Short Film Review: Stephanie

David Deignan takes a look at Fergal Costello’s short horror film Stephanie starring Moe Dunford. 

Moe Dunford must be the busiest actor in Ireland right now. He has five feature films releasing this year – including a magnetic turn in Paddy Breathnach’s recent Rosie – in addition to significant parts in two TV series and, now, the leading role in Stephanie, the frenetic new horror short from writer/director Fergal Costello.

Stephanie is an ambitious, deliberately ambiguous story which wrenches the viewer by the collar and refuses to let go from the first frame to the last. The narrative begins with Joe (Dunford) determinately struggling to protect the titular character, portrayed by Aoife Spratt, from the murderous intentions of Walsh (Joe Rooney). As tensions quickly escalate between the trio, it soon becomes clear that the secretive Stephanie is not all that she seems to be.

The abrupt opening quickly cultivates a tantalising sense of mystery: it doesn’t waste a second on exposition, instead preferring to drop the viewer without warning straight into the middle of the conflict. Violence looms like an ugly shadow throughout the opening sequences, threatening to burst to the fore at any moment. Costello’s clever script subtly balances the reveal of important information with intentional misdirection early on.

The film clocks in at just under 9 minutes in length and is impressively shot in one uninterrupted take. Costello’s staging is confident and plays out seamlessly while Philip Blake and Padraic Conaty deserve props for their work on the cinematography. The camera weaves its way dynamically around the characters on screen, reacting imaginatively to plot developments as they play out. Its eye is often trained on Dunford and he doesn’t miss a beat, ensuring that the internal rhythm plays out smoothly.

Mark Murphy’s pulsating musical score works well, plunging and escalating sharply as the action does. It comes to a crescendo in the third act, as the intensity increases, and contributes importantly to the film’s all-action finale.

The narrative’s initial hook is enticing and the opening minutes deftly draw the viewer into the story, with the early exchanges engrossing. But it falters somewhat in its second half, when it runs out of reveals and the execution of a key sequence becomes a bit messy, the film becoming caught up in its own franticity. The ambition on show, however, is undoubtedly admirable and the overall technical prowess on show serves to smooth over the plot’s weak points.

Stephanie feels like a sequence cut from a larger concept. While this is a testament to the world being built by Costello and crew, it also stops the story from fully resonating in its current form. It’s a shame – considering how effectively it starts – but this is still an enjoyable, stylishly executed short that’s well worth watching. And, with the director’s website listing his next project as a debut feature currently called Untitled Awesome Horror Film, I’d hope to see more of this story on screen soon. Lord knows Dunford could use the work.

 

fergalcostellofilm.com

Fergal Costello on Vimeo

 

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Screen Ireland Short Horror Comedy ‘Something Doesn’t Feel Right’ Wraps

 

Filming has completed on new Screen Ireland short horror comedy Something Doesn’t Feel Right starring comedian Tony Cantwell.

 

Written by Ged Murray and directed by Fergal Costello, the film follows Cantwell as the slasher killer ‘Zipface’ as he goes about stalking and killing the teens staying at the ominously titled Camp Sleep Forever. Zipface wipes them out one at a time, but slowly comes to realize that maybe what he’s doing isn’t that fulfilling and perhaps love is the answer after all.

 

Shot over two nights in Lough Dan, the film promises to be funny, mean, scary and just a little bit emotional. Costello said he wanted the film ‘to feel exactly like all those old slasher films I devoured as a chap, but then to thrust a hulking brute of a killer into a bit of an emotional breakdown right in the middle of that world and see how he fared.’

 

The film was produced by Fiona Kinsella of Jumper Productions in conjunction with Screen Ireland.

 

More of Fergal Costello’s work can be seen here: www.fergalcostellofilm.com
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Watch Short Film: ‘Heartburn’s A Killer’

Ross Browne

 

Heartburn’s A Killer, a one minute action-comedy directed by Fergal Costello has just been completed. The film stars comedian Ross Browne and Peter McGann, dealing with a devastating effects heartburn can have on a gunfight.

 

Costello wrote, directed, edited and created the visual effects for the piece, which was shot by Paddy Jordan [The Young Offenders, Pentecost] and produced by Claire Gormley [Mute, Trampoline].
 
The piece was funded by commercial company DBC. www.drivenbycreatives.com

 

 

More of Costello’s work can be seen here: www.fergalcostello.com
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‘Colossus’ Completes Filming

 Peter McGann

Colossus, a short science-fiction thriller written and directed by Fergal Costello has just completed filming. The film stars Peter McGann (Cavalier) and Morgan Jones (Game of Thrones) dealing with a soldier hunting for revenge in the midst of a devastated world 12 years after the catastrophic Colossus Event.
 
Shot over the course of a week in Wicklow’s Sally Gap, Colossus is currently in post-production for an autumn release.
 
Costello’s most recent piece Pregnancy Test was just acquired by Eli Roth and Jason Blum’s CRYPT TV, where it amassed 260,000 views in one day.
 
More of Costello’s work can be seen here: www.fergalcostello.com
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Watch ‘Pregnancy Test’

Aoife Spratt

 

Pregnancy Test, a two-minute horror comedy directed by Fergal Costello, is currently available online. The film stars Aoife Spratt and Amy Hughes, dealing with a demonic pregnancy and the explosively gory devastation that sort of predicament brings. The film was made for less than €500.

 

Costello currently directs sketches for Republic of Telly, and adverts, with his most recent piece “Doritos – Meet My Partner!” winning an award at the recent YDA 2016 Awards.

 

 

 More of Costello’s work can be seen here: www.fergalcostello.com
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‘Zenith’ in Post-production

 Love

 

Zenith, a seven-minute science fiction drama directed by Fergal Costello, is currently in post-production. The film stars John Morton and deals with an astronaut, adrift in space, remembering the wife and life he has left behind on Earth in his final moments.

 

The film and its effects utilized the VFX technique Cloud Tank Photography, pioneered by Douglas Trumball for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to film the space sequences.

 

Costello has worked extensively with RTÉ Two’s Republic of Telly and The Fear but dedicates the majority of his time to his own projects, the last of which, Shocker, received its premiere screening in The Lighthouse Cinema, Smithfield.
 

Zenith was made for €1,300 and is currently in post-production for an early February release. Director Peter Foott helped in the funding process of the film.
 

Ciaran Birch composed the score for the short film.

 

The film is aiming for an early February completion with screening dates to be announced soon.

 

 

 

Zenith Poster
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