Press & Reviews

Review – Horror News Net

www.horrornews.net/109661/film-review-pieces-short-film-2016/

SYNOPSIS:

A young woman unearths a supernatural presence at her recently deceased grandmother’s home when she finds a single jigsaw piece and a note that reads “FINISH IT”.

REVIEW:

More short films! Today we have PIECES from Cappuccino Studios, written and directed by Dan Sunley. This is his directorial debut.

Filmed in the English countryside, the story follows Isabella (Kristy Guest) as she arrives at the estate of her recently deceased grandmother. Izzy’s duty is to begin packing up her grandmother’s belongings in anticipation of the sale of the property.

Izzy finds a journal full of occult-like drawings and ramblings. As she flips through it, she comes across a page with a puzzle piece taped to it and the words “FINISH IT”. Izzy dismisses the book at first. Later in the evening she finds a locked box with a jigsaw puzzle in it and decides to give it a go.

Now I’m sure you’ve already figured out that this was not the best idea. And poor Isabella will learn soon enough that she has made a major mistake.

Ms. Guest is the main character in this story, basically the only character on screen for the majority of the film. So she has to carry the majority of the story on her performance. She does an admirable job of it. Ms. Guest comes to this production after many years in the theater and makes the transition successfully.

We do encounter a few other characters through the course of the story, all of which are important and create wonderful performances as well. I just don’t want to give any spoilers.

The story is suspenseful, like a classic ghost story. It draws you in and keeps you there for the duration. Overall, I found it very well done.

So using my special short scale of one to five, five being awesome, I’m giving this film 4 puzzle pieces.

Dean Harris Interview with Horror Hot House

www.horrorhothousereview.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/lets-go-to-pieces-with-cappuccinos-dean-harris/

I think it must be some kind of inverse reaction, but with mainstream cinema dominated by ‘safe’ sequels and reboots, the UK indie scene is pushing out a whole bunch of original new horror, both in terms of features and especially shorts.

We recently received a teaser trailer from filmmaker Dean Harris of Cappuccino Studios, for Pieces, a short film written and directed by his partner Dan Sunley. We liked the creepy supernatural taster so much we asked if we could see the whole fourteen minutes and we weren’t disappointed.

The film tells the story of Isabella (Kristy Guest) who arrives at her deceased grandmother’s house to clear out Gran’s personal belongings. She finds a jigsaw piece inside a strange book complete with a written note that says “finish it”, Isabella than sets out to find the rest of the puzzle. but as she gets closer to finishing it, she begins to realise she is not alone in the house…

I thought there was something of both MR James and Clive Barker in Sunley’s finished film with its menacing suspense ridden atmosphere and some very effective jump scares, aided and abetted by Mike Staniforth’s cinematography, Waqar Shah’s sound design and some spot on film editing by Dean, but take a look at the trailer and see what you think

So we decided to find out more about Cappuccino Studios and Pieces from Dean:

‘Cappuccino Studios, consists of myself and Dan Sunley. We met during a small production I was creating at University, and Dan auditioned for me. Influences? I’m a big thriller fan, love David Fincher and Dan is a huge fan of J & K-horrors. And of course we’re avid fans of the 80’s. Indiana Jones, Frightnight, Fletch the list goes on. I would say Pieces influences, haves been dug from somewhere in that lot.

Without sounding biased, Dan’s a great writer and I think he really tapped into something different withPieces. The idea was something Dan’s had for a few years, the concept of having a character putting together a puzzle in a haunted setting. Combining this with a secret a family member had been keeping and the thought of what would happen if she suddenly died. It’s emotional origins though have been influenced from Dan’s love of supernatural thrillers, and particularly Ahn-Byeong Ki’s films.

We’re hoping to set Pieces free on the world via our YouTube channel after the big Halloween push at varying film festivals we have entered. It should be online early to mid November. So everyone should keep an eye open on our social networks’

So what’s next for Cappuccino Studios?

‘Next? We keep asking ourselves that very question! I think we’ll more than likely do another thriller/horror short over the next couple of years. But first I have to convince Dan to make a start on something!’

So keep an eye on the Hothouse Twitter feed for news of the online release, Dean thank you very much for talking to the Horror Hothouse.

Review – UK Film Review

http://www.ukfilmreview.co.uk/single-post/2016/08/13/Pieces-short-film

Short supernatural horror film Pieces is a wonderful movie written and directed by Dan Sunley. An engaging story with a carefully planned out, suspenseful plot, audiences will never guess what’s coming.

