A nomadic drifter is contracted by a hideous creature to deliver a sacred item – The Talisman – to an abandoned warehouse where he encounters an eternal, evil force that reveals his fateful destiny.
The latest short film from director Edwin Pagan (Head honcho at LatinHorror.com) is called “The Talisman” and it was picked to be the opening feature at the Hollywood Horrorfest, which took place on March, 28th in Los Angeles at the New Beverly Cinema. This honor portends to the film being something special so I was quite anxious to receive a screener of the film so I could make up my own mind.
A non descript man named Ed (Ross Beshear) is sitting in a small, low key restaurant as the film opens, eating a hamburger & sipping on a beer. After a few moments he receives a message on his phone instructing him to retrieve something underneath the table he’s sitting at. After some hesitation, he reaches under the table and pulls out a small black box. Inside of the box there’s a vial that’s filled with a glowing green fluid. He suddenly receives another text instructing him to use the dropper included with the vial and put a few drops of the fluid in his eyes. He responds with a candid “FUCK YOU” but is told he can keep what’s underneath his SEAT if he uses the green eye drops on himself. He reaches under his chair and finds an envelope with a bundle of $100 bills inside of it. Immediately after that, he receives a phone call instructing him to once again, put the drops in his eyes. The resulting conversation goes like this:
Ed: “What happens if I put the drops in my eyes?”
Voice on phone: “You’ll be able to see me”
Ed: “Where are you?”
Voice on phone: “I’m sitting in the seat across from you…”
Now this my friends…IS SCARY!
With the lure of a stack of cash making it a little easier to do, the man puts a few drops of the viscous looking liquid in his eyes. And then he sees what his mysterious caller looks like. Named Ciacco (Paul Bosche), he has a mission for Ed and that mission is to deliver a sacred talisman to someone. Once the talisman is successfully delivered, Ed will be paid even more money. Despite the inherent oddness of what’s going on, Ed accepts the mission. And then it gets ugly…
Running just over 10 minutes long, “The Talisman” doesn’t have much time to get its audience into the flow of what it’s trying to accomplish. Director Pagan wisely doesn’t waste any time setting up the film’s central premise and gets the protagonist into a mess literally seconds after the opening credits. Pagan sets up the mood of the film immediately by using dim lighting and eerie, ominous music underscoring the onscreen goings on. As Ed, Beshear doesn’t have too much to do initially other than enjoy what looks to be a delicious hamburger but his eventual quizzical looks at his phone as the plot expands are pretty telling. He knows that everything going on around him is bizarre but just can’t help himself, especially once he has the money in hand.
As Ciacco, Paul Bosche makes for an intimidating creature but we hear him more than see him. His look was vaguely reminiscent of one of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed from the 1990 film of the same name, it’s feral & fearsome but there’s enough human showing through it so as to make having a conversation with it plausible. There’s only one other character with any lines in the film but I’ll allow all of you to discover who that is on your own. Suffice it to say that Ed is getting himself into a situation that no amount of money will be able to remedy.
The story of how “The Talisman” came to be is interesting to note. Back in 2010, scripter Drew Daywalt wrote a column for Fearnet inviting/daring filmmakers who were looking for something to shoot to use his script. They were able to interpret it any way they wanted to but they had to leave the dialog in place as originally written, but besides that there were no other restrictions. Pagán’s personal spin on the script utilizes the main premise in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, which has multiple, concentric levels of purgatory. The script fits Pagan’s notion spot on perfectly and it left me wanting a whole lot more when it was over.
There were aspects of “The Talisman” that I didn’t quite dig as much as I should’ve. The makeup, while effective, still looked on the cheap side and the big reveal at the end (Where another creature is introduced) felt forced and wasn’t as dread inducing as it needed to be to have much of an impact. But as I said earlier, it did leave me wanting more when it was all over so the point is moot. I’d like to know more abut how Ed ended up where he was in the beginning of the film and what he did to deserve his eventual fate (A clue is given but not explained). I think “The Talisman” would make for an extremely interesting feature film and I exhort both Daywalt and Pagan to begin working on this straight away!
“The Talisman” – 3 out of 5 shrouds.