“Are You Comfortable?  Can I Get You Anything?”

Main Cast: Sam Hoare, Claire Huskisson

Director: Rob McLellan

I’ve always been drawn to those artists who don’t wait.  They don’t wait for a band when they want to make music, they sit down and make it.  Prince and Trent Reznor fall into that category and I’ve always loved their work, that appreciation deepens when I know they did it all themselves.

But that admiration is not just for musicians, sometimes filmmakers have that same drive.  For example, Rob McLellan, writer/director of the short ABE about a sociopathic robot who was created to love, but eventually finds itself unloved in return and goes seeking that love and, when it can’t find it, decides to manufacture it by “fixing” anyone who doesn’t love it back.

ABE is a very short film, 7 minutes and 12 seconds, but also very effective.

A woman (Claire Husskison, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH) wakes up strapped to a gurney, duct tape over her mouth, and Abe comes in and gives her his backstory in a very clipped and proper British accent.  He asks her if she’s ever wanted anything so much that nothing would stop her from trying to achieve it.  Then he tells her humans’ needs and desires mean nothing when it can all end in the blink of an eye.

Abe was “programmed to love” and he does, he “cannot help it.”  But then, “no one programmed [him] how to cope when those you love start not loving you.” So he did what any self-respecting psychopath does, he “tried to fix them” because “if they did not love [him], then they must be broken.”

And all the while, the woman is strapped and gagged on this gurney, looking at the tray of surgical instruments next to her.

ABE is an interesting short in that it provides a very intense situation with potential for extreme fear but infuses its one main scene with heart and pathos and an underlying hint of futility.

Abe has his purpose.  He knows his purpose because it was programmed into him.  He was built to provide love and care.  He had his family.  He cooked for them and cleaned for them, and he loved them.  But they stopped loving him, which left him adrift in a world that had no need for him.  But as a creature that wants to continue to exist, instead of finding new purpose, Abe has decided to fix a broken world so it falls in line with HIS purpose.

And then we go back to the first thing I said, about McLellan being a one-man moviemaking machine.  Rob McLellen has written and directed several shorts, but where you may have actually seen his work would be in bigger projects like THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the new Netflix series, Avatar: The Last Airbender where he serves in the visual arts department.  And that’s where ABE really shines. McLellan has designed what’s probably the creepiest-looking robot ever without it being OBVIOUSLY creepy from the get go, and I honestly have no idea if this thing is CGI or practical, it looks so good (McLellan, along with Craig Stiff did the visual effects for ABE).

When Abe first appears, he seems innocuous, timid even.  But the more the story unfolds, the more that British tone (provided wonderfully by Sam Hoare, CAPTAIN AMERICA: The First Avenger, Pennyworth) tries to lull us into a state of calm, the more those big white glowing eyes seem to peer into us, through us, to the point we know Abe is no longer seeing us, he’s seeing whatever skewed world his fried circuits have manifested.  The more he talks, the more the perceived emotion seems to drain from his lifeless, metal face.  And the more we start to fear just what it is he’s capable of while wondering just what the hell he’s already done to how many others.

ABE isn’t the best horror short I’ve ever seen, but I’ve watched it several times now and I got even more from it the each time.  For a free YouTube short, it is totally worth the ticket price.

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