The Code is a short horror/comedy film from director Mark Blitch and writers Jason Walter Vaile and Alan Tregoning. It’s a fun six minute picture that dives into a novel horror issue. Which bad guy gets what kill? I can’t think of another film with this angle and it’s just right for a short.The titular code is a guidebook for movie monsters and villains in an alliance together. It sets out the bylaws of who gets to kill at what times and procedures for handling disputes. On this night, a gang of lumbering zombies and a weed-whacker wielding maniac descend upon the same couple having their first date in a dark park.
To the credit of Blitch (who also served as editor), The Code does not overstay its welcome. The pacing is good and the characters are all developed enough that the audience gets a chance to know them before all hell breaks loose. The twist ending is set up nicely with one line of natural sounding dialogue that is not overplayed.
It’s hard to bring myself to call a film that winds up spilling buckets of blood at the end cute. Yet, that’s the best word I can think of to describe Vaile and Tregoning’s screenplay. It’s cute and silly. The head zombie and the serial killer fight over their murder shifts like waiters in a restaurant. They fight over technology, they fight over fairness, and they fight over the other monsters who start to join in on the argument. Every time the momentum of the discussion is about to die, another element pops up to keep the short going.
Perhaps the biggest strength of The Code is its overall attitude. The short is poking fun at horror, but it’s not mocking the genre. The villains act in character. The zombies, sans the leader Shaun, are struggling to stay upright as blood drips from their mouths and wounds. The masked murderer is aggressive and unyielding in his goals. The humor comes not from a skewering of horror but a clever concept. We’re not laughing at the characters. We’re laughing at the argument they’re having over scheduling.
Denise Nelson’s makeup design for the zombies isn’t what you would typically expect. The faces are being overtaken by darkness, with deeply sunken eyes and cheeks that read black in the nighttime shoot. Even the blood is rotten looking, dark and slow moving. When the action kicks in, the gore effects are well executed but never overdone. It’s tricky to get the right feel in comedy horror and this short succeeds.
I’ve embedded The Code below. Give it a play when you’re not at work because of the gore.
Special thanks to actor Taylor Brandt for e-mailing me about the short.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.