Gifts From Strangers (2014)
Gifts From Strangers is the latest short film from Marcus Caballero and production company Dead Good Films Like (DGFL). It stars John Shepherd, Sara Shenair, Viggo Anastarsi and Marcus Caballero who also wrote, directed, edited and produced the film.
People unfamiliar to the Youtube community may not know what an unboxing video is, basically its when the person in the video receives a package from someone, could be Amazon or some other online store or it could be another Youtuber who has sent them something as a trade or a present. Then the person in the video opens the package on camera showing their viewers what they received, sometimes they know what they're getting and sometimes its a surprise.
Gifts From Strangers begins with Youtuber Brian aka Horror Fan '84 (Caballero) making an unboxing video of a package he received from a random Youtuber known as HellaSwan. Just as he's about to unveil his surprise the camera shuts off and he comes back some time later to show us what he got - a jar sealed with weird green candle wax with water and a twig inside. Bewildered by this he tells his flatmate Chris (Shepherd) and his girlfriend Becky (Shenair). Becky seems to know what it is but is reluctant to tell them at first because it sounds so ridiculous all they can do is laugh at her, eventually they listen to what she has to say and he tells them that she believes that the jar has an Imp trapped inside. As expected they don't believe her and later that night Brian opens the jar.... big mistake.
Soon after the opening of the jar Brian becomes the victim of some odd and creepy pranks - all his shoes lined up in perfect order at the end of his bed, tea for two laid out on his bedroom floor etc. Brian blames his friend Chris but he hasn't a clue what he's talking about. The pranks become more frequent and get weirder and creepier and just when Brian thinks he's losing his mind he finally comes face to face with the Imp.
Just as Becky warned him the Imp is a terrifying magical creature who just really wants a friend, but it'll do everything in its power to keep that friend and can become extremely jealous towards anyone it fears might come between them. Brian is now a prisoner in his own home as the Imp doesn't like him leaving or even speaking to his other friends. Chris is concerned as he can't see the Imp and think Brian is a bit old for an imaginary friend and may need professional help. Becky seems to have knowledge of these kind of things though and believes that things will get worse if she doesn't help Brian herself. When she tries to cast a spell to trap the creature back in its' jar things go bad with horrific results and the film ends with a suitably creepy finale.
If Gifts From Strangers was a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster I'm sure the blurb on the poster would be something like "Blair Witch meets Paranormal Activity meets Darkness Falls" but the only thing it has in common with those films would be its' cinema verite style and its' antagonist being an evil mystical fairy-like creature.
Director Caballero uses the found footage style perfectly through footage from a webcam and a handheld camera used by Brian and his friends in the confined space of their apartment. The location is another thing used really well here as the film is shot almost completely inside the apartment, we only get to see outside for a few seconds so the whole thing feels very claustrophobic. Great performances from Sara Shenair and John Shepherd especially since this is basically their first time in front of the camera. Viggo Anastarsi was great as The Fairest or The Imp and sent a shiver down my back whenever he/it appeared. Marcus Cabalerro puts in an awesome performance both behind the camera and in front of it. I've seen some of his previous work for director Nik Box before and this is probably his best, craziest and over-the-top role yet.
The film itself is short but sweet at 45 minutes and for what it lacks in budget it makes up for with creativity and originality. A cautionary tale for Youtubers and anyone who thinks its OK to accept gifts from strangers.
I watched this film late at night with the lights off and headphones on, I wouldn't advise anyone to do the same unless they have clean underwear close by. Its always a pleasure and an honor when filmmakers deem me worthy to watch and review their work so thanks to Marcus Caballero and thanks to Gary Kulfie for introducing us. Keep an eye on the Dead Good Films Like Productions Facebook page for future updates on the film's release.