Returning to Short of the Week for a third time, with his latest film The Shift, Francesco Calabrese galvanises his reputation as one of the most exciting directors on the scene with this stylish short film. Having grabbed our attention with documentary-styled Horror Lovely Monster back in 2012, before taking us on a journey through a terrifying gang initiation process in 2013’s I Killer, this time Calabrese serves us a retro-styled slice of Americana, with a science-fiction twist.
“I will never have sex with you, or cook you dinner, or clean after you again”
*** SPOILER WARNING ***
Introducing us to his on-screen world as his protagonist Joe arrives home at his picture-perfect house, complete with white picket fence and rose bushes out-front, Calabrese shatters his vision of suburbia just as quickly as he establishes it. With Joe’s wife Betty sternly informing her husband that she will no longer be carrying out her household (and bedroom) duties, it feels for a minute as if the director might be presenting us with a social drama about a stereotypical 1960’s housewife looking to break free from the chains of domestic life. However, with snippets of dialogue suggesting things may not be exactly as they seem, anyone familiar with the The Stepford Wives or Invasion of the Body Snatchers narratives will start to suspect something a little more sinister is occuring.
Despite its intriguing narrative, where The Shift really excels is in its vivid production design. Calabrese and his team have left no stone unturned when it came to recreating this nostalgic vision of seemingly domestic bliss. The location, the costumes, the cars, the colour grade and even the titles all working together to create the well-considered aesthetic of the piece.
Although the narrative of The Shift does feel somewhat familiar, it’s a storyline usually associated with feature length productions and Calabrese’s brief glimpse into this universe is one that leaves you hungry for more. It’s a short that never tries to answer too many questions and even as the credits roll and we witness Joe and his “wife” exiting their house together, a few shared glances leave us wondering what’s next for this world and its new inhabitants. Playfully teasing us with the closing title ‘The End?’, over the image of a blank page in typewriter, is Calabrese suggesting there will be more from this universe or is he challenging us, the viewers, to fill in the blanks ourselves?