A rich back story is revealed during the opening credits of Clarito Zapanta’s 35-minute short film Egress. A warrior, Kess Kynes (Becky Byrd), with a mysterious illness and a stolen bio-weapon stands up against Enji Corp, a ruthless totalitarian government hell-bent on the destruction of populations throughout the solar system lest they bend to its whim. A government-employed bounty hunter, Adam Huxley, aka Hux (Justin P. Slaughter), tracks our hero down to a forest moon that uncannily resembles New Zealand.
Hux communicates with his superior Vic (Laith Wallschleger), who warns him that she will be “a liability if you bring her back to the ship.” Kess is very sick, out of breath, carrying a black case that holds her gun, among other important things. After a prolonged fight, she recognizes an old friend in Hux. They spend the night revealing each other’s dark pasts and regrets over a fire.
The plot takes a while to get going. The characters walk around without encountering any obstacles for more than a third of the film’s running time before they actually meet. When they do, the subject of their conversations is only mildly involving. It feels like the middling part of a long feature, or perhaps a series. The two actors enunciate their dialogue with a sort of robotic relish, their performances both earnest and over-the-top.
The costume design is a bit underwhelming – a golden chest armor and a red cape for Hux, a black cloak for Kess. The music, a mash-up of electronic and rock motifs, is equally off-putting – something a bit more traditional/classical, even a minimalist piano symphony, would’ve served the story better.
Thankfully, Dakota Huntley’s beautiful cinematography imbues the proceedings with an epic fantasy/sci-fi feel. There are some nifty visuals, like radiantly glowing alien flowers. The film’s sole fight sequence is well-choreographed and shot. The finale, set on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous view, leaves a warm feeling. There’s a lot of potential in Zapanta’s inspired but underdeveloped short. Whether the filmmaker can expand it into a vision with more clarity, character depth, and suspense remains to be seen.