Short Film: The Sleuth Incident
Don’t let the fuzzy ears fool you. A cuddly teddy bear strolls through the mundanity of suburban living until he snaps in the most interesting — and completely disgusting — of ways in the disorienting short film The Sleuth Incident by Jason Kupfer.
Any thorough discussion of The Sleuth Incident will most likely ruin its power for those who haven’t experienced it yet. (So, please be sure to watch before reading on.)
Although visually hyper-realistic, the film unfolds in a dream-like way through its slow pacing, initially monotonous soundtrack and garish color palette. With the cartoonish quality of the super-sharp colors and the long, drawn-out tracking shots of the teddy bear gliding around town, Kupfer does a thorough job of lulling the audience into a hypnotic trance — all the more fully broken when the film switches gears into a maniacally gleeful, and unexpected, bloodbath.
The film is open enough to elicit any number of interpretations of Kupfer’s intentions. Made a few years ago, The Sleuth Incident was a hit on the festival circuit where it’s classification was hardly definitive. For example, the 2009 Atlanta Underground Film Festival award the film with Best Comedy, while the 2010 Arizona Underground Film Festival declared it the Best Horror Short. (The Underground Film Journal first saw the film in a screener packet from the 2008 Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival.)
Still, the teddy bear follows the character path of classic serial murderers: The lonely, solitary existence bolstered by what can be interpreted as an “invisible” friend, i.e. the mini-teddy bear that rests on the protagonist’s shoulder just before starting his violent spree.