Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Plot: Gabriel, an eight-year-old American boy suffer from a rare form of schizophrenia and like his now deceased grandfather, is a timid recluse. While at a wake in honour of his grandfather; he encounters and old “friend” of the family who challenges his concepts of reality. The man named Midnight, gives Gabriel his grandfather’s greatest possession, his journal. This journal opens a portal into a parallel world filled with creatures and ancient mystics; challenging his beliefs and empowering the young boy.
Context: I got the opportunity to watch this great short film last year, but I did not get a chance to review it. Better late than never I always say. It was written and directed by Trinidad-born Shaun Escayg, who has worked as an animator on films like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, creative director on video games Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Marvel’s Avengers, and animation director on acclaimed video game The Last of Us, whose live action adaptation on HBO Max is currently taking the world by storm. I have enjoyed Escayg’s other short films Fish and Ikarus, and he continues to impress with 2014 dark fantasy Noka: Keeper of Worlds.
The two strongest aspects of the film are the acting and visual effects. Veteran actor Conrad Parris (Tomb, The Cutlass, Moving Parts) is simply brilliant as the delightfully mysterious and wise Midnight, who guides Gabriel (Stephen Nagy) into a mystical, unseen world of wonder and danger, and helps to unlock incredible abilities. Nagy also does very well, showing a range that belied his age. Rounding off the cast is Teneille Newallo (The Cutlass, Bazodee) who gives a solid performance as a concerned teacher, and seasoned actors Cecilia Salazar, Glenn Davis and Michael Cherrie also make an appearance.
Escayg is an animator, and he brings that skill to designing some truly terrifying otherworldly creatures. The level of detail and the visual weight make them all the more disturbing, and I could easily see them haunting a horror film. Due to the strength of the design, you are truly concerned for the fate of young Gabriel when he has to face off against these monsters rather than being distracted by glossy CGI.
Noka opens the door to an intriguing world that could work either as a feature film or a series, but even on its on it is quite the entertaining watch.
Score: 8 out of 10
It is usually at this point I would provide a link to the short film, but unfortunately Noka is not publicly available. Hopefully it will be at some point. In the meantime, you can check out more Trini genre content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.