It follows Isabella (Kristy Guest) who is clearing out her grandmother’s house after she has died. It is clear she was close to her grandmother and has no enjoyment in packing away her belongings. She discovers a favourite photograph of her grandmother as a jigsaw puzzle, and decides to put the pieces together. But it is not an ordinary puzzle.

Guest portrays Isabella as a perceptive young woman. As she goes through the house bit by bit we can see she is organised and level headed, marking up boxes. But like anyone who is going through family heirlooms, she is intrigued by certain items. As the sole character on screen for much of the film, she carries it effortlessly, and you find yourself easily drawn to her.

The story flows naturally, using lighting and flashbacks to show the passage of time. It also helps build up the supernatural elements of the short film, with only frequent hints before a bigger, final reveal. This helps keep the pace moving until the final act, and holds up the suspense.

The cinematography is stunning in this short film. Clever techniques are used throughout, like pulling focus on Isabella as she nears the camera, and used with the quick editing, which really engage you with the on screen action.

 Each scene in Pieces is carefully lit to indicate time of day, and creates interesting shadows that add to the strangeness of the film. As Isabella goes up to the attic, the lighting comes from just a few singular sources, highlighting only the important items on screen and casting the rest into an eerie darkness, so we have no idea what might be coming up.

The low level golden lighting creates an almost romantic feel, yet the falling and rising music and the quick cuts back to lighting with a grey tone immediately pulls you back into feeling something is not right.

Pieces is an excellent piece of short filmmaking, combining great story and realistic characters with the wonderful cinematography and music. I am interested to see what other films and stories Sunley has up his sleeve.

Review – Beyond The Gore

www.beyondthegore.co.uk/review-pieces-short/

Pieces is a short film by writer/director Dan Sunley. It is first venture into horror with his previous feature ‘Your Fired!!!’ residing in the comedy section of the video store, and what a fantastic first impression he has made – and a lasting one at that.

The story of ‘Pieces’ opens as a young lady Isabella takes reluctant responsibility for tidy up the affairs at the house of her recently deceased grandmother. The rest of the family make their excuses not to come to the house, but dutifully she is undeterred. Whilst the majority of the houses content are your standard old lady sort of things, two items stand out which show that dearest Nanna might have had a darker side to her. Amongst the belongings an old chest resides in the attic containing parts of a jigsaw puzzle and amongst her other household items a scrap book adorned in a range of occult symbols contains one final piece of the aforementioned puzzle. Amidst the symbols and arcane writing resides one instruction – ‘finish it’. It’s not long before the spooky stuff happened and I got scared!

I say this time and time again, fans of BTG knows I (G) am a sucker for traditional supernatural movies, and this hits the nail on the head big time.  The most striking thing about this movie is its production value. Whilst I have no specifics, it no doubt defies its budget. First off the aesthetics are textbook creepy. Long, elongated shorts of wooden loft beams with sprawling shadows cast by the soft light of a flickering lamp, external shots of an isolated house against the backdrop of an inky sky, internal shots of a vacant house devoid of life, but crowded with memories. In the hands of a less competent team this could have easily been cliché, here, when combined with the effective score, it just adds to the tension.

Despite being a short film the plot plays out well, and the exposition is evenly spaced between the scare sequences. The back story to pieces is told through flashback or dream sequences which introduce the films strange antagonist (credited as ‘The Ghoul’), and the scare sequences take clear influence from both traditional horror and more recent high profile horrors. Indeed my only real criticism of the film comes from the fact that many of the scary bits are a little too heavily influenced by such titles – the lock box in the attic being a bit of a ringer to that of the equivalent scene in ‘Sinister’ and allegory of the puzzle being, well a little close to the overarching plot of another more recent psychological horror whose name is not to be uttered in our household!
That said, the initial setup to the story had me hooked, and despite the predicable scare tactics ‘Pieces’ continued to impress with its pay off. Indeed the scare scenes had me with almost every bump, bang and chilling shadow.

I’ve made reference to tension and atmosphere, and it’s to the credit of the films attention to both the details that it is as scary as it is; bearing in mind there are a good handful of effective scares delivered in the same amount of runtime it takes some films to get past the opening credits! Whilst I don’t think anyone is going to call ‘Pieces’ original from this perspective, the jump scares are delivered with gusto and the use of the ‘creature’ in its various mediums do well to give itsome substance too. My only real niggle in this department would be with the ending, which, whilst drawing the films plot to a satisfying conclusion, is not as chilling as I thought the climax might turn out to be.

Overall, however, credit where it is very much deserved, director Dan Sunley and his team at Cappuccino Studios have made one of the most effective supernatural horror segments I have ever seen, and the devil was truly in the details. My verdict a solid 4/5, and for a 5 star feature length, I would like to see more of the same with a more subtle and chilling ‘Goul’.

‘Pieces’ is tense, scary, well shot, well-acted, and most definitely well worth your time.

Review – Decay Mag

www.decaymag.com/2016/06/23/dan-sunleys-pieces-short-film-review

Overview:

“Pieces” is a film crafted with simplicity. Yet, presented is a compelling narrative that lures the viewer from the initial frame. “Pieces” offers a central theme focused on the supernatural. Ills of curiosity is an underlying commentary on the film. According to IMDB.com “Pieces” is the directorial debut for Dan Sunley. For Sunley’s the film also registers as his second screenplay adaptation. Viewers will engage with superb camera work and well-rounded story structure.

Actress Kristy Guest conducts a one-woman performance in “Pieces”. Louise WilloughbyKate Sandison, and Clinton Curtis Hudson round out the supporting cast to the film. Guest portrays the role of Isabella. The protagonist faces a cryptic conundrum. Isabella doesn’t change as most characters do throughout the course of the film. Instead, the circumstance is the transforming entity within this Horror narrative.

“Pieces” is a Horror film short with a running time under fifteen minutes in length.

Pros:

Conjuring nefarious entities are usually reserved for ouija boards or puzzle boxes. “Pieces” reinvents this tired concept by introducing a new perspective. Dan Sunley penned an entertaining script that develops with intricacy. Each Act elevates the mystery surrounding the thematic object, a puzzle set.

The production value is spectacular. Creative camera angles, lighting and transitions composed a visual work of art. Another highlight and that of outstanding quality are the portrayals offered. Actress Kristy Guest gets most of the screen time. Guest offers a great performance, delivering dialogue with natural expression.

Cons:

“Pieces” felt incomplete, unfinished. While the story is well written and well executed it serves as an introduction. A backstory to the characters, especially with the grandmother is only a passing thought. Given the allotted time this presentation offers what it can. An in-depth view on “The Ghoul” would be a welcome addition to a sequel. At the moment “Pieces” does little to pacify the viewer’s curiosity. The backstory on the cursed puzzle, “The Ghoul” teases as an appetizer.

Closing Thoughts:

The above cons are not a critical flaw in Dan Sunley’s design. On the contrary, “Pieces” is a grand work of Horror and Mystery with elements of the supernatural. The viewer is given something to look forward to on a bigger scale. Here’s to a potential full feature adaptation to “Pieces”. 6/10

Review – Splats of blood

http://www.splatsofblood.com/pieces-allows-you-to-be-scared/

Isabella (played by a stoic Kristy Guest) is in the process of moving when she finds a locked box making strange noises in her basement. Naturally (as horror logic would dictate) she opens the box. Inside she finds the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which she begins to put together. As with most short horror flicks, revealing much more of the plot will also get into spoiler territory, which I don’t want to do. One thing to admire about this short is how quickly it gets to the point and gets exciting: it speaks volumes to the films focus and energy that I can’t tell you what happens past the first few minutes without giving it all away. A lesser short would have waited until nearly the end of its runtime to reveal as many twists, surprises, and genuine fright’s as this one does the entire time. Pieces relies pretty heavily on its story, creativity, and puzzle premise to keep us hooked. The acting does its job; the lack of any real dialogue throughout really adds to the creepy atmosphere and gives the mysterious puzzle a life of its own. A lot of the moments work pretty well; the director’s concept is obviously tight and most of the things that happen (aside from a few flat jump scares) all help to put the focus on the story being told. Noises from the attic, mysterious photographs, and well-done flashback sequences all help build the tension here. Pieces is at its best when it doesn’t try to be scary. Which probably sounds a little strange, since it’s a horror movie and it’s supposed to scare you. What I mean is that with a premise like a haunted jigsaw puzzle things can get campy pretty fast, so when the movie just lets the tension build on its own and focuses on the story rather than a haunted puzzle things work perfectly: it isn’t asking you to be scared, it allows you to be. And there’s a huge difference there, because purposeful camp in horror can have some serious dangers, as is demonstrated by horror flicks both old and new. If you’re looking for a fun horror short with a mysterious premise and some great tension, check this one out. 8 out of 10 Splats of Blood

