Francis is a troubled teenager who manipulates his family in odd, uncomfortable ways.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
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“A problem with a lot of horror shorts is that there is this propensity to focus on the supernatural—ghosts, goblins, and creatures that go bump in the night. To be sure, there’s fun in nightmare imagery, but I’d argue that, in some way, leaning hard into fantastical elements can sometimes mitigate true horror—a barrier forming in our subconscious that separates make-believe from reality. It’s just pretend after all…
I’m not sure if writer/director Zander Coté would classify his sparse character profile, Tantrums, as a horror film, but it certainly reads that way to me. While we are not watching a traditional looking “monster,” the protagonist/antagonist very much does monstrous things, and it’s both thrilling and disturbing to watch as he manipulates, tortures, and spreads his poison among those he is closest too. There’s a perverse fascination in watching as Francis spins his sprawling web of lies. He knows how to get his hooks into people…knows how far to push people. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, it’s compelling to watch the “process” of his various deceits. While things do eventually culminate in physical violence, the true scars here come from mental abuse and manipulation, which in some ways, is more triggering.
Coté’s directorial style is sparse and restrained, giving the film a very defined feel and tone. It’s uncanny and uncomfortable: as viewers our uneasiness grows as the film’s long, static takes (in mostly medium frames) create a feeling of claustrophobia, despite the majority of the film taking place out in nature. It’s a deft directorial feat that showcases a formal control of craft that is often not seen in indie shorts. Despite its limited scope (one location, a few actors), there’s an aesthetic polish here that elevates the film to the next level.
I think you could argue that the film isn’t necessarily “about” anything all that deep. In creating the disturbed (yet fascinating) Francis, it’s clear that Coté isn’t particularly concerned about some larger message or even a “real” look at mental illness. Rather, Tantrums feels much more like an isolated work of tension centered around an unstable character. Still, though, it’s a riveting ten minutes that effortlessly holds attention: the kind of “calling card” short that perfectly displays an aspiring director’s style and technical prowess (e.g. why shorts are often made in the first place).
Coté currently has two features he’s trying to put together, one of which is tonally similar to Tantrums. The other is more of a dark comedy set in the world of classical music and alternative psychoanalysis. I’d be eager to see both!” – S/W Curator Ivan Kander
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.