A teenager’s formal has never been as deadly as depicted in writer/director Andrew Kavanaugh’s film At the Formal (2010). Despite having a simply story structure the technical feats of the film are anything but. The film opens with a young boy being held in the air by fellow classmates as he is reluctantly lead to the house of where the formal is being staged. This isn’t a school but a regular home which looks even more out of place from the very subtle things that you wouldn’t normally see at a formal which is alcohol for the kids, people pissing in the bushes, grown men grabbing onto teenage girls and goats that have their way in the yard. Everything appears normal but underneath really isn’t until the young boy is finally brought to the alter of the house at which point an older man strips and brandishes a large ceremonial knife before the boy. Nothing is as it seems in this film.
The film is at its best when it is shaping and showing the viewer the world that the young boy finds himself in. The first four and a half minutes is done in one continuous take with very methodical and repetitive music motif that keeps the viewer on edge waiting to know what will come next. Passing from one character to the next, the camera peaks into the lives of each of the guests of the formal. It isn’t until the camera finds its way back to the original young boy that the camera cuts. It is also at this point where the music also takes a turn for the dreadful and the true horror of this formal is finally revealed.
The trick of this film is getting to the punchline at the end which could have been very mundane but Kavanaugh’s instincts to do the first half of the film as one continuous take pays off creating a truly unique short film that relies on its visuals rather than dialogue (which there is none in this film).
You can watch At the Formal on FearNet here - http://www.fearnet.com/shorts/formal