Have you ever seen a movie and thought, "this actor is truly killing it"? Well, in Eddie Bammeke’s short film First Impressions Can Kill, that is exactly what the seemingly plain, loving and smiling Jane Higgins (Lynn Lowry) is doing. A lovely, middle-aged woman with a broad smile, shining blonde hair and a bubbling personality enters an empty audition room for a production entitled ‘Cockney Holocaust’.
Jane is immediately portrayed as a passionate and ambitious actress, who has attended a variety of acting seminars and always ‘gets the role’. Once Jane decides she wants a role, however absurd or seemingly ‘unsuitable’ for her appearance, age group or even gender, there is nothing that can stop her.
A witty and darkly humorous narrative, First Impressions Can Kill balances the comic with the tragic, reality with illusion, and the stereotype with the anomaly. It is fair to say that the primary success of this short film lies in its ability to delve into the dangerous psyches of two people, as well as portray in an almost satirical manner the dark side of ambition.
The short film starts very uniquely with the sound of a hoover ‘eating up’ the opening onscreen credits, a series of muffled sounds that will preside over the rest of the short. The eerie atmosphere that is conjured from the greyish landscape of a ground floor interior and the dark uniform of a maintenance man polishing the floor will also follow the viewer to the very last scene. There is nothing sinister or ambiguous in the benevolent face of the janitor (played by Paul Sutton) and there are even less danger indicators in the smiling countenance of Jane.
Director Eddie Bammeke makes some excellent choices when it comes to juxtaposition and symmetry in each scene producing a powerful effect for the viewer. From the employment of the hoover, to the close-ups during the audition process and the subtle appearances of key characters (such as the janitor) at just the right moment, the short film takes on an almost theatric aspect. Apart from the latter, timing in each scene is very well constructed, with each scene’s main reversal perfectly punctuated by witty moments in the script (written by Micheal Haberfelner).
The narrative is so well-rooted and established in its setting, a British town, that the viewer never looses touch or becomes perplexed. From the uniforms, to the MacBook pro of the cast director, to the wardrobe choices of the auditioning actors, the short is replete with further indicators and signs that propel the theme of subversion, and the disruption of appearances within reality that the script aims to convey.
If one needed to find a weak spot in the short, it would be the score, which seems to be rather underwhelming in comparison to the strong theatrical performances given by the characters. However, it could be very reasonable, for the subdued undertones of the muffled voices in the audition process paired with the sparse musical pieces might have a place of their own in the mosaic of the narrative.
Balancing dark comedy with social criticism and stereotype subversions, First Impressions Can Kill is an excellent example of the duality of human nature and the disastrous potential of over-ambition. Overall, if one had to summarise where the success of Bammeke’s work comes from it would be three things: consistency, a great-script, and acting that ‘kills’!
'First Impressions Can Kill' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.