This self-produced promotional DVD gathers four short films by British auteur Thomas Lee Rutter (also behind feature movies such as MR BLADES and FULL MOON MASSACRE) onto a single disc.

First up is the well-shot monochrome effort A CHILD'S TOY from 2007.

Anything with toys acquiring a life of their own is creepy in concept (well, it is to me). And this is no exception, as a wind-up toys springs into life and - despite literally losing its head - begins to make its way awkwardly through a house at night.

According to the DVD's back cover, the target of the toy's intentions is the unborn baby residing in a pregnant woman's stomach. However, unfortunately this test disc kept referring me back to the main menu after 3 minutes of build-up. Which is a shame, as this 7-minute short showed enormous promise in its first half. Think: early David Lynch.

The black-and-white photography was well lit and imaginatively shot, editing was executed with an eye towards maximum eeriness and the sound design was particularly successful in being extremely unsettling. From what little I saw, it was a strong short film, sans dialogue but really well-made.

Next up is the 12-minute SHOE. Apparently conceived originally as part of an intended 5-part anthology known as "The Vivid Kingdom", this 2009 effort is more surreal in its unfurling.

Still, SHOE benefits from nicely composed shots and a highly cinematic style - both visually and sonically. Indeed, the sound design was something I kept noting throughout all of these four films.

In SHOE, a man loses an item of footwear and sets about trying to find it. Whether or not he's successful isn't the point: this is an examination of the awkward silences that blight our everyday lives in a modern world where social aptitude has all but been thrown to the wind. Knowing a fair few people who are either ignorant or such slaves to the internet that they no longer know how to properly converse, the theme is one that I can relate to.

Rutter handles it with imagination and, best of all, a wry sense of humour. Although SHOE doesn't play as blatantly to the horror crowd as A CHILD'S TOY appeared to, it still jars with unnerving audio and references to raw, bloody meat that are clearly designed to disturb.

Whether it's general oddness (a girl with smudged make-up crawling around a living room on all fours for no obvious reason) and limited use of dialogue will appeal to all tastes is questionable. But I appreciated it for its intelligent attempt at tackling a contemporary social issue in a novel manner. It was written by Bobby Parker.

The third short on offer is the 21-minute OUTSIDE, also from 2009.

This places an out-of-work Russian writer in the heart of recession-hit England. His landlady looks rock hard and reminds him on his way out of the door one morning that he's a month behind on the rent - it's not enough anymore for him to promise to dedicate his unfinished novel to her.

So, he sets out in search of work and/or inspiration ... and is subjected to a true reflection of how run-down this country has become (shops closed down; struggling market stalls; graffiti-plagued scenery; violence in society's crannies).

It doesn't bode well for the would-be writer, as the prospect of homelessness lures ever closer for him...

OUTSIDE employs handheld footage well to create a claustrophobic Hell on Earth for the Russian neurotic, and exposes our land as a violent, unwelcoming one without ever forcing the point. Designed to be repetitive and bleak, the routine which leads to an inevitable conclusion reminded me at times of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. But, with an amateur cast and zero budget, this was never going to hit as hard.

It is well-shot once again though, and is perfectly watchable if somewhat flawed dramatically.

Finally, we get 2010's THE CATALYST.

Narrated by a child over soft spooky music, we're introduced to Jerome - a young artist whose paintings mean the world to him but nothing to anyone else. Following advice given by an older arts dealer, Jerome sets out to produce a work of art with true meaning behind it...

Mostly devoid of dialogue aside from the narration, THE CATALYST is another experimental short from the clearly ambitious Rutter (he cites his all-time favourite film as being EL TOPO). It looks grittier than the preceding three films and, along with A CHILD'S TOY, is the darkest film conceptually here.

It's very good, albeit very low budget and rough around the edges as a result.

The disc here is a self-produced one with black-and-white cover art.

Beyond a static main menu page, the first three films are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Considering the low budget origins of the films and the fact that this is not a professional release, they are mastered well and picture quality is strong throughout.

THE CATALYST is presented in full-frame and is a tad soft (seemingly shot on film, as opposed to digital like the others?). It still looks fine though, and colours are fine through all four efforts.

Likewise, the English 2.0 audio provided on the disc is good throughout.

Recommended for those looking to try out something different, impressed with surreal circumstances and haunting images executed on a budget.

For more information, check out www.myspace.com/britsploitationfilms.

Review by Stuart Willis

Directed by Thomas Lee Rutter
Not Rated
Extras :
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