Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Heartpocalypse

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 12, 2011

The End Is Now! It’s a familiar scene in New York City: A manic street preacher predicting the end of the world. But, that’s the only familiar thing in Matthew Silver‘s insanely imaginative short film Heartpocalypse. This is one of the most astonishing pieces of street theater I’ve ever seen, and I lived in NYC for several years. It’s the kind of event you hoped you’d get a chance to witness when heading out everyday onto the grimy urban sidewalks.  What Silver has arranged and captured on video is magical, uplifting and guaranteed to make you smile.

That’s Silver himself as the crazed ranter, situation underneath an elevated subway track in the heart of Brooklyn. He’s got the cardboard sign scrawled with nonsensical ramblings and the wild-eyed hysteria to go along with it. He’s a cartoon figure and the passers-by regard him as such — he receives dirty looks or no looks at all. Hey, New Yorkers are jaded about this sort of thing.

Then, just when you think the film is just about another cliched figure, the stumblebum who falls in love with the pretty girl waiting for the bus, Silver introduces an impressive, surreal element. Suddenly, the preacher has visions of giant, menacing creatures coming for him.

Men with giant green masks dancing in New York City

These are not CGI creatures, they are actors wearing giant puppet heads and hands or wearing giant stilts and outlandish costumes. With the ubiquity of computerized special effects in movies these days, it’s always refreshing to see a filmmaker use killer lo-fi effects — placing a giant puppet head on an actor would qualify as that — for creative imagery.

But what’s really great about placing outlandish costumes on actors and have them walk down the street is to see the reactions of the real people who are standing about minding their own business — or at least trying to — waiting for the bus. Their perplexed reactions are priceless, particularly during the, literally, explosive finale.

Matthew Silver makes extraordinarily quirky films in NYC. I previously featured his classic Mother & Son on the Underground Film Journal, but you can also watch more of his short films on YouTube, or visit his official site for pictures and more info.