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A Hearts Desire

by PlanetFoxFilms

Sirens come bearing treasures, to tempt a camper with their fishy pleasures.


Ah-maze-zing! Love your team’s dedication to makeup, and the film was shot splendidly, with an hilarious ending too! You guys just get better and better every year.

Loved your film. It was funny, cinematic, charming and well edited. It is so awesome seeing how far you guys have come as film makers. You make an amazing team. So proud!

Also.. Fish jail. So good.

When an isolated camper attracts the attention of a couple of seriously creepy looking magical creatures that have come up from the nearby camp lake, the dread factor kicks up a notch as they toy with her whilst baring their teeth.

Makeup here was absolutely fantastic. Honestly the atmosphere you created sent shivers down my spine, it was genuinely spooky and evocative, and I was pretty much on the edge of my seat when the 'be careful what you wish for' trope was laid bare. Performers sold the predator/prey so well, I thought to myself this is simply 48 Hours horror film I've seen in years. Placing in Christchurch for certain. Technically on point with an exceptional edit...

...And then that ending, for me, just undid the amazing previous 4 minutes or so of the film.

I mean look, I get it, you didn't want to make a generic horror film and there is every chance that come awards time you will be rewarded for your subversive choices here. It did still leave me with a feeling of mystery and wonder at the universe of the creatures you had created, but it just felt like I had got thrown off the rollercoaster a little bit early.

Story: 3.5/5
Technical: 4.5/5
Elements: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

I’m always excited to see what people do with horror. Horror is a really fun and super creative genre and more memorable than most. And my excitement is from what element the creators take and use to push their horror above the others.

The atmosphere and tone in this are stellar, with a great opening that sets us up for a well-paced slow-burn story.
The reveal of your creature is so well executed with us seeing very little and some fantastic make-up. His eyes and tone are a great decision and the luring way he talks to trick the character in is really stands out.
That reaction shot with the fog is great horror and the heart element was genuinely one of my favorites. I was having a great time getting into it and it’s quite different from both other entries this year and the team’s previous entries.

... but it all builds to an ending I feel really undermined the overall film. And it’s tough because I’m left 50/50. While the build-up and establishing of the world and characters are solid across the board, the makeup is perfect and the technical elements are top-notch, we’re left on an end decision that ultimately brings down the film and no longer makes the previous choices feel nearly as special as they were. And I’m also left confused with why suddenly a new joke character is introduced because I’m not sure where the hero element is, and it’s disappointing because the heart element is great, the invisible element is fine (it’s a tough one I know) but your hero element is confusing, was it this gag character at the end? But I totally get going the safer route of ending as a comedy and keeping to your roots, I’m just disappointed that I’m left wondering what could’ve been.

My god, the first few minutes of this film.

Rarely have I seen a horror film so effectively executed in my time involved with 48HOURS. PlanetFox Films nailed the look (crisp and clear even shooting in the dark), the feel (the lead monster's unsettling performance), and the tone (from the slopping hands at the start to the carefully observed sound design) of horror, which is difficult to achieve in a short film at all, let alone one made in 48 hours. The film draws you in, wondering what its curious protagonist will have to sacrifice in order to gain the delights offered by this river-dwelling beast...

...and then blinks.

I'm all for subverting genre, but the issue here is that SO much of the film is spent building SUCH a great atmosphere that the comic undercutting of the final minute or so is a serious letdown. The tone is shattered, and even the actual plot development sort of comes out of nowhere, uninformed by anything else earlier in the film. That's not to say that twist couldn't have worked - it just needed to be seeded a bit more earlier on. Maybe the tone could be broken for a couple moments here and there, or maybe the subversion could happen earlier, at the first "act" break, and the actual plot plays out in that comedic What We Do In The Shadows / Wellington Paranormal style the team was clearly gunning for. But with the structure as handed in, the comic shift lets the air out of the balloon, so to speak.

I know PlanetFox is all about the wild silly humour in their heavily practical horror films, but honestly the skill on display early here is such that they don't need to fall back on that familiar tactic. One day this team is going to win big - and they may very well scoop up some awards at the finals, in which the film assuredly will be playing - but they need to place greater confidence in their ability to craft genuinely unsettling horror, and as with many teams, stick that landing.

Completely invested in this from the start. Well established tone, solid performances and typical/expected PlanetFoxFilms make-up and character-design. The goblin/troll/creature here has the look of characters you've done before which is not a criticism at all! They're amazing!

But, yeah...that ending. Given what had happened leading up to it, it was certainly a surprise - so well done - but also a let down. A dark ending or even something ambiguous would have easily cemented this short as a strong contender to place in CHCH.

Loved it guys, the performances were spot on, totally creeped out by the water, you guys are dedicated.
I only half agree with others about the ending... Tbh I saw it coming, and don't mind the gear shift. Would have been cool to see it go full horror, but I'm not let down at all. Keep it up!

Boy oh boy oh boy am I excited to finally have time to review films, starting with this absolute beauty.

First off, let my bias be known. These guys have had me hooked since "You Ready For Space" and it's been an honour to be regularly back to back with them in the heat screenings! (surely as soon as rip focus get interdimensional travel as a genre we just stop by your guys film, surely).

