Aleksandra Svetlichnaya created the Dinnerverse 4 years ago, kicked off by the incredible Dinner (2015), followed by Breakfast (2016) and Midnight Snack (2018). Her Buffy influences were on full display through those 3 films, all of them featuring monsters, face kicking and a healthy dose of humor. Most of the humor was provided by her bumbling “sidekicks”, Oscar (Joshua Kachnycz) and Hamilton (Ricardo Segarra).
Svetlichnaya starred as Dylan, the blonde face-kicking heroine holding it all together. Even when things looked dicey, I knew Dylan would always come through.
Hors D’oeuvre is something differently entirely. For starters, there is a distinct lack of face-kicking. For that matter, there’s a distinct lack of kicking altogether. There is also a lack of any dialogue whatsoever. Hors D’oeuvre is a silent film, the minimal dialogue handled by intertitles. This is not surprising given the fact that the entire short is given a vintage feel, shot entirely on vintage cameras and 16mm film.
There is one other big absence: Oscar and Hamilton are nowhere to be found. That is entirely by design and fits into the larger theme of Hors D’oeuvre; the entirety of this film was created by women. Svetlichnaya has billed this as “A Quiet Place Meets #TimesUp,” and she delivers.
Commentary on the state of the world is nothing new in horror. By tracking the history of horror, you can track the collected fears of the world (or at least the country). Likewise, if you track the collective fears, you’ll find a healthy amount of horror that deal with those fears. It may not deal with it directly, but you’ll find those fears lurking in the corners.
In Hors D’oeuvre, we follow Dylan (Svetlichnaya) as her car breaks down in a small town, unknown by her GPS. With her two friends – Jennifer (Mariela Castillo) and Sarina (Sarah Megan Maltz) – sleeping in the back seat, Dylan takes it upon herself to find help in the town. She encounters a few people, all of whom react in horror at her presence and run before she can ask them anything.
Eventually Dylan finds herself at the Brilliant Dancesport Studio. There she is informed (via paper and pen, naturally) that she is in Silenttown. A curse has been put on the town: anyone who speaks, dies. Dylan rushes back to her car to warn Jennifer and Sarina, but she’s unable to let them know before one of them speaks. A black-hooded killer appears and stalks them through the town. The killer moves in a glitchy, distorted manner, and seems to possess the teleporting capabilities of Jason Voorhees.
If you’re looking for Buffy influences, you don’t need to look any further than Season 4’s “Hush” (in my mind, one of the best episodes of TV ever).
Ciara Proznik provides an incredible score, ranging from the pulsing feel of Carpenter’s Halloween to beautiful and off-putting piano moods. For a silent film, music can make or break the whole thing, and Proznik absolutely knocks it out of the park.
Of course, I can’t possibly mention the vintage feel of Hors D’oeuvre without talking about the terrific costume, hair and make-up work. Svetlichnaya was responsible for the costume design while Irina Kabak handled the hair and make-up. Watching Dylan silently walk through town rocking a classic look really helped bring me into that world.
With Hors D’oeuvre, Svetlichnaya has created something familiar yet powerful; a silent slasher film that comments on the power of refusing to stay silent in the face of unrelenting horror. It’s a vintage feel with a message that is important now more than ever: the time to stay silent is over. Regardless of the obstacles, it is time to stand up and lend your voice.
Dusty Evely | Twitter: @DustyEvely
Images provided by filmmaker