“20 Matches” (BIFAN 2016): Mesmerizing Serial Killer Tale Told with Impactful Spareness


Writer/director/producer Mark Tapio Kines’ short film 20 Matches (United States, 2016) is simplicity at its most effective. Using only one actress and the titular matchsticks, the short delivers a terrifying and disturbing piece of cinema.

Without any action, backdrop, or special effects, actress Nina Rausch looks directly at viewers as she relates the tale of a Viennese serial killer responsible for the kidnapping and murder of 20 immigrant women at a rate of one per year. Rausch speaks in a darkened room and is lit merely by the 20 matches that she strikes, one by one. Her narration held me spellbound as the details of the killer’s heinous atrocities disturbed me. Mark Tapio Kines’ truly chilling screenplay gives graphic details of what the murderer did with his victims and the cruel hope of escape that he offered each one.

Nina Rausch tells the disturbing tale of a Viennese serial killer in writer/director Mark Tapio Kines’ short film 20 Matches.

The storytelling technique behind 20 Matches is a time-honored one in cinema, dramatic radio, and other media: Provide terrifying information and let the viewers or listeners form the images in their mind, which can be a more powerful and effective method than showing them something onscreen. Mark Tapio Kines has done this masterfully. Marianne Williams’ cinematography is uncomplicated yet potent, capturing Nina Rausch’s mesmerizing performance from slightly different angles throughout the short. Chris Wirsig’s score adds a subtle, frightening layer to the short.

Mark Tapio Kines has delivered a fine low-budget short film that, despite its sparseness, delivers more than its fair share of shudders. His unique approach should serve as an inspiration to filmmakers with limited resources.

Mark Tapio Kines’ 20 Matches is currently making the film festival rounds. For more information, visit the short’s official website at http://cassavafilms.com/films/20-matches.

20 Matches had its Asian premiere at the 20th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) in South Korea (July 21-31, 2016).

20 Matches: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 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.