“Believe me, it’s worth it”
Created as part of the 48 Hour Film Project’s 2013 installment in Boston, Sean Meehan’s Mallas, MA had four stipulations: his team Fix It In Post had the genre of “Buddy Film” and were made to use a character named Brian or Bonnie Higgins, a net as a prop, and the line of dialogue above. From there the sky was the limit for Meehan and his cowriters Daniel Berube and Todd Mahoney, the idea of a superstitious town and the pair of con artists sifting through becoming the premise with which to build upon.
Starring Timothy J. Cox as Brian and Maria Natapov as Maria, the paranormal activity ruse at play is discovered early on while watching the former ensure his “ghost detector” made the appropriate noises to fool their gullible clientele and the latter on the phone with a television show requesting visual proof of their findings. An impressive aerial shot above the town later—an impressive feat considering the project’s constraints of limited budget and time—brings them to Eddie’s (Eddie Nason) home for the duo’s latest reading.
But as they look around for something to pass as a sort of ectoplasmic remnant of the great beyond, a fantastic stroke of luck occurs in the appearance of a young girl more than willing to partake in a little make-believe. Directing her while Maria snaps images on her phone, Brian is tickled by their new friend’s enjoyment in posing wherever he asks her to go. So focused on the con, however, he doesn’t see the sheer impossibility of this girl’s movements going from his side to exactly where he needs her to be in the split second it takes for the camera to pan over.
Meehan and company have crafted a fun bit of comedy dealing with the human conscience and its ability to be so shortsighted in its corruption that it can’t discern when the lies have turned to truth. The supernatural aspect is beautifully orchestrated by the simplest of tricks—divulged via an image right before the credits—just as the main cast rises to the occasion with enough jovial cynicism to accept the change of heart that arrives at the end for Higgins. Think an eight-minute cousin to Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm set in present day for free.
I may need to watch it again to find out exactly where the net comes into play—unless of course it’s simply the device Cox’s Higgins uses to “ensnare” the readings of his fictitious apparitions—and the ultimate admittance of truth may arrive more abruptly than desired, but Mallas, MA results in an inventive short with the kind of production value that makes it hard to believe only two days were needed to go from start to finish. Unsurprisingly, the film went on to win the Audience Choice Award for its grouping—a well-deserved accolade.
Watch it for yourself on Vimeo.