Review – UK Horror Scene

http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/pieces-2016-short-films-review/

When grandmother, Theresa (Sandison) dies, it’s up to granddaughter, Isabella (Guest), to put her house in order. Going through her grandmother’s things, she discovers a journal and a jigsaw puzzle. Strange occurrences around the house stir up old memories and compels Isabella to complete the puzzle in hopes that it might reveal secrets about her grandmother. The first short film by writer/director Dan Sunley and his production company Cappuccino Studio, following up from the feature film You’re Fired!! While the previous production was a crime comedy, Pieces is a stark contrast, an emotional ghost story. Focusing on the relationship between a dead grandmother and grieving granddaughter, Pieces captures the moment where are mortality feels the most fragile. On first impressions I feared that this might just be another low budget ghost short, continuing the sub-genre’s popularity in contemporary horror.

Thankfully Pieces has it’s own strengths, in it’s location and it’s actors. It’s claustrophobic little house setting mimics the traditional haunted house well with it’s tight corridors and slamming doors. The cast is tiny at just four actors and even then it’s really only about the two main characters. Guest as Isabella is easy to sympathise with as the responsible member of the family having to do the hard work of respectfully dealing with her dead grandmother’s belongings, a task most of us dread ever having to do.

Sandison’s role as Theresa is more about bringing the mystery and the scares. Her spirit is responsible for the occasional jump scare. The short doesn’t rely to heavily on jump scares but what little they have work well. Although no filmmaker likes hearing comparisons to other works, especially if they are attempting to make something new and unique, I find myself comparing Pieces to The Babadook rather than any other ghost film. It’s due to the allegorical nature of the short, that the putting the puzzle together feels like a metaphor for grief, the process of dealing with the loss of her grandmother before getting back to her normal life. It doesn’t entirely commit to this idea though, a last minute plot twist brings it back to a less serious tone and more scary fun.

Pieces is a good short, it’s well made, well acted and does it’s own thing, mostly. It’s not entirely original, only for being a ghost story in a time when ghost stories are overly abundant. When you’ve seen so many ghost stories it’s a little easy to see where the plot is going but it’s a good tale none the less. 7/10

Review – Xander Woolf / 9th Circle of Horror

www.9thcircleofhorror.com/2016/06/03/review-pieces-2016-short-film

Written and Directed by: Dan Sunley, Starring: Kristy Guest, Kate Sandison and Louise Willoughby

What’s it about?
While dealing with the loss of her grandmother, Isabella (Guest) is tasked to pack up the now empty house alone. While sorting through Nana’s (Sandison) old stuff, she comes across a single puzzle piece attached to a note that reads, “FINISH IT.” When night falls, a disturbing presence is unearthed and Isabella must decide her fate.

What did I think?
Pieces is a truly terrifying film about losing a loved one and the search to find out why. What started out as curiosity over a single puzzle piece turned into finding the line between this world and the supernatural world. This film is not only haunting, but also impactful.

The tension that builds throughout Pieces had me on the edge of my seat. This was masterfully done through the use of imagery, silence, sound and music. It was the perfect combination for a horror short.

The casting was done well. Each of the women in this film were believable and strong characters. Kristy Guest did an excellent job as the lead in the film. Her Isabella was believable and strong, which isn’t always the case with horror female leads. Kate Sandison was both sweet and terrifying while Louise Willoughby pulled off the naive best friend.

Do I recommend it?
Most definitely. Overall, this short film is amazing.

To find out more about this film and when you can expect it to be released, please visit their website.

Review –  Erin Miskell / The Backseat Driver

www.thebackseatdriverreviews.com/saturday-shorts-pieces.html

Way leads to way with me sometimes. Case in point: I met the dynamic duo Scott and Liam of the Scott and Liam vs. Evil podcast (available on iTunes, and worth every second of your spare time to listen to a pair of Scotsmen go off about movies) via my That’s Not Current editor Kieran Fisher (I tell you, Kieran just keeps proving my thesis that he knows everyone). Scott and Liam pointed me in the direction of a preview for a short film called Pieces, written and directed by Dan Sunley. I reached out to Dan (who can be found on Twitter at @dan_sunley and on the web at piecesfilm.com), and since I technically count as press (can I get a “fuck yeah” from the cheap seats?), I was able to view the screener of this short film. I can’t show the whole thing, but I can give you a still and point you in the direction of the teaser trailer.

