Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Trionyx (Soft-Shelled Turtle)

By Mike Everleth ⋅ February 3, 2011

Godzilla better watch out! (And Gamera, too, for that matter.) There’s a new monster fighter in town. He’s Trionyx (Soft-Shelled Turtle), an inventor who comes up with one of the oddest superhero costumes ever created. Featuring a bulbous body, a track suit, a tiny face hole and an elongated neck and animated head, Trionyx seeks to do battle with giant monsters — if any bother to show up for a fight. Nick Childs‘ short film is trippy, surreal and just plain fun thanks to unusual visual and audio styles.

There’s lots to love about this short movie for me, from the overlapping monologues to the giant creepy CGI head to the disorienting studio location, but what gets me every time in any underground film is when an actor is forced to put on some crazy outfit and go out into the real world. The head turning and looks on the faces of passersby as they check out Trionyx while he seeks out monsters to fight are priceless. Plus, for a few of those street scenes, the camera looks to be far enough away so that the unexpected co-stars don’t know they’re even in a movie.

Man wearing a costume with a turtle head in a surreal environment

What’s really nice about this film, though, is how there are many different elements competing for your attention, but Childs still manages to have the entire experience gel together. For example, the way the narration overlaps forces the viewer to really pay attention to it, which should take some of the focus away from the visuals. However, despite the odd delivery, the narration clearly references what’s on screen when it needs to and each shot is held long enough for both the audio and visual information to be properly digested together.

A more specific example of this technique is the nonsensical set-up when Trionyx goes to the movie theater to fight Godzilla. When the narration mentions Godzilla’s name, Childs doesn’t cut to a close up of the theater marquee to force feed the visual connection. Instead, Childs shoots Trionyx from a very low angle so that as we absorb the visual information of the superhero suit, including the CGI-ed in head, our eye is drawn up towards the marquee. Plus, the shot is held long enough for even the wandering eye of the slowest viewer can catch it.

Thus, the film is a bit of a contradiction. Despite the wild effects and costuming meant to disorient the viewer, the editing is quite slow and measured so as to keep the film grounded and comprehensible.

Finding Trionyx (Soft-Shelled Turtle) online recently is a bit of a blast-from-the-past moment for myself personally. I originally reviewed it way back in 2007 after it had screened at that year’s Boston Underground Film Festival. At the time, Childs sent me a DVD review copy. It wasn’t until just the other day that I found it uploaded online for everyone to enjoy because I really enjoyed the hell out of it back in the day — and again.

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