PlanetFoxFilms have built a reputation of 2 things (well, maybe more than 2, but in the context of this review I have 2 to point out)
1. giving us something totally bonkers, whackoo, wtf and oh frick me did that just happen
2. regularly getting ripped off come judging time. I'm happy to see some justice pull through this year and these guys finally make it to finals and be awarded for their incredible work!

Anyway, enough gushing over how much I love the team. Let's talk about the film.

This is by far the best looking film you guys have done, by a long shot, it was beautiful. The lighting/smoke combination, your characters hidden in the shadows creating a truly creepy vibe, it was all so so nice.

The setup was on point, you nailed the tone right from that first shot of the hands, holy moly. Your acting was superb, in particular Josh's expressions - you have a good face Josh, hold onto that. And the makeup was brilliant although that didn't surprise me given your reputation for going all out with that every year :)

Now, the bit that I think you've likely had a lot of conversations about by now is your choice of ending. I personally loved it, I thought it was great, I just wished it ended a little later then it did! I wanted to see more! I wanted to see what the motive of the fish monster was, I wanted to understand what he wanted, I wanted to know what part that first initial fish monster had to play in this (why did he want her to bring the light over there before just leaving the scene, returning at the end? I assume that was the same fishy boi), I wanted to see it draw out and develop further before the twist arrived.

Now I'm guessing you may have wanted that too, and were only constrained by your late saturday night shoot (holy smokes what an effort), which makes sense, I've been there, having to make those cuts to get the film out, so take this as less of a criticism and more of a 'it was so good I wanted more to make it even better'.

Ah man, I love this film, I love love love this film, and already can't wait for what you dish out next year.

Hhahahahahah the ENDING! You guys are insane, this film is now a total review powder keg, a grenade thrown into an inescapable room full of us 48 veterans, anxious to explain what everyone already knows. What the hell happened! Why! How! Why!

I'll be straight up, I genuinely voted this film as my number 1 pick of the city, I wanted to see it take out the big prize - but it should also be noted, I was the ONLY judge to place it even remotely this high, so this is a film which works for some, and is a complete write-off for others.

Let's get the objectively marvelous stuff out of the way first - the cinematography, the tone, the art direction, the sound design - it's all SPECTACULAR here, it's easily the most impressive stuff PlanetFoxFilms have ever done, and its cinematography especially stood head and shoulders above the other finalists. I want to frame some of these shots on my wall.

That shot early on where we see the eyes through the reeds was what locked your best use of genre award - even though your film arguably flushes its genre down the toilet by the end - this is the Best Use of Horror I have EVER SEEN in this competition, it's genuinely terrifying, but in such a mature way which is never cheapened by a jump scare or revealing too much. It's maybe cheapened by uhhh the elephant in the room though hahah.

Still, there is some breathtaking stuff on display here, and this is before I've even mentioned the acting - the obvious nod here being towards our spooky swamp man, who is kind of typecast into one of the most specific types I've ever seen an actor be typecast into. A live action cartoon character? Who knows, but its working. I also really enjoyed the performance from the female lead, who, as I've said in previous reviews for your films, comes off pretty wooden, but this woodeness feels totally utilized by the direction - it's a trend of your films to employ intentionally "less confident" acting performances and I just love the dryness it brings to the projects. This dryness reaches its peak with the final reaction shot crash zoom of the actress, which is so goddamn funny and definitely could have won Best Reaction on a different night. The same praise for intentionally wooden performances could be said for the swamp cop - a highlight for me is how Sean clearly wasn't anticipating walking so deep into the water and sort of half breaks character for a second. I love it, it's so charming.

So let's talk about the ending! I think its important to understand the reason people are so upset is because of how incredible the first two thirds of the film are - a lesser film with this ending wouldn't have ruffled any feathers, and with that in mind it begs the question whether or not you knew how good what you'd already captured was while shooting - if you knew it was gonna be this good and this effective, would you have gone ahead with the sketch ending?

I'm not entirely in agreement with others who say it comes out of nowhere, we do learn in what is admittedly a somewhat confusing first scene that there are multiple swamp creatures hanging about, and I think some of the main character's wishes are a little too absurd (an invisible robot dog?) and I actually probably would have downplayed this absurdity so that the bananas ending hits even harder.

The reason you were nominated for Best Ending despite all this is because A) despite it being a sketch ending, indicative of a team not knowing how to get in and get out, it's still directed and told VERY confidently, it's not half-assed and is so baffling and effective, it's arguably as powerful as what came before it, just on the other side of the spectrum. Oh, and B) I wanted to stir and cause upset with everyone who felt it let the film down hahhaha.

When we vetted this film, we were completely silenced by the opening minutes, only to explode into an argument as it ended over whether it was a good ending or not, and it resulted in us rewatching the film several times.

All in all a very impressive feat, and basically confirmation that this team will probably win the city in the future. They just gotta get on the same wavelength as the audiences and the judges.

Also, fantastic Ultra entry, well deserving of its best nomination. This must have been exhausting to edit since you stayed up all night filming. I've been there.

Things you got right: A complete tonal masterpiece, legitimately some of the most impressive exploiting of genre tropes I've seen in my decade or so involved in the competition.

Things to work on for next time: Okay hear me out, maybe make a film as good as this but it has an ending which nails the genre instead of subverting the genre? Just try it out, you can always revert back next time :P

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