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The Reserve

by Lyttel Flix


I like the tone setting in this film, looks and sounds great and effectively tells its story.

A mum and her son go for a walk through the woods and when they become separated he stumbles across something he comes to regret.

Nicely shot and edited with an eerie tone throughout. The acting from Josh is really good when he finds himself alone with some great reactions to the situation he finds himself in. My critique of the story is that not a great deal happens. There's walking and more walking before Josh meets an unexplained and unseen creature that's dying. We learn little about Josh either - he's a bit of a complaining teen at the start and annoyed at his mum who herself has little to do in the film apart from not being there. Perhaps a chance lost for the two to bond over whatever is in the forest? What happens to Josh after the events of the film is perhaps more interesting than what we got.

Overall, well presented but just lacking in any great conflict that needs solving.

Great cinematography. Beautiful grading.

First off, a tour deforce performance from a young lead actor. Working with some difficult material, he rose to the challenge and dare I say, he slayed.

Unfortunately, the story lacked a sense of direction, and the film dragged at several points. Additionally, the audio mixing might have used a little more time in the oven.

Where the film excels however, is with its cinematography. Some truly inspired decisions help the Reserve itself to feel like a character; a truly sinister, monstrous and unbeatable antagonist.

Overall, a well acted and stunningly realised vision of a sinister, eldritch concept which could have used a little more work in terms of narrative.

What I liked:
Gotta say - I really think this is the hidden gem of the City Finals, and the more I watched it, the more I loved it. This is the film I think I saw the most of my creative interest/personal taste in. A super elegantly told little parable which acts as a shining beacon of "Show Don't Tell" in a competition which (lovingly) struggles with over-explaining everything in the dialogue. Super tense and scary as well. Cinematography and editing were great too, and the performances were nice and... uh... RESERVED. I love a film which asks a question and then answers it in a totally unexpected way.

What I didn't like:
While the idea is brilliant on paper, the execution (literally) could have been a little better I think - the only thing holding this film back for me is whatever Josh was killing felt like it had no real world weight to it - to clarify, OF COURSE you don't show us whatever this injured creature is, but I think you should have still put an actor or some kind of moving physical element in its place, which is blocked from the camera by Josh in that wide shot, or out-of-focus in the foreground of his mid-shot the whole time. The pitch black blood was an excellent touch, but I think seeing some black mass in the corner of the frame heaving as it gasps for breath would have really made this film sing, and made the central mystery (of whatever the hell this thing is) even more tantalising. The same goes for the when Josh puts it out of its misery - A little more umph in the sound effects during the moments of impact would have been so visceral, and just from what I can see, I think young Josh was holding back his full strength - It kind of just looks like he's beating an empty pile of pine needles, which is exactly what i'm sure was happening in real life.

Something else I liked:
Brilliant ending, one of the best I've seen in the comp in a long time, and if Best Ending was still the City Manager's award this year, I'd have given it to this film. Alas! In my opinion this is the most slept-on finalist of the night and I encourage anyone reading this review to give it another watch. Genuinely one of my faves of the year.

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