks, tilts, bobs, rolls, and lingers; shots dissolve; and the silvery, high-contrast images at times approach abstraction. The cast matches the production. Zoe Daelman Chlanda excels as the young woman; despite uttering only a few words, and often in extreme close-up, she alternately conveys vulnerability, confidence, and abject fear.

Don’t think that because it makes drug use horrific, Contact is a polemic. Indeed, the sobering moral of the film seems to be this: contact (sexual, psychological, familial) is the ultimate drug—longed for, dreaded, indulged in, and regretted like any addictive substance. Judge for yourself; you can watch Contact online.

Contact won Kipp directing duties for feature film The Sadist, due out in 2011. Sivilli again handles editing and photography. Fans take note: this one’s in full color, and features a pitchfork-wielding psycho (Tom Savini) suffering from post–traumatic stress disorder.

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