Caffeine-fuelled, horror-comedy short Dark Roast unfolds in a dysfunctional American coffee shop on Halloween, as two young baristas Vanessa and Nathan are counting down the minutes before they can close up and get themselves to the latest gig of their garage punk band Piss Bucket.
But within minutes, visitors to the Grind Haus fall victim to a series of calamities and fatal accidents, which force the pair to try to disguise the rising customer body count from the next person to come through the doors. Meanwhile, death-threat phone calls convince the duo that the next order at the counter could be from a coffee killer.
Dark Roast combines the bored “till jockey” vibe of Kevin Smith’s Clerks with some twisted, black humour and the motifs of low-budget gore. With its larger than life protagonists, absurd plotting and ludicrously improbable deaths, writer-director Topher Hansson keeps the focus on the humour rather than the horror.
With its restless energy and its ensemble of fast-talking characters (some of whom depart almost as soon as they arrive) there’s an appealing, unapologetic sensibility to this lo-fi film, and the welcome absence of pretension.
Hansson had originally planned a full-length feature, but reconceived the film as a short when funds were unavailable. Picking up some positive reactions on the genre festival circuit, Hansson is again considering a longer version. That may not be necessary. It’s arguable that the kind of bonkers blood-fest on offer here will always work best “espresso style”: as a strong, quick hit with no drawn-out aftertaste.
While Dark Roast is of an ideal length to enjoy over a cup of java, this is definitely not a “safe for work” movie. It’s just a pity that the end credits cut just as Piss Bucket are poised to discharge a hot stream of sound.
DARK ROAST / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: TOPHER HANSSON / STARRING: TOPHER HANSSON, KATI MCCARRON, JD ACHILLE, CHRIS GOODWIN, JOSE GUNS ALVES, CODEY GILLUM, CHRIS FISHER, DANE C. VOLKE / RELEASE DATE: TBC