“Brentwood Strangler” (Shriekfest 2016): Death Goes on a Date in Masterly Short Thriller


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 [2013]) 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!

Maggie (Jordan Ladd) unknowingly goes on a blind date with serial killer Floyd Garrison (Adam J. Yeend) in John Fitzpatrick’s winning horror short Brentwood Strangler.

Floyd’s date is Maggie (Jordan Ladd, familiar to genre film fans from such previous efforts as Cabin Fever [2002], Death Proof [2007], and Inland Empire [2006]), 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.

Jordan Ladd, who plays the effervescent Maggie, should be a familiar face to horror and genre film fans.

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 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.