REVIEW: “A Fun Mystery Without A Solution” – ‘Locked’ (2019)

Short films are sort of a dying art, aren’t they? That’s not to say that they’re artistically bankrupt, or that they aren’t good. But where can you even watch short films? Where are they shown? Artistic merit and quality is irrelevant if they’re simply tossed into the void, no eyes to watch. With the exception of delightful pixar shorts that play before each of their features, short films have largely fallen out of the popular consciousness. Which is a shame, because people are still making these things. You can’t run without walking, you can’t make a feature without making a short. They’re important, little eggs of talent where filmmakers-to-be are born and begin to take form.

If the films are eggs and chicks, YouTube is the incubator. Sometimes the best, biggest budget ones are dropped onto the platform by Hollywood production companies, but this is a small fraction of the total amount on the platform. Creators indigenous to YouTube do make a lot more; these are micro budget, the indiest of the indies, made completely outside the traditional avenues of film production. These types are usually filmed and then premiered onto the platform with very little fanfare. If people see it, great, the film lives. Fly pretty bird, or drop dead into the anonymous masses of youtube.

Enter Adam Harcourt’s “Locked”. Clearly an indie type; It has one location, a handful of actors, and a versatile crew where each person does at least two things. A dedicated crew. Reader, they wanted this film!

That passion and enthusiasm comes through in the finished product. Running a lean feeling seven minutes, Locked is full of good. Good ideas, good visuals,and fun writing. Moreover, aside from one clumsy seeming cut, the film is constructed well.

The plot follows the amnesiac Jared (Jordan Wells)  as he wakes up in a locked room and tries to piece together just how he ended up locked in that room. Given the film’s limited length, whether it’s good or bad really relies on how well they execute the concept: is the presented mystery compelling, or boring? If it’s boring, this birdy will drop dead. Thankfully, the mystery is strong, and Locked flies on.

In fact, there’s enough here for Locked to easily run double it’s runtime. Wells clearly enjoys playing his character, and, given more time, he could have made Jared a compelling central figure. As it is now, the film’s brevity and dense plot means there’s not really any time for Wells to just be Jared. He’s always dealing with some new revelation, some new twist. Very little time is given to excavate these revelations. It feels as though the filmmakers weren’t necessarily confident that any one revelation was strong enough to be dwelt on, and so they decided to reveal details in a rapid fire way. This is a shame because, especially with one revelation that occurs about halfway through, the plot begs further explanation. I want to know what is happening, here. The story clearly demonstrates that there’s a lot going on outside of Jared’s, and therefore our own, limited fact pool. It feels like all setup, like a Scooby Doo episode that ends without revealing who is behind that monstrous mask, and why they’ve decided to dress up as a giant lobster creature.

However, on the flipside, this limited understanding is true to the central narrative conceit, that we are married to Jared’s perspective. So, all of these questions that the viewer is left with are the same ones that Jared has by the film’s end. It is more or less artistically sound in that sense, I only wish that the film was longer, so that Jared had more time to uncover the larger plot that is clearly occurring in Locked’s hidden aisles.

As it stands, Locked is a fun mystery without a solution. The film doesn’t linger long enough to suggest whether this is intentional, whether it’s supposed to suggest that the world is a mystery without a solution, or whether this lack of explanation is a result of ineffectual plotting. It’s still a fun watch, though. Considering it’s microbudget, made-by-young-people vibe, the skill behind the camera is encouraging. It’s beyond mere competence, the film makers are at the stage where they’re playing with editing and techniques. If these kids were given more time and money they could probably make something truly substantial. As it stands, Locked is a signal that micro budget short films aren’t going anywhere. They flutter on. We just need to look.

You can watch it here: