For Sale

By Francesco Gabriele | Horror
2 lovers drive to a remote town in Italy. But it's completely empty...

Young lovers Luca and Carla are driving in the hills of Italy, enjoying the picturesque ride as well as one another. They're on their way to a remote small town to buy and pick up a second-hand TV whose ad they answered online. But with their romance, the occasion has turned into an adventure.

But things seem off when they arrive in town and find it devoid of inhabitants. There are no people around, except for their seller, a worn-down older man named Levi. And when they enter Mr. Levi's home, the transaction takes more than a few dark turns, as one venal act is answered with another.

Directed by Francesco Gabriele from a script by Ben Tucker, this short horror film takes a classic thrill-and-chill situation and renders it with elegant panache, whether it's in the excellently suspenseful storytelling to the often beautiful visuals that transport viewers to a unique, evocative corner of the world.

Rich, refined cinematography leverages the faded grandeur and striking vistas of the Italian hillside setting, which surrounds the lovers and heightens their mutual sense of adventure. When you're in love, almost everything becomes an adventure, including a used TV set that they arranged to purchase and pick up.

But there's also something unbalanced and even feral about their dynamic, though their wildness is dampened when they arrive in the town and discover it's eerily abandoned, instantly generating intrigue and uneasiness in both the characters and the audience. They do discover one person left in town, who happens to be their seller. The meticulous, precise writing builds up the understanding of the story and characters, but it also leaves just enough unsaid to draw us in closer.

We think we know where the story is going, but then the narrative takes an unexpected turn, which is sold by the clever, pitch-perfect performances of the small cast. Actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Octavia Gilmore have a potent, sexy rapport with one another as crazy young lovers, possessing the intoxication of youth and romance, which they play with a volatile playfulness. They take on a "Bonnie and Clyde" or "Natural Born Killers" vibe, which makes for an exciting, equally explosive interlude of uncertainty and suspense.

But Mr. Levi -- played with weathered but canny gravitas by actor Randall Paul -- has his own agenda and strategies, which barrel the film to its grisly, thrilling conclusion. What's fascinating is that we don't know who to root for -- or perhaps whose comeuppance we want more. It also makes "For Sale" a delicious bit of horror and suspense that's a pleasure to look at -- and also one that is fun and sexy like its lovers, but then sinister and haunted as its strange old man.

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