Set in an atmospheric candlelit room, Matthew Van Gessel’s 11-minute short We Want Faces So Bad invites viewers to join four girls in their nightly ritual, where they repeatedly ask a higher power for faces! Yes, you read that correctly…it is Halloween week after all! As the bond that unites this “faceless” group is ripped apart when one of them shows up with their wish granted, this entertaining short expertly juggles comedy and horror to convey a surprisingly emotional story through a prism of absurdity.
To say that the concept of We Want Faces So Bad is out there would be an understatement. We were obviously very curious to ask screenwriter Michael Calciano where the inspiration came from and he confessed that the basis of the idea “popped” into his head on a walk. However, it was only when he started writing the script that the complexity of the narrative evolved, as he began to reflect on his own experience having reached his late twenties. The different levels of success his friends and peers had reached had started to impact their dynamic, which he found unsettling. He ultimately explained that the film came from: “that dissonance, mixed with the absurdity of the rules of this world, where some people have faces and some people don’t”.
Where the film subverts the expectations of the most skeptical amongst us, is that its insane and absurd concept is just the tip of the iceberg. Initially feeling like a bizarre dark-comedy based around an out-there premise, there is much more depth than meets the eye, with Calciano describing the storyline as “an exploration of belonging”. Despite having a narrative based around faceless girls, the specifics of the plot certainly won’t restrict viewers from relating to the piece, as I’m certain that its audience will read different things into it, projecting their own experiences and insecurities into that situation. The double-edged sword of finally having something that everyone else wishes for, but possibly losing your friends because of it, will speak volumes to many.
“We are hoping to disarm the audience with the humor and absurdity and then hit them on an emotional level”
Discussing his aims for We Want Faces So Bad with S/W, Director Van Gessel reveals that his interests lies in “ideas that tow the line of stupid yet poignant”. Fully aware of the challenge of finding the right balance between comedy and horror, to complement instead of discrediting one another, his aim was to “disarm the audience with the humor and absurdity and then hit them on an emotional level”. To truly allow the screenplay to work, he uses both the cinematography of Grant Conversano and the editing of Adam Conversano (co-directors of 2020 S/W pick The Procession) to echo his main protagonist’s state of mind. As the pace picks up her inner chaos is palpable through the camera movements and the sharp edit, which also work to magnify the comedic layer of the film.
We Want Faces So Bad hit the festival circuit in 2021, with a notable stop at the 2022 edition of Fantasia. I am notoriously not a genre connoisseur, however, I am a sucker for films that cleverly use genre codes and tropes to emotionally enhance their narrative arc and We Want Faces So Bad is just that! Here’s to hoping that Michael Calciano goes for another walk very soon!