Guys. This is not a drill.

I’ve watched this a few times now, and it’s fucking good. When I say something is fucking good, I mean that I am a jaded prick that oftentimes has at least three snarky tries go through her head before something resembling a sentence comes out. So the compliment is genuine because this film left me speechless. Sunley does an amazing job of keeping the mood tense without once lampooning himself, the material or the genre. It’s creepy and impactful based on lighting, actors that can act, sound and tight writing. Lead actress Kristy Guest does a great job. The sound/composition team of Waqar Shah and David John Bartlett is absolute dynamite. It’s well-edited, poignant and completely creepy in one 14-minute package. I’m giving this one a Well Played label. That doesn’t happen often with me. This is that good.

I know I’m being a big ol’ tease, but this is worth it. I will let you know when it’s done on the festival circuit and is ready for viewing. It’s incredible. Something to wet your appetite for later. Because oooooooooooh is this one delicious.

Review – Thy Demons Be Scribblin

www.thydemonsbescribblin.com/movie-reviews—just-shit-or-the-shit/scribblin-short-films-small-talk-pieces

Pieces, unlike a Spanish film made in 1982 of the same name (by the director of Slugs) containing various crimson soaked, grue encrusted, chainsaw scenes, is a story primarily set in an aging empty house in the middle of the English countryside.

Isabella (Kristy Guest), having volunteered to do what her parents won’t, finds herself alone packing away her deceased Grandmother’s belongings.
An old notebook falls from a box. Curious, Isabella opens it discovering various scrawled undecipherable messages inside and a puzzle piece. Later after investigating strange noises emanating from the attic she unearths a tin box containing more of the same puzzle. It’s finished all but a for a few pieces. Unable to curtail her growing curiosity Isabella proceeds to rifle through drawers’ intent on finishing the picture before her as it looks strangely similar. Though oddly different, to an aging photograph she has in her possession which she has repressed memories of.

What or who is making are the noises in the attic, who constructed the writings/drawings in the notebook what do they mean, why is the image in the puzzle eerily akin to the photograph, who is the figure in black and why is it that Isabella is so prone to blindly follow and investigate strange noises in the dead of night when most ‘sane’ folks would bolt in absolute fear at the slightest noise and not look back?

Of course this is a work of fiction with a storyline that includes a strong independent character who doesn’t think of the possible ramifications of her actions, decisions that propel the storyline into predicaments thwart with intrigue, nightmarish visions and various paranormal goings-on.
I’m happy to report that Pieces is a short one won’t easily be able to push aside into the realm of ‘watched but easily forgotten’. It boasts stylish production values, well thought out and meticulously crafted camera techniques and crisp acting throughout with numerous moments of suspense so expertly executed one might actually believe they’re actually witnessing a cleverly ‘clipped’ segment from a full length feature sporting a much more extravagant budget.

The score/soundtrack is a testament to knowledge of the genre itself and fits the visuals on screen like a glove (Giallo reference there!) adding tremendous power to the overall aura of each scene, be it oozing with a ‘jump scare’ or one with a thoroughly distracting though innocuous nature.
Appreciatively the media packet associated with this (short) feature is of a similar standard, in fact a professional quality rarely witnessed by this humble scribblin’ servant to the Indie scene. With all that being said the short still leaves room and questions that a full length could easily flesh out while displaying qualities that work excellently well obviously derived from time well spent and experience in the film making arena. In my opinion and unlike the amassed, milling, hordes of snobbish critics I don’t deem it necessary for every question to be answered. There’s always room for a certain amount of mystery to linger, as in real life there are always enigmas that remain amusingly unsolved and quandaries that require time, intelligence and varying (often outlandish) opinions in order to resolve.

In essence this is an exciting short with stunning attention to detail that deserves attention and heaps of praise. Look for Pieces in an upcoming fund raising campaign, support the talent behind it and keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming feature (with a larger budget that allows for the director’s vision to truly shine) that will leave Paranormal Activity rehashes shamed and wiped clean from recent memories.

