A couple of years ago I reviewed a short film called Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw as part of one of my Weekend's of Trash (not that the film is trash, but Chris, the director, was with us that weekend) and a year later gave it the Short Film Focus treatment (where you can watch the film online). Well, as mentioned in the latter post, director Chris Regan decided to turn the film into a web series and set to work on the sequel, Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret From Hell. It's finally finished and I got a sneak preview to review the film before its release on 18th June.
Like Monkey's Paw, Cabaret From Hell centres around amateur witch Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) and her useless flatmate Gavin (Lukas Habberton). Upon discovering they are to be evicted from their flat, Jenny uses a magic spell to help Gavin get a job as a singer at an unusual cabaret club. Unfortunately this spell involves them swapping bodies which Jenny wasn't quite expecting. Nevertheless Gavin instantly becomes the club's signature act, which seems ideal, until Jenny discovers the dark secret behind the sinister emcee (Andromeda Godfrey).
Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret From Hell is a fun, original comedy horror/fantasy which I enjoyed quite a lot. Most noteworthy is the film's creativity and imagination. It's rare to find a unique film these days, but in mixing off-the-wall subject matter with varied filmmaking techniques, from hand drawn and stop motion animation to a full-blown musical number, Cabaret From Hell makes for a lovably fresh take on things. It's well paced too (even short films can be dull and bloated) and rockets along through its neatly packaged storyline.
That's not to say it's a masterpiece though. Given the low budget, home-made nature of the production, there are technical flaws. The grading and cinematography can be a bit hit and miss for instance, with most of the cabaret sequences looking suitably moody, but other moments, such as those at the flat, looking a bit bland (I imagine the flat scenes are supposed to look bland, but there's a bit of a 'cheap' look to them). The performances aren't quite strong enough either at times, with some of the better lines losing their comedic impact due to weak delivery or bad timing.
Anyone who's put their blood sweat and tears into a zero budget film before can appreciate that it's hard to get everything right with such limitations though and Cabaret From Hell still has it where it counts. Many shorts are either just a pretentious experiment, a style exercise or a lazy rip-off, but refreshingly, this is a highly enjoyable and inventive film in its own right which deserves praise even if it is a little rough around the edges.
I'm looking forward to the next instalment already.
To find out more about the Jenny Ringo films, head over to www.jennyringo.com. The film will be released on 18th June but you'll need to be signed up to the mailing list to get the link.