In Mail Order, a short film from Rule of Three (2008) director, Eric Shapiro, and based on the short story by Jack Ketchum, we get a glimpse of a man with an unhealthy obsession and how it effects his life and the lives of others.
After an intense phone conversation, Howard (Lee Schall) watches a video he receives in the mail. It depicts two masked figures dragging a woman into a room and tossing her onto a bed as they undress her. Howard recognizes the woman as his former lover, Greta (Cerris Morgan-Moyer); this leads us into a flashback, and later a flash-forward, that brings the story full circle. Shapiro used a similar technique in his feature debut, Rule of Three.
At first glance it may appear that Brian and Sara from Rule of Three have returned, but Lee Schall and Cerris Morgan-Moyer have a different, and more sinister, relationship in Mail Order. While Howard and Brian are both nervous characters, Schall plays Howard with more confidence, which is what makes Howard such a good character.
Shapiro has stated that this project was birthed from impatience (waiting for his next feature to get off the ground), which is also a theme in Mail Order. This unrest is evident, not only in the subject matter, but in the aggressive jump-cut editing and camera techniques used to move the film along at a quick pace. There’s also a good use of soft focus to give the viewer a visual representation of drug induced impairment.
When overused in a feature film these techniques can get nauseating (any technique the draws attention to itself can fall victim to this), but short films allow for more experimentation with less consequence. Shapiro has taken advantage of this by not only experimenting with visual aspects, but also the sound. The sound effects come to the forefront and play right along with the editing.
Short films like Mail Order leave me with this feeling of wanting more to fill in the blank spaces; that’s not to say Mail Order doesn’t cover the necessary territory, it just implies a lot in the story and therefore leaves a lot to the imagination.
Director: Eric Shapiro
Writer: Eric Shapiro (screenplay), Jack Ketchum (short story)
Cast: Lee Schall, Cerris Morgan-Moyer, Laura Niles, Dave Sirus, Bilrox Neidlinger