With For a Good Time, Call… horror short heroine Izzy Lee (whose gender-flipped Lovecraft tale Innsmouth screened at last year’s inaugural Starburst International Film Festival) brings us another swift blast of sinister storytelling, in which oily womaniser Alex beds Alice and uploads a surreptitiously filmed sex tape, but afterwards soon comes to regret his actions upon encountering the mysterious Sylvia, who takes a specific kind of exception to such behaviour.
A contemptible and unrepentant sleaze, Alex is representative of everything objectionable about men’s behaviour towards women. In the opening scene he wrenches Alice around on the bed several times to position her at a better angle for the hidden camera, and when he presses her after she changes her mind it’s ambiguous over whether she feels able to reassert her withdrawal of consent. Afterwards, he attempts to justify what he did to her as being “a stupid thing that guys do,” and upon seeing the kind of message to which the title refers scrawled onto a toilet wall, actually saves it for future use.
Lee excels in crafting an atmosphere of tension from very little, here charging the innocuous setting of a public bathroom with an oppressive ambiance of ineffable menace. The tension mounts as you remain unsure of exactly what’s going on, although with a slight variance since in these situations you’re usually anxious of the fate about to befall the featured character, but as Alex is someone you utterly despise, you find yourself hoping, as Alice declares she does, “something very bad happens to you.”
There is little that can be said about Sylvia herself or Alex’s encounter with her without spoiling the film, but her presence comments on the attitudes of serial philanderers towards their conquests. Just as Alex’s tryst with Alice was meaningless to him from being one in a likely long line of similar hook ups, so Sylvia’s encounter with him is one on which she will look back as being just as throwaway and insignificant. An encounter, by the way, that features a revoltingly compelling piece of body horror imagery that, while not having quite as intense an impact as the NSFW-extreme shot from Innsmouth, nevertheless spears itself into your brain as you try to figure out if you’re actually seeing what your eyes claim you are.
Powerfully feminist, tacitly accusatory and hypnotically repulsive, For a Good Time, Call… is a masterstroke of damning condemnation, of misogyny in general but in particular the repugnant practice of revenge porn and the bottom feeders who perpetrate it, holding up a dark mirror in which is reflected the helplessness and humiliation they put others through. Like all good short films, it explains nothing directly and lets you fill in the gaps for yourself, the efficiency of the plotting allowing a wealth of backstory to be inferred from mere moments. The tale could easily be expanded into a full feature, and you’re torn between wanting to know more and simply revelling in the snapshot mystery.
FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL… / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: IZZY LEE / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER HALLOCK / STARRING: SEAN CARMICHAEL, TRISTAN RISK, DIANA PORTER / RELEASE DATE: TBA