I do my best to avoid Alfred Hitchcock comparisons when writing reviews, but when a film earns it by paying homage to the master while simultaneously serving up its own unique voice as proficiently as writer/director John Fitzpatrick’s short Brentwood Strangler (2015) does, I’ll make an exception. With its blend of violent thriller, romance, suspense, and humor, this Christmastime short sets its sights high but accomplishes its reach stunningly during its 18-minute running time.
Viewers meet Floyd Garrison (Adam J. Yeend, who also appeared in John Fitzpatrick’s Skypemare ) in a park at night, immediately showing why he has earned his titular nickname among local media and residents. After he leaves his victim laying, he is spotted by a policeman and a couple on a walk. He flees to a nearby house and, in a bit of plot that I won’t spoil, winds up going on a blind date!
Floyd’s date is Maggie (Jordan Ladd, familiar to genre film fans from such previous efforts as Cabin Fever , Death Proof , and Inland Empire ), a blonde beauty-with-brains character of the type favored by Hitchcock for his films. Outgoing and optimistic, Maggie insists on driving on first dates, a topic that begins an awkward conversation on their way to a restaurant. Discussions between the two range from sweeping statements to playful banter, and John Fitzpatrick does an accomplished job with the dialogue between these two characters. Some humor is at play in the scenes between Floyd and Maggie, but sometimes it may border on being too close to home, depending on the dating experiences of individual viewers.
Adam J. Yeend and Jordan Ladd have great chemistry together, making their cat-and-mouse blind date feel real, sometimes uncomfortably so. Yeend skillfully inhabits Floyd with many layers, as evidenced by the character’s exchanges that wind between off-putting, confrontational, and charming. Ladd is a delight as Maggie, an emotionally strong woman who lets her guard down and exposes her vulnerability, as well. Maggie seems to have something quirky or unusual going on, which makes the character a bit more fun and keeps viewers on their toes.
Horror fans will be pleased to know that Brentwood Strangler boasts some shocking scenes. The opening strangulation harkens back to the lengthy death-in-a-kitchen scene of Torn Curtain (1966), and there’s more violence and some gore to be had after that.
The beauty of Brentwood Strangler, though, is that all of its different story elements work equally well, blending into one masterful package. First-rate direction and storytelling by John Fitzpatrick, combined with gorgeous cinematography by Nicholas Kaat and sensational performances by the cast – including Maximilion Osinski in a crucial supporting role – make this a must-see short film.
Brentwood Strangler: (4.5 / 5)