Review – Scott & Liam vs Evil

www.scottandliamvsevil.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/pieces/

When a loved one dies, it’s hard to pick up the pieces. In Isabella’s case, she should leave them where they are.

The short film from Cappuccino Films, written and directed by Dan Sunley and starring Kirsty Guest, centres around a girl named Isabella, who is tasked with clearing up her recently deceased grandmother’s house because her parents refuse to stay and help. While tidying the house, Isabella finds a jigsaw piece alongside a note saying, “finish it”.

The beauty of short films is they do not have to explain or answer any questions they ask. There is not enough time for back story or character development. This story is happening simply because it is, so get ready for the scares.

I watched this movie at night, alone, with headphones in, and that is the best way to get the most from Pieces. The sound production is top quality and you are aware of every noise from that house, not to mention the score works to really build the tension. There are several elements recognisable from the horror genre here. The haunted house, home invasion and paranormal happenings all flowing the story toward the satisfying conclusion.

The bulk of the movie is centred around the star alone in the house. Kirsty Guest does a fantastic job of displaying the different emotions that arise through this journey. A difficult task for an actor when there is very little dialogue to rely on, but one in which is completed to a very believable standard.

The best scares in this work come in the middle and are so effective in raising the blood pressure and bringing the goose bumps, they do take away from the final reveal, which is good but not frightening. However this is not a bad criticism, rather a wish to see more. What we have in Pieces is a clever blend of creepy, atmospheric and terrifying, mixed together to create a delicious free sample. There is a feature length story to be explored here and I for one am sold.

I am ready to buy a piece of this puzzle.

Review – Battle Royale With Cheese

www.battleroyalewithcheese.com/2016/04/pieces-2016-horror-short-review/

Pieces, the brand-new short-form horror from burgeoning Yorkshire production company Cappuccino Studios, is a fourteen-minute exercise in tension, eschewing the “gore” route but choosing instead to twist at our nerves, tuning them like guitar strings.

Isabella (Kristy Guest) has just attended the funeral of her grandmother, Theresa (played in flashback by Kate Sandison), and in lieu of her parents who have already made good their departure, she’s going to spend the night at her Nonna’s house, boxing everything away. As she goes about her task Isabella disturbs a pile of old books, one of which catches her eye; a journal, filled with strange drawings, symbols, sketches, runes. Did Nonna create this tome? There’s a jigsaw puzzle piece taped to one page, alongside a bold message: FINISH IT. Odd. Never mind. Isabella packs the book away with the others and cracks on.

Later that night, Isabella is pretty much finished her packing, and settles down to stay there for the night. There’s a creaking noise coming from the attic. Investigating, Isabella finds a rocking chair up there, which may well have been set in motion by a draught and subsequently caused the floorboards to creak. Okay then. There’s something else up there, piquing Isabella’s curiosity: a small tin box, in isolation on a table. On its clasp dangles a padlock. An open padlock. Well, you’ve just got to have a look, haven’t you? Isabella does indeed, and what she finds is a jigsaw puzzle. Taking it downstairs, she deduces after connecting just a couple of pieces that it’s a puzzle depicting a beloved photo of Theresa, her Nonna, taken by Isabella herself at her own fifth birthday party. Swept up by the reminiscence, Isabella resolves to complete the jigsaw. And hey, wasn’t there a puzzle piece inside that weird book too, with an instruction to “FINISH IT”? Maybe that’s one of the pieces of this puzzle!

Yorkshireman Dan Sunley, the writer and debutant director of Pieces, is an avid fan of the swell of J-Horror and K-Horror movies which arrived in the late nineties/early noughties, and this admiration is evident throughout the picture. As with so many of the finer examples of Asian horror cinema, Pieces is concerned with mining its frights from the everyday, the mundane. Whilst all houses are kind-of spooky in the dead of night, this is not a creepy Gothic mansion, it’s a run-of-the-mill suburban estate property; the deceased Nonna, Theresa, was not a wart-ridden hag with a pointy hat and a bubbling cauldron. She was just a woman. And whilst not everything is absolutely spelled out – as things almost never are in short horrors, and neither should they be – the wider story of what has transpired here is elegantly addressed with the inclusion of that rather creepy book, Nonna’s own self-written Necronomicon. Yup, Theresa and her life may have looked plenty mundane, but Nonna had clearly gotten herself deep into something badly… wrong.

