Dead Hearts is a Perfect Modern Fairy Tale

By  · Published on December 15th, 2016

Short of the Day

With biker werewolves. What more do you need?

The best fairy tales have a healthy dose of darkness to them, a little bit of mortal peril to heighten their moral impact. Hans Christian Anderson knew that, the Grimm Brothers certainly knew it, and modern purveyors like Guillermo Del Toro know it as well. Another name you can add to that illustrious list is writer-director Stephen W. Martin, whose short film Dead Hearts is a perfect modern-day fairy tale, complete with the requisite darkness, death, and love, but also with additional elements of taxidermy, Kung Fu, and a biker gang of werewolves.

The hero at the heart of Martin’s film is a young mortician who learns that for all its absoluteness, death is no hindrance to love. It’s a simple premise, but it’s built on myriad levels of charm, grace, humor, poeticism, reliable performances, and deft, articulate filmmaking that lands visually somewhere between the worlds of Wes Anderson and Joe Dante, with all the thrilling quirk that intersection implies. It’s heartwarming soft-horror film that transcends genre qualification and settles instead in a realm where coming-of-age meets end-of-days in the most delightful way possible.

To list all the festivals Dead Hearts has been selected for or all the awards it has amassed would take up more space than the body of this article, so let’s just highlight some of the bigger accolades: Best Short Film at New York Horror Film Festival 2015 and the Phoenix International Film Festival 2014, Best Horror Comedy Short at Dragon Con 2015, ScreamFest LA 2014, and Silver Best Canadian Short Film at the Toronto AfterDark Film Festival 2014. Dead Hearts was even on the list of films considered for this year’s Best Live Action Short Films. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg.

One viewing is all it takes to see just why Dead Hearts has received such love. It really is a charming slice of twisted genres sure to bring a smile to your face. The world needs more inventive filmmakers like Stephen W. Martin, as surely as we need more biker werewolves. Watch, enjoy, and share the hell out of this one.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist