Sisters Lydia (Melissa Claire) and Jade (Stephanie Panozzo) decide to go hiking into the Victorian High Country in Josh Todaro’s new horror short BUTTON MAN. Treading the familiar territory of Road Games and Wolf Creek, we learn again that Australia is questionable adventure territory at best. Two siblings hike into uncharted territory with a legend on their heels and we are the better for it with stunning visuals despite ambiguous scares.
We begin the short with Lydia and Jade trekking via SUV into the stunning Australian High Country. The two exchange expository dialogue and we learn that one is recovering from a breakup and the other insists on helping her sibling make a clean break. Along for the ride is their mother’s antique film camera. This offers nostalgia with a tinge of sentimentality. Once the two park at the trailhead they agree to leave phones behind and venture off into the wilderness (never a good move.)
We’ve seen this scenario before, yet writer-director Josh Todaro and his co-writers Jamie ‘Pees’ Lehman, and David McKinnar ground the well-tread moment with solid performances from their two protagonists and exquisite photography from Lehman and David McKinnar. This is not to be understated as the right DP can capture at one the scope and the intimate interpretation of where we are. The duo cover this well.
As the siblings venture forth into the unknown we catch Blair Witch vibes. Quick pans between the two uncover dark figures in the distance. Enter the titular BUTTON MAN (Don Bridges). He appears near the campfire as the two adventurers are fast asleep. With the pretext of the drama between the two sisters and what they are bringing to the wilderness then the film is done. Alas, the downside of a well-made short. We want more.
BUTTON MAN feels like an extended cold open to a much grander story following a piece of Australian folklore and the way that modern society processes its purpose. As stated at the outset Todaro capably executes a solid piece of work that compels the viewer to transfix. This isn’t cheap ‘I spit on your grave’ country bumpkin revenge horror, this is modern civilization and the horrors that follow into the unknown.
Investors listen up. Todaro has something here. Back he and his crew. I want to know about BUTTON MAN, I want to know about this weird bit of Aussie lore. What is here is not perfect, but it promises something wonderfully creepy.
Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.