The title of Cleveland-based writer/director Keith Ten Eyck’s 21 minute short film Lock-Out / Tag-Out comes from a safety procedure that’s used while working with dangerous machinery, a fitting title for a story that’s centered on a man who works in elevator maintenance and is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors. The movie is bookended by stats regarding the members of this union, which is said to rank among the highest in worker fatalities.
While the movie does indeed deal with the dangers of this business, the subtitle revealed in the end credits really drives home what it’s truly about: A Short Study on Neglect & Regret.
Told in a non-linear fashion, the film doesn’t spell anything out for you. The lead characters are a group of people who are absolutely miserable with and horrible to each other, but it’s not quite clear for the bulk of the running time what their specific issues are. Nobody gives anything away directly through dialogue, the story is told through imagery and the looks characters give each other. They’re upset, they’re resentful, they engage in self-destructive behavior.
Everything seems to be falling apart around the characters, and every scene has a very intense, dark feeling to it. The edginess of every scenario is enhanced by the great, unnerving score composed by Keith Richner and Mike Longo. We know things have gone horribly wrong somewhere along the line, and we can feel that more is going to go wrong by the time the movie is over.
The film looks fantastic, and Keith Ten Eyck did an incredible job capturing and composing the images, working as his own cinematographer.
The cast, headed up by Andrew Jurcak, Douglas Arthur Hall, and Jenna Fournier, with Kris Leiter appearing as a likeable co-worker, do great work in their roles. As mentioned, a lot of their performances involve looks and body language, and they’re able to convey a whole lot of depth without saying very much. Because of this, the viewer is left intrigued throughout, wondering what got these people in such a state. Once the full scope of what occurred is finally revealed to you, it is absolutely devastating.
Watching this short was my first time seeing anything by Keith Ten Eyck, and I was left very impressed. There is a lot of promise and talent on display here. Keith Ten Eyck is a filmmaker to watch for, and Lock-Out / Tag-Out is a short that’s definitely worth checking out if you get the chance.