Heartbreaking Bravery

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Ernest Undead (Short Film)

“Trolls! Trolls! Save the kids! Trolls!” are the lines of dialogue that open Rick Whitehead’s Ernest Undead, as an MPAA-style design advises viewers this feature will be rated R for “pervasive strong horror violence and gore, language and sexuality” over pitch black rather than blue, green, or red. As opening sequences for musically-indebted short films go, that’s an extremely promising start. Follow that with a quiet shot of a graveyard that recalls both the cinematography of Roger Deakins and classic horror films, then people are going to be paying attention. When all of that winds up being a prologue to a visceral main plot that unfolds over Creepoid’s “Gout”, from their extraordinary self-titled LP, there’s no way it won’t get coverage on this site.

Having such a well-informed and artfully executed introduction opens up a world of potential directions but the route Whitehead chooses to go is both genuinely unexpected and ridiculously enjoyable. It’s not too far after a brief flashback look at the titular character that the plot of Ernest Undead reveals itself: a quiet unassuming suburb (shot and presented in an enticingly muted autumnal palette) is thrown into fear as an increasing number of children are kidnapped… by trolls. Yes, trolls. A little further down the line and a gang of “young Creepoids” (an utterly inspired concept brought to its fullest realization) have collected and fully intend on retaliating after turning down various temptations- the stranger in a van with candy bit is used to great comedic effect- at the hands of the trolls. They take matters into their own hands for a while before enlisting the help of an old friend. How they get to that point is best left unspoiled here- just know that it’s incredible.

While the story unfolds and the plot’s pushed into the exhilarating realms of surprisingly grounded absurdist black comedy, Creepoid’s “Gout” provides a considerable amount of atmosphere that helps elevate Ernest Undead to thrilling and unexpected heights. It’s gorgeously lensed throughout, an absolute joy to watch, and is a definitive declaration of Whitehead’s talent. Between the arthouse triumph of Are You Okay and the madcap glee of the low-budget suspense/horror-aping Ernest Undead, the bar has officially been set for 2014’s musically-driven short films- hopefully the rest of the field rises to the challenge. Watch Ernest Undead below and stick around for the absolutely insane stinger at the end. Buy Creepoid here. Say no to trolls. Enjoy.

Antarctigo Vespucci – I’m Giving Up On U2 (Stream)

Image of Antarctigo Vespucci - Soulmate Stuff PRE-ORDER

Well, it finally happened. Antarctigo Vespucci, the duo made up of Chris Farren (Fake Problems) and Jeff Rosenstock (Bomb the Music Industry!, solo) finally put some music out into the world. Unsurprisingly, considering the parties involved, it absolutely slays. “I’m Giving Up On U2” is every bit as enjoyable as the title suggests and sounds like early Weezer in the best way possible. There’s an infectious sense of celebration present, which is unsurprising considering how much this sounds like two great friends (who happen to be great musicians) just kicking back and having fun with each other. There’s no indication that the duo was ever aware of any expectations and as a result, wind up with something that sounds exhilarating; there are no restrictions evident in “I’m Giving Up On U2”, just a refresher on what freedom can sound like.

Going back to the early Weezer comparison, all of the hallmarks of that band’s golden era are present: the falsetto’ed backing vocals, the wiry guitar work, the thick palm mutes, the sunny melody, a subtle bit of production work, a hard-charging chorus, a massive overall sound, the ability to come across as intelligent while remaining absurdly catchy, and a delightfully askew sense of humor. There hasn’t been a song that felt as perfect for soundtracking a new start in quite some time. If all of the band’s debut, Soulmate Stuff (due out in early June via Really Records) winds up sounding like this, then it has the potential to be a serious gate-crasher come December. This is no joke- despite maybe also being the best joke of all.

Listen to “I’m Giving Up On U2” below and pre-order Soulmate Stuff here.