Featuring a strong, sympathetic turn by Kristy Guest in the central role as Isabella upon whom this movie stands or falls, Pieces is an assured, clearly defined debut by Mr. Sunley, and comes recommended. I’d love to see him writing the UK’s own version of Ju-On: The Curse somewhere down the line.

Review – The Slaughtered Bird

www.theslaughteredbird.com/pieces-2/

I’m sure like me, many of you have had to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that goes with sorting through the possessions of a recently deceased love one. One minute you can be grieving their loss, then just by catching glimpse of an old photo or a trinket that was personal to them can bring a wave of other emotions flooding back.

Director Dan Sunley uses this unenviable task as the backdrop to his unsettling short, Pieces. Isabella (Kristy Guest), has just lost her Grandmother. While sorting through her belongings, she finds a book with strange writing scribbled in and a jigsaw piece (attached to a silver chain) stuck to a page with the words “FINISH IT”. Not knowing where the rest of the puzzle is, she settles down for the night.

While laid in bed though, she hears strange noises coming from the loft. while investigating she notices a strange box with an unlocked padlock attached. Once it is open, she realises that it contains the rest of the elusive jigsaw puzzle.

After pouring a glass of wine, she sets about putting the puzzle together, realising that it depicts a photo from her own childhood birthday party, but with a strange dark shadowy figure lurking in the background.

The next day, Isabella’s friend Melissa visits her with a bottle of wine. While Isabella goes out to the car Mel decides to take the piece off the chain and finish the puzzle. As I’m sure you can guess, that isn’t a good idea!

Although Pieces is only a short (at 14 minutes), the production values look really impressive. The direction is solid and Sunley does a great job of building up the tension and sense of dread. One of the things I am constantly on the lookout for is a film that scares me, and in Pieces, although not terrified, I was on edge almost throughout. I also think that the director got the amount of jump scares just right for the movie’s running time.

Kristy Guest’s portrayal of Isabella was solid, and it would be interesting to see what she could do with the role if the film was longer and had more time tot develop her character and show the grieving process. The other speaking actress in the film, Louise Willoughby played her character as a bubbly airhead type, and while she will never win any awards for the part, did what needed to be done.

Pieces, in my opinion was a good example of what Dan Sunley is capable of. It was (according to IMDB) his first film work since his 2006 work, You’re Fired!!. Hopefully this indicates that he is ready to get back into the swing of things, and I for one would like to see what he can do with a longer film.

6/10 – Kriss Pickering

Dan Sunley Interview with Sanitarium Magazine Issue 40

“Pieces” Writer & Director Dan Sunley

SM: Thanks for speaking with us, Dan! Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, and with Pieces being your directorial debut, how did you decide to make the jump?

DS: Thanks for having me, this is my first ever interview – so I’m honoured! I’m from a small town in East Yorkshire, had a college education in Theatre but always wanted to do something related to movies. In 2006 I wrote and produced a low-budget feature with no idea and made all the mistakes, but it was great experience. For the last three years I’ve taken a break from a ‘real’ job to get a boost on studying/writing screenplays. The nature screenwriting (especially specs) can feel a little stoic; I wanted a change of pace and some practical experience so I tried to create an interesting short script that could be done on a small budget. I thought making a short film would be easier than the crushing-nerve-panic of pitching stories to executives, it wasn’t that easy, but I was half right – at least at the moment.

SM: You’re very much into the supernatural and horror – why the interest? Where did that come from for you?

DS: Seeing Ghostbusters as a young child was probably the main culprit for the fascination of the supernatural. I didn’t discover the rush of horror movies until my early twenties; I loved how the psychological journeys stayed with me long after the initial viewing. My mother actually had a genuine paranormal experience with an ouija board once, so I don’t think there has been any doubt in our family that there are things out there beyond our current understanding.

SM: What is the one, quintessential Asian horror film every movie buff should see?

DS: It’s a coin toss between Kim Jee-woon’s “Tale of Two Sisters” and Ahn Beyong Ki’s “Phone”. I reckon most buffs will have seen the former so the latter is worth checking out if only for one of the creepiest performances you’ll ever see out of someone under the age of 10. It also has a good twist, they truly are the masters at the Supernatural Thriller genre.

SM: You also say your inspiration comes from movie and video game soundtracks. How important is it to you when picking music for movies and how does that process work for you?

