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Entries in Pity [2014] (1)

Friday
Sep052014

Pity (2014)

More's the Pity

I don't watch end credits. Yes, I'm one of those people, a cinematic charlatan who mentally subtracts a few minutes from the run-time when mapping out my viewing schedule. As much as I'd love to ogle the Dolby logo or find out who landed the Second Assistant Caterer's gig, I simply have places to be (and movies to watch). In the case of writer/director John Pata's short film, Pity, though, I gladly made an exception to the Run-time Rule.*

Big deal, right? The total investment was seven minutes, with end credits taking up...well, about a seventh of the experience. But Pity is such an outstanding work of art, from start to finish finish, that I stuck around for the whole damned thing. I'll come back to those credits in a bit, but just know that, in every detail, Pata continues his streak of not messing around.

Based on a short story by J.R. Hayes, which appeared in the liner notes for Pig Destroyer's 2001 album, Prowler in the Yard (got all that?), Pity brings us into the fractured, psychopathic mind of Anonymous (Jake Martin). We meet him on a dark and stormy night, parked across the street from his ex-girlfriend's house. He shares dark thoughts while chain-smoking, gobbling pills and booze, and fondling a gun.

That's the whole film: psycho, rain, car, house. And that creepy, throaty narration that at once recalls Sin City and calls it out. Anonymous isn't movie crazy: he's full-blown, unhinged, get-away-from-me nuts. I haven't read Hayes' short story, but he and Pata are clearly on the same wavelength. Something about those words spoke to the filmmaker, and this adaptation is a master class in detached derangement. Like Bret Easton Ellis' Patrick Bateman character, Anonymous' humanity is barely a skin; the anger roiling beneath is so repulsive as to be attractive.

This specificity keeps Pity from merely being a slice of "bad-ass" exploitation. In lesser hands, Anonymous would have been the sleazy centerpiece to a borderline misogynist fantasy. But as he and co-creator Adam Bartlett (who serves as an assistant director and foley artist here) proved with their dynamite take on the zombie genre, Dead Weight, the most gratifying and disturbing entertainment comes not from buckets of blood, but from drawing on mankind's inherent instability and vanity. Here, Pata digs beneath the iconography of the grizzled, wronged drunk with the rosy-prose inner monologue to unearth an unflattering portrait of a dangerous monster. The titular "pity" is not a nod of sympathy towards Anonymous, but a statement of shame that this deluded pulp hero's entitled lack of self-awareness may get an innocent woman killed.

Story aside, Pity is a shining example of low-budget/short-form artistry. From acting to production design to makeup, sound, and editing, Pata enlisted a small team of agile craftspeople who treated this project as if it were bound for the desks of Scorsese or Spielberg. There's not a corner of this thing that doesn't say "A-list filmmakers having fun between big projects". It's so refreshing to see a singular vision executed with such skill.

Which brings me back to those end credits. Dull silver text scrolls up into the night through Anonymous' windshield. Rain cascades over the letters in a moment as surreal as the cold revenge dramas dancing through the protagonist's brain. Classically accompanied by thunder, lightning, and a somber score by Nicholas Elert, these last moments made me want to check every window in the house.

I don't know what the future holds for Pity. It's currently on the festival circuit. If we're lucky, it will show up as a blu-ray extra on Pata's next feature-length project (or a stand-alone download, which would be equally terrific). Whatever the case, if you can find this seven minutes of heaven (disguised, very convincingly, as pure hell), watch it. All of it.

*Other exceptions, of course, include comic-book movies. They're never over until after the post-credits "stinger". But I (like most everyone else in attendance, it seems) get some portion of my life back by checking e-mail during those long (long, long, loooong) scrolling-text extravaganzas.