Some short films are designed to stand on their own, as a simple set-up and punchline delivered with an economy that maximises their impact. Others are more like teasers for a bigger project to be pursued when the budget eventually falls into place. Like her earlier short Skater Zombies (2022), writer/director Eileen Yaghoobian’s Skater Zombies: The Villain is in the latter camp, offering proof of concept and mood reel for a coming feature set in a postlapsarian world where everyone is a skateboarder, and where female – and only female – users of a new synthetic drug have been turned into skater zombies.
As its title suggests, Skater Zombies: The Villain introduces the projected feature’s big bad, played by legit celebrity skater Richie Jackson, whose own Beefheart-ian costumery, hippie hair and Dalí-esque moustache inform the character’s eccentric look. Smooth, swirling drone shots track the Villain as he in turn pursues the terrified Kris (Jacques Grimbeek) through a maze of abandoned cars and trucks – the graveyard for an age in which the skateboard had not yet risen to become sole means of transport (and occasional weapon).
“You don’t think that I’m the nicest fellow, do you?”, is the self-styled Villain’s opening line, as he forces upon Kris a red pill and blue pill-like choice, except that the drugs here are in fact purple and orange, and come in spray rather than capsule form. All this is part of the menacingly jovial Villain’s bid to bring anarchy back to a skating community that he thinks has become too corporatised and buffoonish – and certainly strait-laced, ‘straight-edge’ Kris embodies everything that the Villain has come to despise about the modern skater. As ’tache-twirling villains go, he is on the Joker side of the spectrum, all puffed-up performativity, chemical creativity and arbitrary nastiness with a zanily chaotic edge. In this mix, there is also, of course, a skater zombie (Delaney Gilmour), serving as both ally and enemy to the Villain.
This is more calling card for a larger-scale production than self-contained narrative, but its psychedelic stylings, junkyard setting and cheesy effects promise a fallen world of the future that is also a throwback simultaneously to Sixties visions of countercultural anarchy and to Eighties visions of Mad Max-style dystopia. Meanwhile the meandering swoops of Richard Win’s camera capture the gravity-defying fluidity of skateboarding, even before anyone in the short has used their board. It is all a taster for that most intriguing of feature-length pitches (for which Jackson is already on board): a mannered post-apocalyptic actioner in which ideologically divided, neon-lit skaters will allegorise the polarised bo(a)rders of a wider world beyond their own subcultural niche – while also performing lots of rad moves and mad stunts.
strap: Eileen Yaghoobian’s post-apocalyptic proof-of-concept short introduces an anarchic skateboarding rogue
© Anton Bitel