Short of the Week

Tell

Can the dead truly take revenge? Taylor seeks to hide his sins in hopes that they will go unnoticed and become no more than a dirty little secret…

Ladies and Gentleman, the game is changing. A few years ago, a movie like Ryan Connolly’’s Tell never would have a found an online audience–at least not immediately. After all, a low-budget, 32 minute suspense-driven horror film streamed on YouTube doesn’t exactly scream internet success. But one day, thousands of youtube views, and hundreds of comments later, it’s clear that the type of content we are watching online is no longer restricted to cat videos and roller skating chimpanzees. Bloody, psychological suspense thrillers are now fair game.

Tell’s road to completion is a long and interesting one. Connolly is the host of Film Riot and Film State, two popular internet shows produced by Revision3.com (which was recently purchased by Discovery Communications). And, like Dan Trachtenberg before him, Connolly has managed to develop a unique internet niche–a podcast following that eventually led to the release of more substantive cinematic content. In Film Riot, Connolly details low budget techniques for the amateur filmmaker, and Tell seems like a natural culmination of his bi-weekly online film school–a long form extension of the tips and tricks he advocates.

But none of that background would hold much weight if the movie wasn’t very good. Fortunately, it is. It’s damn good: a gripping Poe-inspired suspense/horror film filled with striking camera movements and strong cinematography. At 32 minutes, Tell isn’t your usual internet fare, but for some reason, that’s refreshing. Throughout its prolonged development, Connolly never altered his vision. This is the narrative he set out to make, and he never let free internet distribution change his path. And, while I don’t necessarily think the lengthy run time is completely justified, the film features several sequences that are pitch-perfect in their pacing.  A long-take in the first few minutes of the movie is an especially notable accomplishment, a combination of craft and suspense to make Alfonso Cuarón jealous.

Connolly’s do-it-yourself pragmatism is evident with almost every aspect the film: a single, readily available location, a small cast, no showy special effects.  It’s the amateur filmmakers handbook played to perfection, relying on classic methods of suspense to grip the audience–the kind of flick where you cover your eyes with your hands, but still peek through the gaps of your fingers. Connolly specifically chose to shoot the film on an HDV camera with a letus 35mm adapter as opposed to a big sensor DSLR in order to capture the grain of old-school horror movies. It works. The mood of the film is precise; the cinematography and color grading are both technical high points. Contributing to the overall mood is the film’s score, a fantastically eerie soundtrack from UK based composer, Daniel James. Upon completion of the project, it took Connolly 6 months to locate and finalize his post audio team. The wait was worth it.

Tell’s road from conception to your computer monitor has been a very public one. On Film Riot, Connolly has been very open about the entire filmmaking experience, providing several behind the scenes vignettes detailing both the production and post-production process. Instead of making his creative journey a private one, meant to only be shared with his small crew, it has become the shared story of thousands.  This sense of community places the film in a very unique place–an arena where exclusive festivals have been replaced by a social environment. And, while it’s true that not every filmmaker is going to have the same sort of built-in following, it’s promising to think that a standard festival run is no longer a requirement to get noticed.  Ryan’s show is about giving filmmaking tips to the average Joe, so it’s fitting he would release his movie on a platform where he/she can watch.

Tell isn’t perfect: I have issues with the performances of all the female actresses and I wish there was more character development for a 32 minute piece, but as a work of suspense this is something special. It’s gripping, visceral, and very well shot.  Has Ryan Connolly pioneered a new approach to cinematic creation on the web? I guess only time will Tell.

~
Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcaster. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.
  • Ruben Ruiz

    I enjoyed the movie a lot!  

  • Ruben Ruiz

    I enjoyed the movie a lot!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.marchetti Jack Marchetti

    Great article. From a technical, film making perspective, it’s perfect in my opinion. From a pure story point, it’s pretty weak.

  • Matt

    Ryan Connolly is the man!

  • Anonymous

    Really enjoyed this piece and the actual short film. Been following Film Riot from it’s very start.

  • Optimus_past_my_Prime

    I thought Tell was outstanding. Very suspenseful and well executed.

