“Great Choice” (Fantastic Fest, 2017): Family Restaurant Ad Morphs into a Living Nightmare

Unsuspecting first-time viewers may be puzzled at first as they begin to watch writer/director Robin Comisar’s Great Choice short film, with thoughts such as “So it’s a Red Lobster commercial from the 1990s? So what?” Then, slowly and subtly at first and then building to a startling climax, the short weaves its looping spell, as it becomes a chaotic nightmare for its protagonist.

Comisar’s exercise in existential horror takes a typically banal family restaurant commercial and twists it into something terrifying for the players involved. Jen (Carrie Coon of Gone Girl and The Leftovers) orders the special from Charming Waiter (Morgan Spector), but gets confused as the situation begins repeating itself. I’ll leave the rest of the surprises to future viewers.

Dark humor with a strong dose of absurdity abounds in the disquieting environment that Comisar builds. It’s Sartre meets Bunuel in a commonplace eatery, from a filmmaker with a deft sense of what can unsettle people when viewing VHS format material. A glitch here, some static there, and some sound distortion there is all it takes to begin the descent into videotape hell in which Jen finds herself.

The cast is terrific, but with Great Choice’s approximate runtime of seven minutes, I don’t want to spoil exactly why. Leads Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector dive into their roles with aplomb. Nevada Caldwell also gives a nice turn as Charming Waitress, and the supporting cast members are also impressive.

With Great Choice, Robin Comisar applies his visual effects skills with clever writing and direction to transport viewers from a mundane chain restaurant commercial setting to a nightmarish hell. Keep an eye out for this short as it continues its highly regarded film festival run.    

Great Choice screened at Fantastic Fest, which ran September 21—28 in Austin, Texas.

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.