Short of the Week

Pencilface

A girl finds a mysterious oversized pencil with a creepy grin that can bring anything she draws to life. What can go wrong?

There are well made shorts that can stick in your mind for days, but much rarer is a short that is so God damn creepy it will burrow deep into your mammalian brain and lurk there for years, waiting to creep you out whenever it flits across your conscious mind; Christian Simmons’ Pencilface is the unequivocal poster child of such a short, and a film that in the couple  of years since my first viewing has lost none of its power to unnerve.

A girl plays bored in the scrub grass of some unknown, nowhere place until she meets Pencilface, a giant yellow pencil with the ability to transform drawings into reality. The girl takes advantage of Pencilface’s unique ability until she falls victim to her own desires.

This description whilst wholly accurate, gets no where near conveying just how unsettling a piece of filmmaking Pencilface is. Where filmmakers looking to disturb regularly take us into worlds of shadows and the dead of night, Simmons does the exact opposite, keeping things out in the open under a sunny afternoon sky. There are no jump moments to artificially raise the heart rate and pump us full of adrenaline. Rather in keeping with the tone of a morality tale, things go bad for the girl as her greed takes hold . On first view, I did wonder why she didn’t run for the hills the second she laid eyes on the maniacal grin of Pencilface—I think it’s pretty clear this is not the kind of pencil you want to be hanging out with. But subsequent views have shown the delicate subtlety in Logan Link’s performance and Simmons’ direction, as the girl moves from curious to opportunistic with a knowing, deeply sly smile as soon as they meet which deepens each time she gets what she wants.

Looking at reaction comments online, outside of being described as a dark version of Harold and the Purple Crayon, Pencilface has inspired diverse readings which range from it being a pedophilia tale, to an allegory of a gluttonous west exploiting the work of Eastern society. However you choose to read Pencilface, it’s a film that will stay with you and perhaps make you weary of wanting too much… especially yellow pencils!

There’s also a 96-second Behind the Scenes that’s worth taking a look at.

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MarBelle has a strange compulsion to watch as many films as he can get his hands on and find jobs that give him a legitimate excuse to drill filmmakers about their work. Directors Notes is the latest incarnation of this disorder and so much cheaper than film school. Twitter: @MarBelle
  • http://-- Hans J. Eidisgard

    Film School Rejects featured this one a while ago. Can’t say that I was crazy about it.

  • Shahir Daud

    Love it! Felt like a Lynch-ian version of Duck Amuck (and please don’t take that to suggest it’s derivative, because its completely unique and unsettling!) Bravo!

  • http://youtube.com/mark84j Mark Johsnton

    While I can see the artistic (no pun) side of a vid like this, I don’t see the whole appeal to it. Just not my kind of short.

    -m

  • Tom

    Genius!

  • http://horseshoeseven.blogspot.com John Nelson

    Creepy and fun. The mystery of the ending could be more satisfying, but in all it’s nicely paced and well done. Thanks!

  • Linnea Beyer

    We would love to have this film in our upcoming short film contest!

    Check it out @

    http://www.lightfactory.org/call-for-entries-recess-film-fest

    Best Regards,

    Linnea Beyer
    The Light Factory