Jewel, a short film written by Rob Correa, produced and directed by Michael Armstrong, touches on society’s relentless and futile, sometimes destructive, obsession with superficial beauty. This minimalist, 6-minute production is reminiscent of the 1970s postmodern German horror genre. The message about our dissatisfaction with ourselves and the damage the pursuit of beauty does the psyche is a bit heavy-handed throughout the film, nearly turning this piece from drama to campy comedy. Jewel hits its mark in the utilization of metaphor, but it's almost too on the nose when it comes to its imagery.
This single location and film centers around a young woman (Amanda Puggle) who comes home to her small apartment with a camera around her neck. She uploads images onto her computer and prints out a close-up of a beautiful young woman in a white blouse and sunglasses. The girl in the photo has some meaning to her as she pins this photo to a corkboard collage of what looks to be magazine clippings and pictures of fashion models. Once her work is done she retires to the bathroom to strip off her wig, lashes, makeup, and false teeth. Her once beautiful reflection is now hideous and she begins to weep in front of the bathroom mirror. Eventually, she finds a razor on the counter and she carries it, convulsing, into the living room where she collapses in pain and anguish.
Her breakdown is interrupted by a knock at the door. When it opens we find a beautiful young woman (Irene Chambers), possibly the woman from the photograph she taken that day. The woman enters the room without saying a word and our main chararcter seems happy to see her. Finally, the woman crouches down and touches her face just before clawing, scratching and beating her to a pulp. The woman is now a demon and our protaganist struggles to defend herself to no avail and we are left with the image of a bloody, dead body on the apartment floor.
The overall tone of this film was genuinely creepy, yet the execution left something to be desired. Much of the post-production sound work made the main character’s cries, both in sadness and pain, sound unnatural and disconnected from the scene. This, combined with some overacting nearly betrayed the feel of a proper horror film. There were also elements of the character which wanted for exposition and that, if articulated, may have brought us closer to empathizing with her. Why was she taking photographs that day? Who is the young woman in the photograph that she printed and pinned it to her collage? Why did she have a missing tooth? These questions, answered, may allow the audience to feel closer to the protaganist, and thereby experience a deeper sensation of horror when she finally begins her descent into madness and eventually death.
Technical issues aside, Jewel is a disturbing take on the inner turmoil we experience while trying to achieve impossible standards of beauty. If you like creepy movies with a message, Jewel will not disappoint.
INTERVIEW WITH WRITER, ROB CORREA:
BG: What are your filmmaking/writing roots?
RC: Originally, my mind was set on directing films. After my first experience on an actual set, I quickly changed my mind. I personally felt that managing many people and overseeing production wasn't something I felt entirely comfortable with. Before witnessing that experience in 2012, I had already begun writing multiple short scripts. Most of my scripts are derived from a concoction of various genres I've always gravitated towards.
BG: Where did the idea for Jewel come from?
RC: I felt like writing something for people who suffer from the typical stigmas of society, under a tight budget. The final product became an abstract, experimental short.
BG: How was Jewel different than the other films you’ve worked on?
RC: Jewel was the first script of mine that entered production. Many of my scripts remained in the hands of people with nothing but false promises. It was produced and directed for me by Michael Armstrong in Los Angeles. He used a Black Magic camera to shoot the project and did a great job.
BG: Tell me something about the film that I may not have noticed or some insider info about the behind the scene production.
RC: Before my script's adaptation became modernized, there were two nude women covered in blood. They were supposed to slash Jewel to death in tribute to the 70's slasher films. Both the demon and the bloody women were still subconscious manifestations, so the message was still delivered.
BG: What do you do when you’re not writing/making movies?
RC: I usually enjoy listening to my favorite european metal albums, classical and spanish folk music. If not, I'm watching horror, fantasy or action films. Most recently, I've been reading a lot of fantasy fiction.
BG: What have you been working on recently; what do you have in the works?
RC: I am currently writing a fantasy-fiction book that I might self-publish within a year or two. There aren't any immediate plans regarding film at the moment, but I'm not completely against it.
BG: Any pearls of wisdom?
Always make sure you copyright your work before sending it to anyone. Although it is nearly impossible to get a script of yours produced, there are always a few people out there who understand and want to help. Yes, they're a dying breed, but it's not an excuse to stop believing in yourself. The hardest thing about being a writer is accepting the harsh realities that come with it. When you hand your script over to a director/producer, you end up relinquishing a great amount of power.
BG: Thanks for your time!
RC: I also thank you for checking out my short. I'm glad someone shed some light on it.