Get it? It’s a joke! Because the movie you see below is called “Still-Life.” And it’s not very good.

Int., Police Office – Masterson sits, fiddling with his coffee mug. Mr. Isele enters.


Masterson, it’s been three months. I need you back out there…

And in that moment, everything I loved from my childhood had been ripped away from me.

“Still-Life” is a short film by Dave O’Halloran starring his cousin, Brian O’Halloran, and Stephen Gallo.  It’s a cop drama, I think.  Or something like that.  And apparently, it was put up onto YouTube a year ago.  Thankfully, I went all of ’07 without watching it.  I’d like to think that contributed to making 2007 one of the best years of my life.

I remember when the movie was being made, local media gave Dave some coverage.  I guess no one had ever filmed a short in the suburbian shangri-la of Milltown, N.J. before. And now, “Still-Life” makes a pretty strong argument against anyone ever filming here again.

As the film begins, a gunshot sound effect turned up way too loud rings out, followed by some inaudible screams about officers down.  We enter some sort of small room, where Stephen Gallo sits for a reason we don’t yet know and never really learn.  William Isele, one of the most important figures of my youth (and a role model for almost every young man growing up in Milltown over the past 20 years) enters the room and spouts some cop cliches about “getting back out there.” I fell to my knees upon seeing this — this titan of a man reduced to reciting hacky cop-speak.  That voice should be used exclusively for singing Amazing Grace and Scout Vespers.

Isele reads his lines well enough though, and the movie goes on to “explore” some sort of crime that happened down behind the Rescue Squad building.  Gallo plays the standoffish rogue detective who refuses to come around on his new partner, the young and inexperienced O’Halloran.  Though the illusion of cops worn down by the system is hard to believe when the veteran looks 26 years old and the rookie looks 14.

Credit O’Halloran and Gallo for doing their best to bring some life to the stale roles.  Both men are clearly just friends of the filmmaker, but they try their best to act like detectives and, to their credit, sometimes they overcome the earsplitting dialog and actually make a scene watchable.

The only problem with that is, your volume has to be turned just about all the way up to hear anything.  Dave O’Halloran clearly used the microphone attached to his camera, and it shows.  Proper microphones and sound editing are taken for granted until a film doesn’t have them, and we realize just how awful it is to try and pull lines from ambient buzz so loud you’d think it was shot during the Brood X cicada invasion of ’04.

Dave’s brother Dan O’Halloran is behind the camera, and viewers suffer because of it.  Every time a car approaches, the camera is positioned low and stationary.  There are so many wide shots that it becomes hard at times to even see people on the screen.  Even worse is the slightly tilted alignment, which makes every scene a battle to avoid severe neck cramps.  If O’Halloran would just use the level on his tripod maybe I’d have felt better watching it. Instead, I feel like we’re watching the action while sitting in a tipping canoe in Mill Pond.

I don’t want to sound nasty, because the O’Hallorans are good guys and I’m sure they were really pumped about making this little movie.  I just had to voice my opinion because, honestly, it was hard to watch.  The script was ripped out of a Mad-Libs 4 Cops booklet — “Listen, (cop name).  I’m the veteran around here.  You’re just a rookie.  Who cares if we (cop action) off the books, I know what I’m doing. And who knows, kid, if you show some (cop skills) I might even buy you a drink after it’s all over.” The photography was distracting and repetitive, which is hard to pull off in a 9-minute short film.  And the sound was like a dentist’s drill killing your childhood pet.

Again, props to the actors and the guys involved to trying to do something cool here.  You just didn’t get it quite right this time.   But Milltown seemed very accommodating (even let the police chief act in one part, using a cop car and crime scene tape as props; don’t they have anything better to do?), so maybe you’ll try your luck here again. Or maybe you’ll read this review and get angry at the town for ruining your perfect piece of art and never come back again. Support local filmmakers!

Thanks to Ricky for the tip.