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Short Film Sunday: Lunch Ladies

Malu Rocha reviews Lunch Ladies, an indie horror comedy that explores the extremities of fan culture

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Lunch Ladies YouTube

Written by Clarissa Jacobson and directed by J. M. Logan, Lunch Ladies is a horror comedy short where "two burnt out school lunch ladies do whatever it bloody takes on their quest to become Johnny Depp's personal chefs."

Two middle-aged women who work as lunch ladies deserve an overdue vacation from the school teenagers, who constantly make fun of them. The ladies just received a letter from Johnny Depp, the "Depper" himself, inviting them on a contest to become his personal chefs, but the plane fare is not included. In order for them to buy their tickets, they must impress the school principal who threatened to fire them if their food doesn't live up to 'Melvin High potential'.

As a response to the principal's request, the lunch ladies come up with a ridiculously hilarious way to clean up their mess, making you root for their extremely unlikely victory. However, this is one of those stories where the journey to get there is better than any possible outcome. Clarissa Jacobson herself stated that "Lunch Ladies is first and foremost about underdogs and reaching for one's dreams."

The wonderfully unique characters Seretta and LouAnne are played by Donna Pieroni and Mary Manofsky, respectively. Clarissa Jacobson stated that she wanted Seretta to be a "crazy divine-like character but with a sexy soft side -- you know, a woman that could kill but could also wear tacky lingerie and kitten heels and cry over the 'Depper'." Her wish partially came true as Donna Pieroni steals the scene with a stellar performance coupled with her character's strong personality, but consequently makes LouAnne more of a side-kick than an indispensable half of a dynamic duo. However, you will inevitably fall in love with both of them, mostly due to their charisma (shown in seriously funny ways such a bizarre hand-shake) and relatable situation; being undervalued in a job you love.

The sound design is impeccable and, from realistic gory sounds to an eerie classical soundtrack, adds a much-needed magical quality to the film. The music was produced by Oscar nominated composer Federico Jusic and composed by Antoni M. March, a young musician from Spain.

Lunch Ladies YouTube

Visually, the film has a captivating cinematography, which is stunningly mastered. From the innovative colour palette which lends it a very particular and quirky personality, to the costume design in the opening sequence which shows great character exposition, Lunch Ladies perfects the art of adding meaning to a story through visual storytelling. Its quirkiness is emphasised by its use of Dutch angles, a technique scarcely used in films now-a-days. The Dutch angle originated in the German expressionist movement and describes the movement a camera does when it is tilted along its roll axis, so that the horizon line is not aligned with the bottom and top of the frame, similar to tilting your head sideways. The film uses this technique in particular moments of distress, which serves well to accentuate the characters' feelings and add a touch of self-awareness.

The film is a comedy indie horror with an edge, which categorizes it into a very specific sub-genre of horror, one which has a limited audience. However, those that find a loving for it become fans themselves and stand by it. Furthermore, the fact that the celebrity they are in love with is Johnny Depp makes the story less universal than if it followed a made-up celebrity, but that results in a stronger appeal to a selective audience as well.

Fans of this short film have expressed their desires to see more, perhaps in the form of a feature. Clarissa Jacobson herself stated that she made Lunch Ladies as a proof of concept for a feature film. While Lunch Ladies leaves you earning for more, whether or not it would work as a feature film is dubious; it would perhaps find a greater audience as a short series or even a theatre play. The story, even if unwillingly, has flamboyant elements that seem to fit the theatrical world more than the silver screen. The choreography and over-the-top turn of events are illustrative examples of this.

Due to its unforgivingly fast pace, it feels surprisingly shorter than its nineteen minutes of running time, which is a positive quality for a short film that wants to keep its audience on the edge of their seat. As a whole, Lunch Ladies is charming in all its quirky ways. The film makes you feel uneasy and question your own personal morals as you are caught rooting for the killers.

You will fall in love with the characters and be entertained, what more can you ask for?


For more information, visit the film's website.

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