Review: Conductor (2018)

© Alex Noyer

Conductor, the short directorial debut by Alex Noyer, who has more experience as a writer and producer in both documentaries and shorts, might prove to be a milestone of sorts, despite having a simple idea in its core. It premiered at Shriekfest in Los Angeles, before taking a festival tour that included Grimmfest (Manchester), Morbido (Mexico), Monsterfest (Australia) and others. We dug it up from Grimmfest archive, now available online.

(For a perfect viewing experience, it is ideal to know as little as possible about the plot, so please consider skipping the next two paragraphs due to a major SPOILER ALERT.)

The story follows Josh (Michael Maclane) and his attempt to create a beat on a drum machine at a competition of sorts at a local mall. He is anxious at first, missing the mark completely and becoming a laughing stock for his a–hole friend Logan (Joshua Canada). People in the crowd are getting nervous, some of them also want their shot at DJ-ing. Out of the blue comes Alexis (Kelli Jordan), an experienced sound engineer who helps Josh calm down and do the beat much to the pleasure of the crowd, before reminding him to upload it and leaving while dancing cheerfully.

As it turns out, the machine is not just your basic drum machine, but a contraption much alike something that crawled out of the Saw film series, with a victim (Jukka Hilden) strapped to the chair and suffering the cuts, the stabs and the hits in the rhythm of the very creation by Josh.

Conductor is a neatly designed and carefully constructed work with a perfect tonal shift between the moods, from slight awkwardness to the territory of feel-good, to a complete state of shock to gore. As a directorial debut, it clearly shows a great potential for Noyer who keeps the fairly simple story under control, never revealing its killer plot twist until the time is right. With less than 7 minutes of runtime, Conductor is an exercise in elegance when it comes to shocker cinema and a proof that clear and simple ideas work perfectly if the execution is right.

However, the trouble is on the horizon, both for the legacy of Conductor and for Noyer as a filmmaker. The feature film of the same title and by the same writer-director is already in post-production. With different format, the rules of the game also change and the simplicity of the idea can easily convert into a repetitive schtick. On the other hand, one can only hope that Noyer has more ideas like this and that he is able to connect them in another format.

Original title: Conductor
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 6′ 45”
Directed by: Alex Noyer
Written by: Alex Noyer
Cast: Michael Maclane, Kelli Jordan, Joshua Canada, Jukka Hilden
Cinematography by: Kyle Smolic
Editing by: Hannu Aukia, Mohamed El Manasterly
Production design by: Gillian Chance
Special effects by: Robert Bravo
Music by: Jakko Manninen
Sound design by: Mattias Eklund
Produced by: Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer
Line producer: Corsica Wilson
Production companies: You Know Films, No-Office