  • Cesar Diaz

    I agree with your assesment of the female actresses, especially the wife.  Even though she only talked for a few minutes of the film, her acting was horrible.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/H3N2AAX42CFI5VF26MKMDYYKOE Nicholas

    Very awesome homage to Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”. I did feel there was more time given to the protagonist’s friend than to the source of his sin, his girlfriend. But that said, for a short piece, it was one of the better short films on the Web. Ryan Connolly is the real deal, and I’m grateful that he shares so much to his fans.

  • http://seandfeeney.com seandfeeney

    I thought Tell was excellent.  It captured my attention (tough for a 32 min YouTube video) and had my hair stand-up a few times.    Maybe it is just me but, was anyone else hoping for her hand to twitch at the end?  It would have just put it over the edge for me.

  • Carlosalfonsin1

    i think the female actresses did wrong too, specially the wife, not convincing at all.

  • Carlosalfonsin1

    i think the female actresses did wrong too, specially the wife, not convincing at all.

  • Carlosalfonsin1

    i think the female actresses did wrong too, specially the wife, not convincing at all.

  • Fabs777

    I agree the female characters were not that great.

  • Eric F.

    I thought that Tell was a very well executed short film. Some of the acting could have used some work (although the main character was excellent) and I felt that more time should have been spent on the build up to the actual crime. The high points were the cinematography, score, and sound design.  One of best things in Tell was that the hand in the final take did not move.  Fot the last couple of minutes I was hoping against hope that Ryan would not end Tell just like every horror movie we’ve ever seen, and was plesantly suprised.

  • Grapho

     I completely agree, dreadful performance (and she’s an acting teacher, that’s what baffled me).

  • William Stewart

    I really enjoyed it! Been watching Ryan and the rest of the guys over at FilmRiot since the first episode, they just keep getting better and better! I definitely see Ryan at the helm of a Hollywood backed full length feature in the near future. – FRANKYMOOK

  • Josh C

    I’m glad to see someone else thought the same way about the hand at the end.  I sat there mouthing it over and over “don’t do it Ryan, don’t do it”.  The fact he didn’t have the hand twitch showed me just how much attention he payed to the subtle aspects of the short.  It wasn’t so full of the typical ‘jump’ scares as it was ‘Good god that is creepy’ scares.  And while some didn’t feel the female performances were great, I did enjoy the woman who played the police officer at the end.  

  • Ayoub Khobalatte

    Are you josh Connolly? give us a bamme wham!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Love that fact that it’s told in real time—gives a great gritty depth to an otherwise familiar sequence. Also, great to see the full family got involved in making the film (all the Connelly’s in the credits).

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Love that fact that it’s told in real time—gives a great gritty depth to an otherwise familiar sequence. Also, great to see the full family got involved in making the film (all the Connelly’s in the credits).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrbraz Joao Roberto Braz

    Very good work! To be honest before start watching I thought, WOW 32 minutes  for a “short”movie is sooooo much, probally I won’t watch till the end, but lets give a try .. and after the 32 minutes I felt like it was 3 ..

  • Aaron G. Randall

    This is one of the best psychological thrillers since “Psycho!!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMassaria John Massaria

    Can you have a look at these two I just uploaded…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h2ZPEXTG6s
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zqBoLtQa9s

    Let me know what you think of the song and video edit. Thanks!
    I am huge fan of your page… I stay on it lots!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    John, if you want us to view your films, send them to our submissions at shortoftheweek.com/submit

  • Caterks

    I agree, I loved it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daviddamenarrispro Danny Rogers

    This was awesome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.siriotis Jim Siriotis

    should be made a feature

  • http://www.facebook.com/themediapreneur Miles Dixon

    @Ivan Kander is there anyway Ican speak with you guys at Lucky 9. Please feel free to call me 313 229 2838

  • I loved it

    This was very good. i always think about what could possibly happen within the realm of possibility for this type of horror. I must say the ending took me by surprise.

  • Vinicius Scheuer

    This short is awesome, almost shit myself a few times..