Director Corey Norman and his screenwriter wife Haley Norman have crafted a nifty throwback to 1980s horror in their short film Tickle (2014). It’s Halloween season, and Trudy (Casey Turner) is babysitting 7-year-old Charlie (Andrew Lyndaker), who, naturally, would rather stay up past his bedtime and watch scary movies with Trudy than go to sleep. She insists that he turn in, though, and tucks him in while telling him about the legend of Tick Tack, a troll who tickles the exposed feet of sleeping people. He insists that his feet aren’t ticklish and she tells him about the darker fate that awaits such folks. Trudy goes downstairs to phone her boyfriend Donnie (Sean Carmichael), who is stuck at the pizza place where he works. Charlie, spooked by Trudy’s tale, suddenly hears his closet door creak open . . .
Although there is much to like about Tickle, a big draw for me is the character that the Normans introduce, one that I feel could make a successful leap into a full-length feature: Tick Tack, the foot-tickling troll. If you wonder how such a character could be scary, just wait until you get a load of this creepy creature – played with gusto by Dennis J. Healy – and what he does. Tick Tack gives this short film one foot in the slasher genre and one in the creature feature camp (apologies for my analogy with feet).
The Normans have put together a 12-minute short that goes from an amusing light-hearted set-up to a shocking, gory finale. Haley Norman’s screenplay is well crafted; the heightening of fright is superbly paced, and the interplay between Charlie and Trudy that begins the film feels authentic. The latter point is aided by the performances of Casey Turner and Andrew Lyndaker. Turner is fun to watch as the bubbly babysitter and Lyndaker does well as a kid who wants to be seen as more mature than his seven years. Lyndaker is most impressive when Charlie drops his facade and shows signs of fear while huddled under his bedspread, and when it is time for Trudy to be terrified, Turner hits all the right scream-queen notes. Sean Carmichael’s role as the boyfriend is short but he gives a nice turn in his limited screen time.
Corey Norman’s direction and editing are tight and highly skillful; if you have seen any of the other films he has helmed, you know that is a given. Ken Gonneville and Ben Heald both contribute to the short’s fine cinematography. The set design by Daniel Noel and Michael Zarate, wardrobe by Christine Louise Marshall, and moody synthesizer soundtrack composed by Anthony Lusk-Simone all give an authentic eighties vibe to the proceedings. Their work in recreating this retro atmosphere is tasteful; nothing is overdone or of the elbow-to-the-side variety. The story and acting are front and center in Tickle, right where they should be; the attention to nostalgic detail is an added bonus.
Tickle: (4 / 5)