Stephen Herman and David Chin’s “Message Received” is one of the sharpest and slickest revenge shorts I’ve seen all years, bar none. Herman’s knack for storytelling is evident in a short film that relies very much on pacing and deliberate twists in what is only a ten minute long narrative. Director/Writer Herman and Director/Star Chin thankfully manage to set up and deliver the gut punch of their film within a ten minute time span and I never felt like time was wasted at all.
James is being blackmailed by a mysterious assailant who has decided to take him for all he’s worth. Awakening one morning, the blackmailer demands that he show up to a warehouse and give him the money he’s demanded or else he give his wife Simone every bit of proof that he has about his affairs on the side. With James rushing to the meeting spot, he has to figure out how much he’s willing to sacrifice to save his marriage, and the assailant donning a smiley face mask is aiming to test him as much as possible. Filled with very good editing and sharp performances by the cast, “Message Received” is a great morality tale about how mistakes and secrets can rise to the surface to destroy your life.
Director Herman and Chin won Best Director Award at the 2017 CUNY Film Festival, and it’s a well deserved accolade, as “Message Received” succeeds in deriving tension, suspense, and a finale that not only made a lot of sense, but was ridiculously clever. If I had one nitpick is that there is a small continuity error during the middle of the movie that I noticed, but it didn’t pull me out of the movie completely. In any case, Stephen Herman and David Chin are directors to watch out for and I look forward to seeing what other cinematic offerings they can give to audiences very soon. If you cross “Message Received” at a festival, be sure to give it a chance. You will be glad you did.