October 30, 2013

If You Want 'Torture Porn' with a Monologuing, Serial Killer Robot, ARRI ALEXA-Shot 'ABE' Nails It

It's probably unfair to label Rob McLellan's ARRI ALEXA-shot ABE as torture porn (and I know there are many horror aficionados that despise the term), but it certainly takes some inspiration from the genre. While the premise is simple enough, and films like Blinky have solidified the creepy vibe of intelligent, overly calm robots forever, ABE actually has quite a bit more going on underneath the hood than it might seem at first glance, and asks the audience some pretty deep questions about artificial intelligence, existence, and what being human really means. Check out the short film below.

Thanks to Short of the Week for bringing this one back up during the season of all things horror, here's the film:

Framing a story in a certain genre but focusing on something different is nothing new, but it's a fantastic way to keep things interesting and play with audience expectations. A movie about a serial killer robot isn't all that interesting, and some would probably find a movie about a robot looking to be loved back by humans a little dull, but combining the two makes for suspense with some deep, existential questions. Films like Monsters have done exactly that by embracing lower budget sensibilities and using them to their advantage by having the genre be just a backdrop for the real film.

For some BTS on the movie, check out this VFX before and after:

Besides being a pretty interesting breakdown, I think it also shows how important color grading is to the final product. The flat look of the original ALEXA footage is obviously a good starting point, but the grade really makes the image stand out, and gives it a far more cinematic feel.

For more, check out this interview with the director:

And finally, here is Rob's original short that inspired the film:

We've talked a bit about calling card films, and this one certainly fits the mold. Science fiction with some effects typically gets the attention of Hollywood, and ABE is no different, as MGM is currently turning the idea into a feature film.

What other films have you seen that effectively turn a genre film into much more? What are your favorites?

Links:

[via Short of the Week]

Your Comment

25 Comments

Umm

October 31, 2013 at 2:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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tom

Meh. Story was boring, I was crapping myself at the start to be turned off by literally 6 minutes of exposition that literally did nothing for the story but explain that the robot loves but isn't loved. I was not emotionally involved with any of the involved characters by the end of it at all. The tension was laughable after 2 minutes. This isn't torture porn, this is lame exposition with a dark theme and blood splatter at the end.

October 31, 2013 at 2:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

However the VFX were alright.

October 31, 2013 at 2:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

very well shot, almost agree with you on everything. Besides predictible. The plastic covering the robot (on 3'49") was the perfect excuse for the blood part at the end of the short.

October 31, 2013 at 7:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Arri Alexa, shot at Pinewood Studios, good VFX, etc., but the story was drawn out and well...lame. The crazy killer robot wasn't creepy enough, or menacing enough. Lots of dialogue that goes nowhere. The true terror of A.I. is that it is entirely unnatural.

In 2001 what made HAL awesome and creepy and menacing was that it was impossible to figure out what HAL was up to, or what his motivation was. It is near impossible to "read" a machine. There is nothing that (humans) can relate to how a computer intelligence thinks, even though we would be its creators. If a true singularity ever happens, I hope it doesn't happen in my lifetime.

How many more of these visually impressive, lackluster executed "hot shots" are going to be upgreyydd, to feature films till someone realizes that it's the STORY that counts? VFX are almost throwaway now because they are so commonplace now. I just wish just once one of these hot shot VFX guys would get hooked up with a good screenwriter.

October 31, 2013 at 5:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Neil

More vfx artists thinking pasting on above amatuer effects onto the screen constitutes a story. This is why Hollywood has its joeseph kosinskis and fede alverez's, people who can put an image together than smack it around in after effects and maya but can't tell a story. Hollywood needs to stop confusing a vfx reel for a filmmakers one

October 31, 2013 at 8:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

I agree with much of the criticism above and the original 2 min short left a much bigger impression on me. Thought that was great! Perhaps if i hadn´t seen that first... ? However, there was an abundance of dialogue and the premise was drawn out too long in this case. Still, I think there is definitely a lot of scope for a feature to make the most of this.

