Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!! (1996) dir. Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson strikes me as a guy who does his homework. Here we have some proof, his USC student short film assignment (“our ‘310’ project” he reports in the description). Despite its goofy title and overall silliness, it’s not too hard to believe a filmmaker could go from here to the stylish (and slyly silly) Brick over the next ten years. He’s already collaborating with his longtime cinematographer Steve Yedlin who turns in some clear, playful 16mm photography here.
Rian Johnson the writer experienced the most growth in the years to come, not to knock too hard on a movie about a golfball seeking revenge with a number of nutty visual asides (like an experienced murderer and thief’s note to himself on how to get to Sleezo’s Pawn Shop). But to credit Rian Johnson the young director, there’s a number of inventive Raimi-esque practical shots. There’s the evergreen trick of reversing the footage to make the ball’s unnatural bounce. There’s a cigarette that “flies” out of a mouth thanks to some altered positioning. And then there’s several shots that simply must have taken patience to make the precision seem so casual. A fluid movement that captures the ball coming through a window and getting shoved into a box is pretty impressive. A+ work there, kid.
Meanwhile the editor (also Johnson?) keeps things moving, rarely lingering even though Johnson’s done himself favors in the details like a trail of cigar smoke and the thief’s hastily-hung wallpaper (presumably covering a student’s decor, maybe a Pulp Fiction poster). More than an evil demon golfball deserves, perhaps, but everything has to start somewhere.
Solute Synergy! Lucky McKee, director of recent FOTI feature May makes a cameo here. Yedlin was also the cinematographer on that film.