Malacostraca (2018) Short Film Review
by Raymond Landry
Written and directed by Charles Pieper, Malacostraca (the largest of the six classes of crustaceans) is a horror short starring Charlie Pecoraro as “Chris” and Amber Bollinger as “Sophie”. The film centers around the married couple but is mostly experienced through the eyes and imagination of Chris, a struggling writer gradually losing his sanity as he and his wife prepare to enter parenthood.
The acting is well above par with a brilliant performance by Bollinger. Pecoraro’s performance is a little uneven, but that can perhaps be chalked up to the insane role he plays. When Chris says, “It’s like I could see all of my bad ideas lined up like cows to the slaughter,” it solidifies his character as a terrible writer by getting both the idiom and its meaning wrong. Bollinger and Pecoraro complement each other in the plot’s downward spiral, and one can glean the direction the film is headed pretty early. However, despite the foreshadowing, there’s no way to prepare an audience for Malacostraca’s grotesque ending.
On the technical side, Malacostraca is worthy of pride. Ava Benjamin Shorr’s cinematography is excellent with an especially impressive opening shot. The makeup effects and Gabe Bartalos’ creature puppets are wonderful. The sound effects and score are atmospheric, haunting, and beautiful all at once. It’s not hard to imagine Malacostraca walking away with a number of awards for its technical achievements.
In spite of the aforementioned qualities, Malacostraca is not enjoyable. There are those who might call it “true horror” or any such synonym, but it feels more in line with provocateur filmmaking. The ending is uncomfortable, even though it can be predicted long in advance. The whole crustacean subplot and deepening madness are early markers of where the plot is headed. Even the opening scenes with the penishrimp are off-putting; it’s not a relatable fantasy. Malacostraca’s ending feels exploitative -- shock for the sake of shock.
That said, there’s certainly an audience for films like Malacostraca -- an audience that might even call it brave, or bold -- or pushing the envelope. Most, though, will likely find it just too fringe to be entertaining.