October 31, 2013 at 9:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jojo

Lmao. Seems trolling is at an all time high on nfs website. I wish we could go back to the days where commenters posted comments that left readers in peace and harmony

October 31, 2013 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

Couldn't agree more mate! It's almost hard to read through the comments these days, there is still 'some' good stuff, but I can't stand going through all the trolls. I hope the admin of NFS reads these concerns. User ratings is a must to get rid of the people who shouldn't be wasting everyones time

October 31, 2013 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Lloyd

I so agree—if you don't have anything good to say then.. erm don't?

October 31, 2013 at 6:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Georgia Woods

This thing would be an awesome audio drama. Just listen to the audio. Some minor fixes and you can tell all that without any image. That is probably what makes this whole film so shallowly sytle-over-substanced. The images do not seem to have any suggestive quality whotsoever, the story is best told without them. That would distill the whole existential aspect, the whole Sci-Fi out of it. This scene is not made for moving images, unfortunately.

October 31, 2013 at 11:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MattN.

My thoughts exactly. In fact, I went back to my tasks after the moth thing and only listened until the robot picked up the saw. I came back a couple of times and I saw the girls face which wasn't of fear most times, it looked like the actress couldn't come up with any more expressions to the robot's speech. Seemed a forced situation.
And the robot didn't quite look right, specially the animation.
And the end with him lurking in broad daylight, well... I guess that's commonplace in that universe.

October 31, 2013 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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+1

November 2, 2013 at 3:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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RobW

Gosh! The unwarranted hate this film gets! Everyone with a keyboard on a film forum is a self proclaimed Simon Cowell of film. Gosh relax people! Though I will say nfs haters are not as bad as a mainstream mag's website I went to. The site had reported that the film got picked up for feature development and comments about the misogynistic tone of the film surprised me. I think vfx artist like him rarely gets appreciated in Hollywood, so let him get his shot. I don't see what the big deal is. Some of u won't get the idea of positive karma.

October 31, 2013 at 3:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

OK to everyone hating on this short, show me what you can do and prove that you can do better by posting a link of a short or feature film you've made that can beat what I've just seen. Until then, shut up and give respect where its due. Thanks Joe for posting.

October 31, 2013 at 6:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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shaun wilson

You don't need to make something better to know where credit is and is not due.

October 31, 2013 at 8:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

So if you consider Abe "lame", post your IMDB profile so we can have a look at your work to see if it validates your stated opinions?

November 1, 2013 at 6:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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shaun wilson

You clearly missed my point. Critics don't have to make a Nolan film to judge a Nolan film. The film was boring. I don't even understand how making a piece of rubbish like this validates my opinion.

November 1, 2013 at 10:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

thats why lots of film makers like Lucas, Scorsese and others think film critics r overrated people making a living selling their opinions and don belong to be mentioned in the same sentence as artists (regardless of whether or not u think Lucas is an artist)

November 1, 2013 at 3:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

You just proved my point.

November 1, 2013 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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shaun wilson

An artist will never be the same as a critic. But there will be always be critics and there will always be artists. How is this news to anyone? And even though the film looks amazing, so did Transformers 3. Doesn't mean its not boring or just outright flawed.

November 2, 2013 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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RobW

so who are u mr Rob W? I assume anyone on nfs is s filmmaker and not part of the celebrity obsessed culture crowd that is Hollywood at its core- which is a business nonetheless. That includes red carpet events, Oscars, ctitic reviews, etc. The artist came first, we should not forget that! Everything else is secondary and did not exist until years after people widely accepted film as a different medium. Just because a film looks like transformers doesn't mean it's bad! There's lots of cookie-cutter "artsy" films out there.

November 3, 2013 at 11:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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thadon calico

https://vimeo.com/69215175

Code : loveinathens

November 1, 2013 at 4:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Lovely ,simply ......Lovely.
Although ,why is this popping up here ? Saw this a long while back elsewhere.

November 1, 2013 at 7:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dheep'

I like the original short - it has the right length and the VFX quality is perfectly enough to help tell everything what needs to be told.

The "remake" has some nice visuals, but I think one of the problems is that the actress does not have much space to act (literally), she just keeps being frightened for the whole length of the movie.

November 2, 2013 at 9:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Psch