Following in the footsteps of past award-winning short films from Chanticleer Films’ Discovery Program, “Evening Class” is a polished mini-thriller sure to make some think twice before walking into an empty classroom.
Beginning gently with a soft opening scene of Martha (Mariangela Pino), a housewife, walking across a community college campus as the sun sets, mood quickly swings to an eerie calm as she waits alone for her night class on psychology to begin.
Enter Rick (Michael Beach), a friendly, younger student she passed on her walk across campus. They both fidget, remaining amiable as they realize there are no more students and the teacher isn’t coming.
Here director Michael Haney (whose background is in theater) and writer Tim Reilly light the fuse to their slick pic.
Rick decides to call it a night, as does Martha a beat later, but when they meet again in the doorway, a different, psychotically serious Rick forces Martha back into the classroom, which will now become her prison.
Beach superbly changes Rick back and forth from playfully happy to horrific as he takes his hostage through the paces of a death dance. Pino’s consistent as Martha, trembling and weeping convincingly.
Reilly’s script — with an effective surprise ending — never gets bogged down, and Greg Gardiner’s camera work keeps this one-on-one performance from sitting still. “Evening Class” doesn’t look like a first-time effort from anybody.
Chanticleer’s Discovery Program, which gives film industry pros a chance to direct a short feature film, has produced Academy Award-winners and nominees in the past. “Evening Class” won’t win an Oscar, but it’s a solid piece of filmmaking worth watching.