• Lucas Liner

[Review] Ember Burns' New Short 'The Motel' Is Direct, Provocative and Charming

Updated: Mar 29

One of the most fascinating figures in modern history has to be “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian. The world’s most prolific advocate for assisted suicide has his fair share of criticism and ire from the medical world, sure, but the philosophy behind going out on one’s own terms is thought-provoking, if a bit morbid. His name holds enough weight that, for better or for worse, invoking it will elicit some sort of reaction.

Such is the case in the opening of The Motel, a new short film from CNK Media. The project centers around an unnamed service that looks to let those who are terminally ill end their lives of their own accord, rather than wither away. Given the current state of affairs, such a statement of dignity and self-respect carries perhaps more weight than usual. Enter Bella (Natalie Kander), the organization’s best, who bears an animal skull mask and an ornate knife. Her assisted-suicide-for-hire keeps her pockets lined, but her spirit looking for something more.

The concept of death on one’s own terms is prime subject matter for a horror film, especially for a grindhouse-styled short such as this. The effects work was competent, bordering on Army of Darkness levels of absurdity with a particular series of blood spurts. Still, this sub-twelve minute affair left me wanting more and had me asking questions, such as “What is the story behind the group known only as The Family?” or “How did Bella get wrapped up in all of this?” The idea leaves the door open for a full feature treatment, if only to expand on what’s already been done here.

The sound department, while I recognize this is an independent joint, has me torn. On one hand, the soundtrack is well-curated, even the oddly party-rocking song in the closing credits. The choice to use very little dialogue or SFX is a bold one, but if that’s the direction intended, what little effects or spoken word there is has to be clear, and that wasn’t quite the case for The Motel. The overdubs were obvious, the sound effects clearly stock, and it threatened to take me out of the experience wholesale. Were this a longer feature, it may have.

Even so, The Motel works on a gripping premise and has plenty going for it.

Watch the short film here:


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