The Night Shift: Co-Dependence

BY Scott A. GrayPublished Jun 5, 2012

Drug use, family bonds and romantic companionship are the primary forms of co-dependency examined in this collection of odd and creepy shorts from the Night Shift program.

Getting things started on the dark side, Crown is a mostly wordless piece, shot in a fluid haze, employing close-ups of twitching fingers to depict the fraying nerves of a Caucasian businessman taking a trip to the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks." Things get all early Cronenberg-ian when the smoke of choice in a seedy drug den must be inhaled through a pale, gooey, dripping flesh tube. Wait until you see what it's attached to. As vague and impressionistic as its approach is, Crown's acknowledgement of the cyclical dependency of addiction comes across clearly and is effectively sinister.

Moving on to the spastic and bizarre, Moxie is a black & white, animated depiction of a horny nihilist bear having an existential crisis in the week leading up to his apparent suicide. There's a great deal of crass shock value to be had, aided in no small part by the clipped speech of a deadpan narrator.

Continuing in the wacky animation vein, The Myth of Robo Wonder Kid also serves as a music video for the song "Push" by roaming Canadian party-starter Rich Aucoin. Set to the spry, Daft-Punk-on-pixie-sticks dance-pop workout and animated in a style somewhere between Ren and Stimpy and rudimentary anime, this strange little adventure follows a group of monsters working together to give life to a Franken-boy. Playing God pisses off the gods, in this case Zeus, who smites the friendly abomination. When the boy comes back evil, his monster family must make the "ultimate sacrifice" ― giving up what makes them unique and functional ― in order to achieve the "ultimate reward" of a healing love arrow, because family, surrogate or blood, will do whatever it takes to help the ones they love.

That sense of goodwill is promptly demolished by the deliberate nastiness of In A Musty, Misty Thicket. Shot at an odd frame rate that makes everything slightly choppy, this gross short features two filthy, slovenly women living in the woods. Of the two, one is subservient, fetching water and otherwise tending to the needs of an obese, domineering, beastly woman who laughs and farts like a white trash Jabba the Hut. Despite displays of animal-like affection, the relationship is toxic and the smaller female's respites to the woods to play with acorns and her boogers eventually take a malicious turn at the end of this unpleasant and uncomfortably comical viewing experience.

Black Doll is more palatable, mixing live action and puppetry in a stop-motion short about another set of very physically different sisters. The puppet sister lives in a glass jar between the legs of her human sister, visited only occasionally by a friendly spider who helps her escape, which may not turn out to be a good idea. Whether it's about physically losing a sister to death or temptation, or losing a piece of oneself is open to interpretation, but its gothic art design is appealing all the same.

The highlight of this set is easily Upstairs. Using deceptive chronology and sinister misdirection, this smart little picture takes a look at the value of tolerance in relationships by magnifying the misery of loneliness. And to wrap things up on a low note, Believe the Dance is an awkward, amateurish, admittedly unfinished farce that feels out of place among the shorts that precede it.

Yeah, we get it ― anyone can dance, and dance can shake the foundations of the world ― but why make that point using extremely cheesy aggression copped from Street Fighter?

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