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Review: Three Days Gone - Directed by Scott McCullough

Scott McCullough is best known as a director/dp for commercials and music videos which have brought him enormous festival selections and top honors. Combining an extraordinarily suspenseful plot with his outstanding directing expertise, he has successfully managed to deliver a perfectly enigmatic director’s cut in 2020, Three Days Gone, only to add more awards and nominations to his list.

Based on the life of Lucas Snow, a central player in LA's 2004 drug turf wars, Three Days Gone is a thrilling crime drama short film shot in 12 days with a cast of 22 principle actors staring Christopher Backus (Lucas Snow), James Black (Teddy Shark), and Michelle Stafford (Detective Holloway) among others.

Back from the dead after three days like Lazarus, Lucas is trying to remember and piece together the circumstances that has led to his being buried alive. Accompanied by his best friend, Doug Cross (Patrick J. Adams), he retraces his steps back, and as he does so the plot unfolds in morsels keeping the viewers at the edge of their seats right to the final credits.

The short film enjoys a very powerful opening that is complemented by the superb opening credit effects and the properly chosen song, Howling at the Moon. The opening scene pictures Lucas and Doug aiming at each other followed by the short choppy black and white cuts of the title sequence depicting Lucas flinging himself out of what must have been his grave towards some kind of accommodation. This strong opening introduces the universe of the film and conveys the tone right away.

The plot twists are introduced through flashbacks that allow only brief glimpses into the events and thus building up heart-pounding suspense which keeps the audience engaged and involve them in discovering the sequence of events with Lucas through an intricate web of crime, betrayal, violence and murder. The area in which the story is set is one that is taken over by criminal gangs permeating even the police force. Lucas is framed for several murders and accused of stealing a large sum of money from these gangs and, therefore, is sought not only by criminals but also by the police.

Apart from visual effects, the short film also relies heavily on dialogues and sound design in order to present the storyline, reveal the characters, and communicate the underlying themes among which narrative identity, death and police corruption are noteworthy.

In several medium shots amnesiac bruised Lukas is staring at his own reflection in the mirror as if trying to know who he really is. To make sense and give meaning to one’s life, one needs to construct a narrative identity by drawing on past experiences and anticipating the future. Lucas’s narrative identity lacks consistency as he can neither remember the last three days of his life nor imagine his future. He also appears to feel remorseful and willing to “walk away”, but it is impossible to walk away from the consequences of his past decisions and actions.

Lucas is buried, but he turns out to be alive while Madison is dead, but her nude body is grotesquely present in the crime scene with eyes wide open. The paradox hence put forth questions our notions of death and its correlation with the body.

After a series of rapid-fire, edited flashbacks, we are once again back to Lucas and Doug aiming at each other. Later, Doug justifies his actions by claiming to try to make things right. The irony of it all, then, is the sordid manner in which he has done so as a puppet controlled by those in power including the police who hide behind their “badge” and their “code of ethics”.

Three Days Gone is an exhilarating showcase of McCullough’s talents and potentials as a short film filmmaker. It creates a delicate balance between tension, action and anticipation, and benefits hugely from excellent editing and special effects that maintain attention and blend in seamlessly. The twenty-three-minute film fits well into its genre, and proves it is possible to create suspense and drama in a short period of time. It definitely must be watched more than once!


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