Short films are a perfect medium for the cinematic telling of folktales. These traditional tales are ripe for motion picture retellings but require only a brief time for their stories to be told; padding them out to feature length could mean losing the richness of their sudden impact. Writer/director Cameron McCasland’s Tailypo creature feature is a fine example of adapting something from oral tradition of the cryptozoological type for the big screen.
Although the folktale is well known in some parts of the United States, especially around the Appalachian Mountains, it is still unknown in areas outside of those, so I will not tell the full story here so as to avoid spoilers. Levon (David Chattam, who also appears in Cameron McCasland’s feature film debut The Lashman ) is a hungry hermit who lives deep in the woods, in an area where wildlife has been scarce for a few weeks. He goes hunting with his dog Jasper (Ranger) and shoots the tail off of an animal that Levon doesn’t recognize. Despite not being sure what kind of animal the tail is from, Levon takes the meaty body piece home for dinner. Later that night, the creature comes to try and collect what was taken from it.
Cameron McCasland does a terrific job at the helm, letting viewers settle in with and get to know Levon and Jasper and their close relationship before turning up the tension. With only one human character in the short, McCasland’s dialogue consists of Levon talking to his dog and whatever lurks outside their cabin in the night. This dialogue rings true of a man talking to his beloved pet, avoiding the trappings of coming across as mere exposition. Portraying the lone human in Tailypo, David Chattam gives an engaging turn as Levon, giving viewers someone to truly root for and sympathize with during the short’s 14-minute running time. Josh Ickes’ cinematography is crisp and makes the most of the Kentucky landscape.
The creature scenes are brief but the reveal is a lot of fun. McCasland knows to focus on the story and action rather than lingering shots on the creature when the budget for special effects (in this case, practical ones) is low.
I learned about Cameron McCasland’s Tailypo when I read that it won Best Short Film in the 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards earlier this year. You can watch the short and see why it collected this and many other awards at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_OuZtp6dQU.
Tailypo: (4 / 5)