Dog of God
by John Ledbetter & April Day
The Split Lip Review
by Michael Soloway
It all boils down to “Snacks” when a pimp, a Brazilian sex-slave, and a bored young man cross paths after a wrong phone call is placed in the indie film produced by Father Neptune Pictures, Dog of God. An antagonizing Russian is looking for a man named Milo in this classic case of mistaken identity that takes audiences from darkness into the light and then back again. With impactful jump cuts and handheld camera shots, the short film, Dog of God, like the movie's title, becomes an anagram itself, with characters flipped from right to left and left to right.
An answering machine plays an early role in the movie, and, even in today's world or voicemail and caller ID, can still illicit a certain level of fear, when the person on the other end is a threatening stranger. There’s a voice-of-God quality about using this technique that creates circumstances impossible to escape. Even in the Bible, dogs are the messengers of God, with more than forty references to canine in the scriptures. Produced by April Day and John Ledbetter, and directed by Ledbetter, technology stars and serves more as creepy interruptions than ways to entertain—the old-fashioned telephone ring meant to jar, the aforementioned answering machine, and TV sets reminiscent of the years of rabbit ears in every home, with their faint images and electric snow. Set in the present, these anachronisms add to the mystery and suspense Ledbetter and the filmmakers are trying to achieve by putting their protagonist in immediate danger. At the same time, Spanish lessons from the 1950s over monolithic headphones bring an air of lightness and comedy. Immediately, the audience is transported, flipped around once again, adding texture to the filmmaking process. One moment we're in a location reminiscent of Casablanca, while the next shot takes us to a modern day, red-lighted hallway signifying danger.
Surprising and creative transitions between the moon and a dinner plate reveal a strong sophistication to the direction and editing, without showing off or drawing attention to themselves. Cinematography fluctuates between natural lighting, harsh brightness, cuts to black, and silhouettes painted amongst the dark. Even blue skies yield to dark clouds. The score is thankfully silent when it needs to be, yet subtle when it supports a scene; the acoustic guitar riffs are a surprising, but inspired choice. The acting can be both forced and subtle, an anagram in and of itself. Subtitles are also a nice touch when the Brazilian sex-slave is introduced, lending credibility and more intrigue. In many ways, she steals the show. "I'll make it darker for you," she says in one scene.
With a running time of thirty-four minutes, Dog of God shows us all what happens when boredom gets the best of us. "Like life," Evan says, "these people gotta live..." What's real? What’s a game? Will the "big" win out over the "little" or will the less powerful Evan Snacks outsmart everyone and survive. His life versus his existence—in the end, Evan must decide.
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