Stacey and Steve are two quarreling brothers on the run from a mysterious threat in the desolate moors of Isle of Skye. Disoriented and confused, Stacey has a gun in his hand, with a dog shot nearby in a ditch and no memory of what happened. They know they’ve done something wrong, so they wrap up the dead dog and go on the run.
But when a car appears on the horizon, they jump in their car and go on a high-speed chase across the plains and through the forest, bickering all the while. Nothing deters the pursuing car, who relentlessly chases them, no matter what the brothers do. They manage to elude their pursuer, but as they travel deeper into the countryside, they can’t escape themselves — or the strange situation they’ve gotten themselves into.
Directed by Remy Bazerque, this short mixes action, comedy and other genres in this portrait of fraternal rivalry and tension. Though the brothers’ bickering often verges on the bitingly humorous — sniping and arguing seems to be the only way they relate to one another — their mutual torment takes on more ominous portent with the narrative’s progression.
There is a textured 70s Hollywood feel in the cinematography, the photography often takes keen advantage of the desolate and barren setting, which is striking in its emptiness. At first, this wide-open space seems to be just a natural feature of the area, but as the film progresses, it takes on a spookier, uncannier aspect, especially as the lighting darkens and the shadows creep in. The score, too, balances a loose, almost goofy boisterous conviviality with a darker, more foreboding atmosphere.
The 70s feel also harkens back to an age of more personal cinema in Hollywood, where genre films were often injected with less conventional elements to make something fresh and interesting. As the film progresses, what seems at first to be a charmingly fun and offbeat action caper seems to subtly shift in tone to something darker and even haunting, especially as the patterns between the brothers become locked into their dysfunction and can’t find their way out of their odd predicament.
Actors James McGregor and Tom Ripley play a believable set of brothers who are always berating each other, and what is funny at first starts to seem almost abusive, especially as their situation becomes increasingly opaque yet desperate. As they try to break out of their predicament, their inability to work together and listen to one another poses a serious obstacle — as does the rules of the game when they’re finally revealed.
The moment when the endgame of “Cerberus” becomes clear is one of those terrific shifts of perception in an audience — when you thought you were watching one film and it ends up being something else. And it’s likely many will want to watch the film again in search of hidden clues. But the shift mirrors the bigger realization: the psychological patterns between the brothers have locked them into their own private hell, and are doomed to repeat themselves again and again. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Hell is other people” — but he likely never imagined it played out quite like this.
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video