DS: I don’t know what I’d listen to if I didn’t have soundtracks. My screenplay ideas usually start with a single scene that comes from listening to instrumentals (I have headphones on everywhere I walk). I create playlists that score the movie while I’m writing. A lot of my music is organised by the images they create i.e. I have playlists for dark nights, icy landscapes, daytimes, tension, that sort of thing. For me it’s about creating an environment where you can put yourself inside the idea and then see where your imagination takes you.

SM: On that same note, what is your favourite video game? And your favourite video game soundtrack?

DS: Don’t make me choose!!  Okay, the original Sonic The Hedgehog (you never forget your first love), my favourite game soundtrack would be Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy XIII-2. I have some weird stuff.

SM: Are you still writing? What are the challenges of directing compared to your work putting pen to paper?

DS: I think I will always write. Although time at the desk has taken a back seat as the Pieces project has gone on. Screenwriting is like playing chess with yourself; you have all the time in the world to work on your methods, read how to’s, build strategies, get feedback and re-evaluate your work. Directing feels like playing three chess games against three real opponents, you’re also against the clock and all the pieces can move randomly after each turn! Not having a plan will instantly lead to ruin but you can’t turn up to set with blinkers on. You have to be flexible, not all of your ideas/shots will work. Story/action trumps all other aspects; if you don’t have the coverage that connects your story points together you’ll get into tricky waters during the edit. Your audience will forgive a few continuity errors (like a tea cup that moves between shots) they won’t forgive a story that doesn’t make any sense.

DOP Mike Staniforth, Production designer Natalie Roe and Dan Sunley on set
DOP Mike Staniforth, Production Designer Natalie Roe and Dan Sunley on set

SM: The premise of Pieces is intriguing, eerie and seems to be able to encompass an ending to suit every viewer. Will there be big twists in this movie or are you a fan of letting the fans piece together the conclusion (if you’ll mind the pun)!?

DS: I hope so! I think by design short films leave the audience to draw their own conclusions more than features. You don’t have the time to explain every what/why/how – and there’s a nice bit of creative freedom in that, they are fantastic for creating debate afterwards. I hope to give the viewer a flavour of emotional content and just enough information that they can form their own mental investigation during the film, I guess the proof of the pudding will be if they get emotionally involved and not think: “what was the point in that?” I sincerely hope it’s the former.

SM: When will Pieces premier, and how can people see it?

DS: We don’t have premier date yet as such. We’re editing over Christmas and finishing post in the New Year, we’ll then submit to 2016’s film festivals which will (hopefully) show the film around next Autumn.

SM: What can we expect from you in the next year? Five years? Ten years? Do you have on penultimate career milestone that you’d like to achieve?

DS: Hopefully more movies! I’d like to direct another short, build on working relationships, experience and continue to learn. My main goal is to try and build the steps to enable me to write/direct a feature in the future. My ultimate career goal would be to have a film under the Blumhouse banner – I love the way they produce their movies.

SM: You’re a self-proclaimed Daniel Craig Bond fan. Have you seen Spectre? What did you think?

DS: It was good, wasn’t it! I think it was the James Bond movie the James Bond fans wanted to see. It seemed closer to the format of the older ones, which is no bad thing but to me it felt like the odd one out of all Craig’s Bonds, I don’t know why though. Casino Royale is still my favourite.

SM: Are there any directors / writers that you think we should be looking out for?

DS: Ti West is one. Adam Winguard is another, I read that he’s taking on the live-action re-make of Death Note, so that’ll be interesting. It’ll be great to see what Robert David Mitchell comes up with next if he stays in the horror genre. James Wan goes without saying doesn’t he?

SM: If you could direct / reboot any screenplay what would it be?

DS: I always thought “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” (1971) would be an interesting film to update, it’s 44 years old but it has a different spin on an old trope.

SM: Finally, do you have any must have items or rituals for a shoot (superstitious or otherwise) before it goes ahead?

DS: I just try to get some quiet time, somewhere unfamiliar. For me it’s sitting in a coffee shop or taking a walk somewhere, alone. Give yourself a little time to take a breath before the chaos starts.

SM: Thank you for your time today!

Thank-you to Barry Skelhorn of Sanitarium Magazine for the republishing of this interview.
You can buy the issue 40 of Sanitarium Magazine via their website.