Written & Directed by: Jared Skolnick
Starring: Ellias Gage, Colin Allen & Jacob Moon
Caught somewhere between Stand By Me, Cabbage Patch Kids, and the mind of Jan Svenkmajer, The Earth Rejects Him is a magical-realism masterpiece by Jared Skolnick. Startlingly unique and creative, the film tells the story with little dialogue, relying on ambiance and imaginative sound design to weave a tale of fantastic childhood adventure edged in nightmare.
The story is that of a boy named Ray (played admirably by young Ellis Gage), who finds a dismembered skeleton in the woods. Impulsively, he steals a tooth from the corpse, burying it in the field near his house in an innocent funeral. But he can’t stay away – haunted by the memory of the skeleton, and the guilt of stealing the tooth, Ray soon finds himself returning to the site of the burial. He is shocked to discover a man’s face just sprouting from the earth, a strange mockery of flowering. Despite the weirdness of the situation, Ray feels responsible for his newly-sprouting pet, coming each day to water and care for and talk to his charge. The man grows, head, then shoulders, and soon torso all coming to sight above ground. As Ray continues to care for his new plant, things get more curious and creepy, and the world around the poor young boy begins to show its fangs.
Saturated shots and thick lush sound overwhelm the viewer throughout the film, the careful ambient sound effects and atmospheric noise creating the distinct and eerie feeling of a walk in the woods, laying in a grass field, or the claustrophobic nighttime silence when something is on the hunt nearby. The film is a meditation on both the beauty and danger of the natural world around us. Skolnick’s careful script elegantly portrays man’s struggle to control his environment – from Ray’s father struggling with weeding the yard, to Ray’s own attempt at ‘pruning’ his growing creation, the film deftly addresses the issues of humankind doing more harm than good in their attempts to beautify this earth.
The short is not without the usual pitfalls of independent production. With better actors and a more talented crew than many indie films, The Earth Rejects Him still featured a wooden and/or hammy actor or two; and I personally wished more work had been put into the prosthetics of the film. That being said, this local-grown movie (shot in Deerfield!) is hands-down one of the most satisfying independent horror shorts I’ve seen in a long time.
I wish I could tell you more – I would love to gush about the twists and turns of this fantastic short film, but to do so would be a disservice to it’s brilliance. Be sure to keep an eye out for this magical nightmare.