You know things are going off the rails when a bizarre rabbit painting becomes and even more bizarre puppet and starts talking to you in the bathroom. Francis Makes a Friend is the story of an awkward, quiet computer programming major who is trying to break free of his awkwardness in order to make friends and have new experiences. He’s expecting food, games, and a good time. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just been invited to the dinner party from hell.
Francis Makes a Friend is a 14 minute short film from Jake Braden and Logan Wood and it very much sets a tone of discomfort from the opening scene until the ending. Francis is a very awkward, shy, quiet kind of guy and when you first see him on screen you absolutely expect for him to be harboring some kind of latent psychotic urges. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, however, as he tries to integrate into a dinner party with a group of other college students in varying fields for a night of drinking and games. Things seem to be going alright until a bizarre puppet show is performed and leads into a series of escalating and violent events.
The weirdest puppet show you'll see this week.
Let’s start with the puppet show, shall we. Two of the party guests, Ryan and Summer, are art majors who have been working on the show as a special project. A musical involving puppets, prostitutes, and gruesome murder the performance leaves you feeling a bit confused and definitely has a great horror vibe to it. Transitioning from an otherwise uneventful dinner to a puppet committing a revenge killing to a twisted soundtrack, you find yourself ill at ease. But things only get worse from there as alcohol, drugs, and a dangerous game of dare continue to up the stakes for Francis on his night out.
The audio isn’t super in Francis Makes a Friend and some of the performances felt a bit awkward. I’m not trying to bash the film, just calling things as I see them. The story itself is unique, engaging, and keeps your attention from the opening shot until the credits roll. The lighting, specifically during the puppet show and later in the drug fueled descent into madness is phenomenal with shades of red and blue that give a malevolence to the events unfolding for our characters. In all, Francis Makes a Friend is a phenomenal story with an interesting cast and, truthfully, I’d love to see it expanded into at least a longer running short film because of the potential that exists in the story left untold.
Francis Makes a Friend is still unreleased at this moment but I’d be keeping an eye out for it soon. It will no doubt be hitting festival circuits and online in the not too distant future.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.