The Complex: a place for the lost, the alone, and the broken to find a home. When a drug overdose at a party leads to the death of one of the Complex’s patrons, no-one is safe, as one by one those involved are hunted down by a mysterious man knocking at the door. If you let him in, you live. If you don’t, you die. Do you want to play a game?
The Complex, the third of Jake Dunn’s short films, is proof of his growing skills as a filmmaker, director, and writer. It’s gritty, tense, and surreal, promising to finish with you shouting “Wait, WHAT?!” and rewatching the whole thing with new eyes.
The film centres around a group of people who spend their lives high in one form or another, and Nina, the main character – played excellently by Tiger Cohen-Towell – is no exception. Jake has attempted to emulate this both visually and narratively to great effect. It is nonlinear and trippy in style, making you wonder how much of what you’re seeing is real, encouraging you to make your own conclusions. This will, no doubt, spark an inevitable debate in the comments section over what really happened.
The dialogue is lyrical, with interesting lines such as “The future is not what it used to be”, which, when you stop to think about it, throws you into a minor breakdown over the structure of time and reality, so thanks for that one, Jake.
Despite the film’s dreamlike quality, you’re often jarred back to reality by the horror of what you’re seeing on screen. This is not a happy film, so if you’re looking for sunshine and rainbows maybe go watch something else. The violent undertones are relentless, especially with Alex, played by Cainaan Skeels, doing an excellent job at making you incredibly nervous every time he’s on screen.
The harsh, realistic violence clashes with the surreal backdrop, which makes it seem even worse, and you’re left gasping every time a knife or a fist is thrown. The acting is also very natural, and everyone does a really good job of portraying not only the terror their characters must be experiencing in these scenes of danger but also the more subtle nuances of their personalities. This is most affecting in quiet scenes, such as the bathroom exchange between Nina and Violet, the broken-hearted dynamics of Nina, Todd, and Anna, and the quiet strength of James.
There’s a definite play on “what is reality?”, not only reflected in the script and plot, but also visually by director of photography and colour grader, Ewan McIntosh, with an interesting dichotomy between the grimy grey exteriors of the Complex and its psychedelic interior, rich with colour.
Let it be known: this movie is visually stunning. From the white stripes of makeup segmenting people’s faces the bathroom tiles that are eerily like the colour of blood, and the green glass bottle left shattered in the hallway, there is not a single shot that hasn’t been chosen with deliberate thought and care.
These choices are emphasised by the colour grading, with a red tint gradually growing until it comes out in full force at the climax of the film, making everything seem even more hellish and horrific than it already is. Extra mention must go Jennifer Walton for creating a soundtrack of Brian Eno-esque ambience and a creeping electro base to really amp up the tension present in these scenes.
Films like The Complex are a testament to the fact that YouTube really is the place to be for upcoming young filmmakers, and that you don’t need massive amounts of money or industry backing to make something good. The love and care that has gone into this film is evident, and although, as previously stated, this isn’t necessarily a happy film, it’s certainly a delight to watch.
Charlie McDonnell recently posted a powerful spoken word piece explaining his absence from YouTube. Alternatively, take a look at Simon Cade‘s ingenious short film on the fear of inadequacy as an artist.