US / 7 minutes / color / zoes3d, Somerville, Prototype, Albatross Dir & Scr: Chris St.Croix Pr: Chris Conner, David Buchert, D.J. Goller Cine: Michael Costanza Cast: Jennifer Spriggs, Kristen Linten, Jordan Stephens, Michael Scott Quinlan, Brandon Vestal, Steve Burkett.
In some anonymous corporate office, Kelly (Spriggs) is working late on Christmas Eve. The radio talks of a downtown shooting. The last of her colleagues to go for the night, Carol (Linten), spooks Kelly out further by reminding her: “You know that girl who was attacked a few weeks ago? That could be you.”
Finally Kelly shuts off her laptop and leaves the office. There’s a very clever little jump cut just as the lift doors close—we’re focused on her face, and then suddenly we’re a foot or two nearer to her—to key us in to the fact that, yes, something creepy is going to happen.
The lift doors close on Kelly (Jennifer Spriggs).
The “something creepy” starts as soon as she departs the building onto a cold and windswept sidewalk. A voice echoes: “Kelly . . . tell them.” The apparition of a beat-up homeless man (Stephens) assails her, begging her again to tell “them” because otherwise the two will never be free of each other. It’s clear that at some time she killed him in a hit-and-run and that now she’s being haunted by either his specter or her own guilt.
And then there’s a shock ending that really comes right out of the blue; I’ve seen the movie twice now, and both times I’ve jumped in my seat.
The closing credits go leisurely by, and then there’s another ending, in which two detectives (Vestal, Burkett) offer what’s in effect a rational interpretation, albeit couched in perplexity: “I don’t know. It’s a crazy world.” We’re left to decide for ourselves if this is a ghost story for Christmas or a noirish psychological piece. Myself, I prefer the latter reading.
The specter (Jordan Stephens) pleads with Kelly: “Tell them!”
Dirty Little Secret was filmed in 3D. I watched the 2D version (here); the 3D version is available online too (here). Sequences like the opening shot of snow falling are presumably designed to impress us with the depth of the 3D field but, even in 2D, there’s much of that same effect; throughout, Costanza’s cinematography is overall impeccable, as is the visual design overall, really pulling us into the events. The soundtrack (by director/scripter St. Croix) is unobtrusively pleasing too.
In terms of acting, the movie rests entirely on the shoulders of Spriggs, as the seemingly perfect person with the dirty little secret of the title, and Stephens, as the specter/hallucination; no one else has much to do. Spriggs here demonstrates why she’s among my favorite indy actors; even once we know her character’s guilt, she still manages to conjure our sympathy. Stephens, in his very much simpler role, is fine as well.
All in all, Dirty Little Secret is one of the better ways you can find to spend seven minutes.